February 24, 2010



The urban spaces of the Navarrese road to Compostela

Mr. Juan Carrasco.
Public University of Navarra

I am not going to refer to Pamplona, capital of the kingdom, celestial city in the imagination of monarchs, clergymen, bourgeois and other people of this small and old political entity called Navarra; I do not do it not only because our city is of Roman foundation, but because its singular conurbation, in the light of the new archaeological vestiges found in diverse works, would require a more calm and meticulous treatment. Likewise, I have not followed a chronological criterion, but a spatial one. Some urban spaces, seven in total, contemplated in their historical context, an essential requirement, at least I think so, taken as an explanatory core topic of Navarre's medieval urban planning.

1º. What I have called the urban spaces of the political borders:
a) San Juan de Pie de Puerto, to the north: spaces of shared sovereignties; the castellanía has to its position, among other missions, the safeguard and defense of the pilgrims. And for them, surely, it evoked the heroic deeds of the Frankish epic of Roland, while the proximity to Roncesvalles was the best incentive to climb the pass of Ibañeta, where their efforts would be rewarded with the vision of the Cross of Charles.
b) Los Arcos and Viana, to the west. In the areas to the south of the mountain range -in its eastern and western sections-, this process of creation of new towns was reinforced by a duplicity of impulses and actions, aimed at favoring the arrival of numerous contingents of settlers and immigrants from the Franks or ultramontane: on the one hand, the attractions and opportunities offered by the Reconquest, as a genuine expression of the spirit of Crusade, in its substantial land gains; on the other hand, the spectacular increase in pilgrimages to the tomb of the apostle St. James in Galicia required the provision and equipping of centers to care for the traveler. Viana is one of the most notable urban creations of the kingdom of Navarre. The policy of attracting new settlers had one of its most definite manifestations in the layout of the town. The regular layout and the streets laid out in a string that can also be seen in Sangüesa and Puente la Reina are reproduced here.

2º- Burgos and Jewish quarters: Sangüesas and Estella. They are the only heads of merindad authentically pilgrims. Their origin and later development were conditioned by their location next to the route to Santiago de Compostela and the gestation of "burgos", in its main stages, could reach similar and almost contemporary forms.

3º. The Monreal and Puente la Reina stages. In the transversal axis of Navarre average, between the aforementioned Sangüesa and Puente la Reina, pilgrims have the Monreal stage. This town, located at the foot of the Higa - the highest altitude of the Sierra de Alaiz -, lies between the capital of the kingdom, Pamplona, and the head of the merindad, Sangüesa. The existence of "frank, free and naive" settlers next to the bridge of the Arga river, could be assimilated in its chronology and in its forms of reception of the ultra-Pyrenean population, although of inferior fortune and spirit, with the primitive burgh of Estella. Its rapid growth, from the last quarter of the eleventh century, was linked to the rise of the pilgrimage; here converge the routes traveled by the "romei" that, through the great continental routes, have penetrated into Hispanic lands through the Somport and Roncesvalles passes. In its interior there are two transversal axes of streets, which divided the Rúa Mayor or Rúa de los Peregrinos, and a series of very narrow alleys called benelas. In the different sections (Rioja, Burgos, etc.) of the route towards the West of Galicia, there are common features referring to the presence and role played by the Frankish colonies installed in their enclosures.

The new monarchs had a certain continuity in the policies of the new monarchs with respect to their Navarrese predecessors. However, in the Navarrese segment of the Road to Compostela, the action of populating and settling would be much more decisive.