Camino Francés description : 04. Pamplona - Puente la Reina   

 

                             Camino de Santiago / French Way : 04. Pamplona - Puente la Reina

                                                                                    (23.5 km)

  

               

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  The Camino de Santiago is very well marked through Pamplona and takes you past the Citadel which is set in 69 acres of public park known as the Vuelta del Castillo which is surrounded by moats, trees and lawns. If you have time it is well worth resting a while here before you start back on your journey. The Camino also takes you through the campus of the University of Navarra which was founded by Jose Maria Escrivá de Balaguer, the 20th century catholic priest who founded Opus Dei and who was canonised by Pope John Paul II. Once through the Vuelta del Castillo you will find markers towards the village of Cizur Menor, a walk of approximately 4.5 kilometres. Along this path you will cross a bridge over the Rio Sadar and not too far away you will come across another bridge which crosses the Rio Elorz. The path will take you across the railway track and up the hill which overlooks the village of Cizur Menor.

 

  The village of Cizur Menor has played host to the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (which later became known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta) since the 12th century. In the 13th century the Order built a monastery and pilgrim hostel. What remains of the monastery has been converted into an Albergue which is still run by the Order of Malta. Worth seeing is the recently restored 13th century la Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel and in particular its Romanesque-Gothic doorway. Surprisingly this church has been used as a place to store grain for well over a century. Like so many churches in this region it is a fortress or fortified church.

  There are two Albergues in Cizur Menor, one is located here next to the Iglesia San Miguel Arcángel and the other, as we have already mentioned is part of the old monastery complex. There are a number of bars to get a meal as well as a small shop and a chemist.

 

  From here the Camino de Santiago starts to leave the green and lush foothills of the Pyrenees and enters into the more arid regions of Navarra and into La Rioja. Both regions famous for their wines. Leaving Cizur Menor the road goes downhill and after about 100 metres you will fork to your right through a tree lined footpath which brings you to a steep track leading up to the Alto de Perdón. Up here you will find a wind farm with around 40 modern turbines providing electricity for the city of Pamplona. Before you reach the Alto de Perdón and around 6 kilometres from Cizur Menor you come across the abandoned village of Guenduláin and the remains of a former pilgrim hospice. A little further along you come to the village of Zariquiegui.

 

  In Zariquiegui you will find a Romanesque church called la Iglesia de San Andrés which was built in the 12th century. Most of the other buildings within the village are of a much later date ranging between the 15th and 16th centuries. This is mainly due to the village being ravaged by the Black Death (bubonic plague) which spread throughout Europe during the 14th century.

 

  You will find a fountain known as the Fuente Reniega which means the Fountain of Renouncement or Denial in English. There is a legend surrounding this fountain as it is said that a Pilgrim travelling the Camino, thirsty and exhausted from his walk was confronted by a fellow traveller, this traveller turns out to be the Devil in disguise. The Devil offers to show the Pilgrim a hidden source of water but only on the condition that he renounces God, the Virgin Mary and St James. The Pilgrim held steadfast to his faith and even though it could have meant dying of thirst he refused to do what this man asked. At that moment St James, also disguised as a Pilgrim, appears and leads the thirsty and exhausted man to the hidden fountain, and using a scallop shell, provides the traveller with water to quench his thirst.

 

  After taking advantage of quenching your own thirst at the fountain continue along the path soon arriving at the Alto de Perdón. Here you will find a sculpture depicting a number of Pilgrims either on foot or on horseback as they make their way along the Camino to Santiago. There is an inscription which reads “donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas” which in English means “where the path of the wind crosses that of the stars”. On a clear day you will get some spectacular panoramic views over the valleys below and you will be able to see the next village on your travels, that of Uterga, as well as the village of Obanos and if you are really lucky the town of Puente de la Reina, your ultimate destination on this leg of the Camino.

 

  The path down from the Alto de Perdón becomes a stony track through vineyards and almond trees, and in spring is bordered by Hyacinths and Orchids. After around 3 kilometres and after crossing the river you arrive at the village of Uterga.

  There are two very small Albergues here and a bar as well as a small gothic church called la Iglesia de la Asunción, but that is pretty much it.

 

  2.5 kilometres down the road and past an almond grove you come across the village of Muruzábal. Walking past the high walled Iglesia de San Esteban and into the main square you will find a bar and a chemist. Close by you will also see the 17th century Palacio del Marqués de Zabalegui also known as the Palacio de Muruzábal. The Palace is owned by the Pérez de Rada family, descendants of the first Marquís de Zabalegui and is now a Bodega (vineyard) producing different types of wines such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, which is exported to places such as Japan, Germany and the United States.

 

  Near to la Iglesia de San Esteban there is a sign which points to Eunate which is about 3 kilometres away. It is worth taking a detour to visit the beautiful church there. Eunate is also where the Camino Aragonés joins the Camino Frances. La Ermita Santa Maria de Eunate is believed to have been built in the 12th century but little is known of its origins. The octagonal shape points to there being a connection to the Knights Templar. Certain aspects of the building’s construction also point to the building possibly having been used as a funeral chapel for the pilgrims that passed this way. There are a number of graves in the grounds that show the scallop shell symbol. There is a tiny 7 bed albergue next to the church if you wish to stay.

