Routes - Navarre   
   

CENTRAL AREA: EAST
Leave Pamplona by the Zaragoza-Madrid road, and at km 6.8 turn off towards Huesca and Jaca. You are now going towards the zone in Navarre with the greatest number of areas with the European Nature Reserve qualification.
   

In this area, Nature mixes with the historic, monumental and architectural stamp of Man, in the villages and, of course, in the Artificial Reservoir of Yesa or the Sea of the Pyrenees.

Leaving behind the hill of the Higa de Monreal, keep your eyes on the left side of the route: the impressive wild countryside of the Lumbier Limestone Gorge and the surrounding valleys, the ravine cut out by the Iratí River, the wild green contrasting with the grey 

   

limestone and, in the background, on a clear winter day, the splendour of the Pyrenees of Aragon with their snow-capped peaks.

Continue towards Liédena, and take the NA 127 to the city of Sangüesa, which has a wealth of historic buildings and monuments. It gives its name to the surrounding district.

At this point, you will be crossing the boundaries that were for centuries the cause for many battles between the Kingdoms of Navarre and Aragon. SOS del Rey Católico, a place that pertained to Navarre for the last time in the 12C is well worth a visit: narrow streets, a medieval air, walls, castle, beautiful Renaissance town hall and a lovely Romanesque church of San Esteban. It is not every day that you can walk through the town where King Fernando the Catholic was born.

Return along the NA 127, a somewhat tortuous road, until you reach Sangüesa and take the turning towards Javier. The castle is located some 8 km away, it is the birthplace of San Francisco Javier, the patron saint of Navarre, and thousands of people from Navarre go there every year during the traditional pilgrimages or Javieradas.

Once you have visited the Castle of Javier, go towards Yesa and take the road to the Monastery of Leire, set in the Sierra of Leire, amongst woods, land covered with Kermes oaks and Gall oaks, and dominating the extensive Yesa Reservoir. You are sure to appreciate it.

   

Sangüesa 
Sangüesa la Vieylla or Old Sangüesa was located on the top of a hill known as Rocaforte. It developed to protect Pamplona from the Muslim invaders and, later, it was used as a fortress to defend Navarre against the Kingdom of Aragon. 

the year 1121, Alfonso the Battler moved the city to its current site, a communications point and where four Roman roads join: those coming from Zaragoza, Jaca, Pamplona and Dax. Moreover, Sangüesa is located right on the Way of St James.

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With such an important defensive role, Sangüesa soon began to enjoy royal privileges and this prosperity can be felt today in the town’s great religious and civil artistic heritage.

Perhaps the most precious building is the Church of Santa María la Real, a national monument, with particular mention to the group of sculptures on the beautiful portal with statue columns and delicate iconography. 

Even so, we cannot forget the Gothic octagonal tower, the three 13C apses at the front, the plateresque reredos with the Gothic sculpture of the Virgen of Rocamador and a Gothic processional monstrance.

   
If you continue along the main street or Calle Mayor, you will come to the 15C Palace of the Dukes of Granada and the 17C Palace of the Counts of Guenduláin. In the street Calle Alfonso el Batallador, you will find the Palace of Vallesantoro with a beautiful 17C Churrigueresque facade, and a historic building with deep carved wooden eaves which today houses the Community Centre.

Continuing along this road, you will reach the Gothic Church of San Salvador, noted for its portal, an image of the Final Judgement.

You shouldn’t leave Sangüesa without visiting the Town Hall with its Renaissance facade. This building is an extension of the fortified Palace of the Prince of Viana, where this prince lived when Sangüesa was Court to the Kings of Navarre. The Palace still has two imposing battlement towers and an inner moat.

You should also visit the Church of Santiago, a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic. A colossal stone statue of St James the apostle was found under the floorboards of this church in 1965.

A mention should also be made of the Convent of San Francisco de Asís and the Monastery of Nuestra Señora del Carmen. This monastery, as well as having a beautiful church and Gothic cloisters, also has a peculiar museum: old tower clocks, from 1546 to present day.

   
Castle of Javier
Every year, during the month of March, thousands of people from Navarre make a pilgrimage or Javierada to the Castle of Javier, the birthplace of San Francisco Javier, patron saint of Navarre, some people have been making the pilgrimage for the last forty years.

People from all over Navarre go in pilgrimage to Sangüesa and, the following morning, the massive number of pilgrims walk with crosses the 8 kms separating Sangüesa from Javier, where the saint was born in 1506. He was a tireless missionary who went to lands as far away as Japan.

  
The Castle was constructed in the 10C based on a tower built on a rock, and which was used to guard the border with Aragon. In 1223, Sancho VII the Strong recieved this fortress from the Prince of Aragon as a guarantee for a loan of 9,000 sueldos (currency of that time). The loan was not repaid and Navarre kept the castle.

The owners gradually built defensive areas around this tower until it was finally converted into a Castle. The Homage Tower is dedicated to San Miguel, and for this reason it is known as the tower of San Miguel or the Torraza.

The castle you will see was restored in the 19C, since Cardinal Cisneros forced the castle to be almost completely destroyed after Navarre was annexed to Castile. Cisneros gave order to raze the outer walls to the ground, to cut the tops of the towers, fill in the moats and render the loopholes useless. After this destruction, the castle has been the object of continuous restoration work.

This building is made up of strong battlement towers. The basilica is built on to the castle walls. This houses the baptismal font where San Francisco Javier was baptised. There are guided tours of the castle, where the guides will inform you of the life of the saint here. They will tell you about the sculpture of Christ with a smile, sculptured in walnut wood and which presides over a chapel with wall paintings of the Death dance, with yellow skeletons drawn against a black background. The guides will tell you about the secrets these awesome walls hide.

   

Leyre Monastery
The Monastery of San Salvador de Leire is set amidst the splendour of the wild scenery of the Sierra, with great walls of ochre coloured stone and impossible cliffs and woods. It commands a view over the Yesa Reservoir, impressive with its 74 metre high and 411 metres long dam and  blue waters.

The Monastery is impregnated with history, beauty and legends such as the one about Saint Virila, an abbot of the monastery who stood in ecstasy opposite a fountain to listen to a bird singing. When he returned, he was astonished to discover that 300 years had passed by. There are records of the monastery dating back to the year 848.

During the early centuries, it was the great religious and cultural centre of the kingdom of Pamplona and is the place selected by the kings for their pantheon. 

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Even today, on the 3rd December, the day of Navarre and of Saint Francisco Javier are solemnly commemorated.

Leire is one of the first Romanesque constructions in the Spanish Peninsular. Inside, it is easy to imagine the life of the clergy there. Benedictine and Cistercian monks passed through it, after 75 years of disputes between each other. The monastery was abandoned in 1836 after the disentailment of Mendizábal and the monks were not to return, in this case Benedictine monks, until 1954.

Leire is composed of a crypt, apses, three Romanesque naves and a narrow square tower.

The crypt is a treasure: built in the 11C, it has a primitive and archaic appearance, with enormous and unequal capitals standing on robust shafts, with a plain decoration. Every corner of this place is marked by sobriety.

   
In the church itself, the great Gothic nave has very little decoration. If you look at the carving of Christ on the Cross, you will see it is no other than Saint Salvador of Leire. Behind a beautiful gothic screen, you will find a Neogothic small chest, holding the remains of the earliest monarchs.

You can observe a beautiful retable relating the martyrdom  suffered by Saints Nunilo and Alodia at the hands of the Muslims.   

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