 

  The Camino from here follows the Camino Aragonés alongside the Rio Robo meeting up with the Camino Frances in Obanos.

  If you haven’t taken the detour to Eunate walk out of the village of Muruzábal and turn right at a metal cross where you will begin to walk up a hill towards Obanos, 2 kilometres from Muruzábal, passing the beautiful Iglesia de San Juan Bautista.

  The village is well worth spending some time in and if you wish to stay the night there is an Albergue as well as a small hostel, a restaurant, bar and bank.

 

  Obanos is a peaceful village but it does have a rather murderous past which culminated in the legend of San Guillén and Santa Felicia.

  Felicia was the sister of Guillén of Aquitaine who, following the family tradition started by William the 10th Duke of Aquitaine, decided to embark on a pilgrimage to Santiago. Upon returning from her pilgrimage she could not settle back into her life of privilege and wanted to help those less fortunate than herself. Leaving the French court she headed back to Navarra to live as a recluse and servant in a village called Amocáin. Her family was understandably furious and her brother, Guillén, was dispatched to try and bring her back. After much searching Guillén finally tracked her down to the village of Obanos, but despite much begging and pleading Felicia refused to return to France with her brother. He was so angry at this response that in a fit of fury he stabbed his sister with a dagger. Racked with guilt Guillén decided, as a penance, that he would follow in his sister’s footsteps and make a pilgrimage to Santiago. Once he reached Santiago he now understood why his sister had felt the way she did and he too decided to dedicate his life helping others. On returning home and still inconsolable over the death of his sister, he returned to Obanos and built the shrine Nuestra Señora de Arnotegui where he lived out his days helping other pilgrims and dedicating his life to prayer. Both brother and sister were made saints. Santa Felicia's grave is in Labiano where villagers believe that by venerating her remains they will be cured of their headaches. San Guillén’s relics can be found in the Ermita Nuestra Señora de Arnotegui and every Maundy Thursday his silver covered skull is used to bless the wine that is given to the villagers.

 

  Leaving Obanos you follow the yellow arrows out of the village and past the Ermita San Salvador. Here the route is pretty much just a dirt track and as you head downhill through vineyards and fields you see the town of Puente la Reina in the distance. Soon you will come across a statue of Santiago in his Pilgrim robes. This marks the point where the Camino Frances and the Camino Aragonés meet. After about 300 metres and following the Carretera Pamplona you will enter the town of Puente la Reina.

 

  This town was founded in the 12th century by Alfonso, el Batallador (the battler) and is another example of a Pueblo Calle where the town is built around the main street. This street is a wonder in itself with all the impressive manorial style houses along it.

  As you enter Puente de la Reina the first building you come to is the former pilgrims hospital which is now an Albergue situated opposite the Iglesia del Crucifijo which was built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar. This church gets its name from the Y shaped crucifix which is said to have been brought here by German pilgrims some time in the 14th Century who supposedly donated it to the church in thanks for the treatment they received at the hospital. They were said to have carried the cross on their shoulders throughout their pilgrimage. The church had originally been named Santa Maria de los Huertos but after the Knights Templar were driven out of the town in the early 14th century the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem took it over in the mid 15th century. They added a convent (San Juanistas) next door and a hospital to care for the pilgrims. In 1469 la Cofradía del Crucifijo (the Brotherhood of the Crucifix) took the church over thus giving it the new name of Iglesia del Crucifijo. It is now run by los Padres Reparadores who took over the complex in the early 20th century.

 

  Close by is another church la Iglesia de Santiago el Mayor. As you approached Puente la Reina you will have seen its vast bell tower which dominates the skyline of the town. Originally built in the 12th century it was substantially rebuilt in the 16th century. The church has a number of sculptures but the most notable is that of the Santiyako Beltza (beltza means black in the Basque language) because of its dark face.

 

  Puente la Reina like many others towns and villages along the Camino owes its existence solely to the Camino de Santiago. In the 11th century there was only one way of crossing the River Arga, by hiring someone to take you across in their boat. Unfortunately, seeing an opportunity to make money, these people overcharged the pilgrims for the privilege of being ferried across the river. Queen Doña Mayor the wife of Sancho III ordered a bridge to be built over the river and thus gave the town its name. Puente la Reina in English is bridge of the queen. The bridge can be found at the far end of the town and you will pass over this as you continue your journey onwards.

 

  There is a little legend associated with the bridge that of El Pajaro Txori (txori means bird in Basque). For many years after the Puente de la Reina was built there was a little niche in the bridge which held the image of la Virgen del Puy. One day in 1834 a mysterious little bird suddenly appears and starts to clean the image of the Virgin. He would use his wings to clean the dust off the figure and his beak to break off any other dirt. The locals were fascinated by this and celebrated this in fiestas for many years. The statue of the Virgin was removed many years ago and now resides in the Iglesia de San Pedro.

 

  In Puente la Reina you will find 2 Albergues, the first as we mentioned earlier you will have passed on the way into the town, as well as a private hostel. You will also find a number of cafés, bakeries and places that offer a Pilgrim menu. There are also a number of banks and other shops.

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                                                    delhommeb at wanadoo.fr -  07/01/2014