Estella (Lizarra)

426m (851/644)

Population 13,000. Modern facilities. Hotels, buses to Pamplona, Puenta La Reina, Logrono. Tourist Office: Calle San Nicolas 3.
Picturesque town with a charter going back to 1090. Sancho Ramirez established a French settlement near the church and Plaza of San Martin of Lizarra. This village, of little significance, bears traces of its Roman origins. The foundation and expansion of the city was the result of close co-operation with the Camino de Santiago.

   At the end of the twelfth century, it occupied the area that presently comprises the historic centre. New neighbourhoods were created, churches built and hospitals established by several confraternities. For a long time, French and Jewish settlers lived in constant rivalry with the native townspeople. The appalling massacre of 1328 was the first of many cruel blows inflicted on the town. Floods and epidemics in the fifteenth century reduced it to a ghost town.  In the nineteenth century, it was the court and residence of the Carlist kings, giving Estella a reputation, deserved or undeserved, as one of the most royalist and reactionary parts of Navarre.

   Numerous monuments testify to the important role played by the city through the centuries.
San Pedro de la Rua has three gothic naves with an exceptional entrance showing Morisco and Cistercian influence. The central apse is late Romanesque. The demolition of the castle (carried out by Felipe II in 1572 so that it could not be used against him) crushed two sides of the twelfth century Romanesque cloister. The latter’s beautiful capitals were decorated with botanical and animal subjects and those of the New Testament and hagiography. The entrance to the church is polluted and reminiscent of the one at San Roman at Cirauqui. One of the cloister’s capitals, on a twisted column, is similar to one at Santo Domingo de Silos. The church contains the image of Nuestra Senora de Bele (XII century), formerly in the church of Santo Sepolcro.

San Miguel, founded in 1195, has a door with three archivolts and illustrative capitals with sculptured panels of the highest aesthetic quality. In the tympanum is a magnificent late Romanesque Christ Pantocrator with the Evangelists. Inside there is an interesting altarpiece (1406) with a statue of St Michael in the flamboyant gothic style. The whole church has a fortified air
The monastery of Santo Domingo was founded by Teobaldo II in 1259 and became a royal palace under Carlos II el Malo. The wall was built for king Luis Huntin in 1307 to separate the monastery from the adjacent ghetto.
The church was built from 1260 onwards on three levels to allow for the uneven ground. The Principe de Viana Institute restored it. In documents belonging to the cathedral of Pamplona, allusion is made to “the church of San Jayme of the Preaching Brothers of Estela”.This may perhaps be its original  name on the Camino de Santiago.
Renovations to the church of San Juan Bautista have been so numerous that it is hard to imagine the early structure which was similar to that of Irache. The north side has a late Romanesque door (XII and XIII centuries) and the south side a gothic one (XIV century). The main façade is neoclassical (XVI century) and the towers are modern. Inside are a renaissance altarpiece and a beautiful statue of Nuestra Senora de las Torchas. These  were restored in the 1950s in wood covered with silver. The church has a small museum of historical objects.

The convent of Santa Clara was founded in 1290 by Bernard Montaner, and finished in 1635. The church has the ground plan of a Latin cross with barrel vaulting. Some of the princes of Navarre were educated here.
The convent of the Concepcionistas Recoletas has a seventeenth century baroque ashlars façade. Inside there is an altarpiece of the same period and a gothic Calvary.
The church of Santo Sepulcro is gothic with a double archivolt door flanked by two rows of apostles, Santiago as a pilgrim, and bishop. The tympanum depicts the Last Supper, the Passion and the Risen Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene. The earlier church was Romanesque. Above it, on higher ground, there once stood a small walled ghetto called Elgacena.

San Pedro de Lizarra is a gothic church situated on the site of the first settlement in Estella. Its tower dates from the seventeenth century.
Santa Maria Jus del Castillo, once known as Santa Maria y Todos los Santos, replaced a Jewish synagogue that stood on this site until 1145. It has a handsome apse with an extraordinary collection of exterior corbels in the elegant and simple Romanesque style of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It has a good statue of the Virgin (XIV century). A community of Grandmontinies established themselves here in 1265. It became the parish church in the fourteenth century, and for a time was a royal chapel.
The monastery of Rocamador is simply built with a graceful Romanesque apse. Near the church stood a pilgrim hospital. The image of Nuestra Senora de Rocamador may date from the latter part of the twelfth century.

The twelfth century Romanesque Palacio de los Reyes de Navarre has been restored; it has two original storeys and a third of brick that was added with the two small towers. On the left side of the façade is a capital representing Roland’s battle with the giant Farragut. Inside are several rooms used as display or museum space. Nearby in the same plaza  the Ayuntamiento, a renaissance edifice on three floors, occupy the building?
The Casa de Fray Diego was the palace of the San Cristobal family, a platersque building with a brick façade and a stone doorway. Today it is the Casa de Cultura.    


The yellow arrows through Estella are very confusing as they take you on (more than one) tour of the town’s main “sights”. You are advised to obtain a walking tour leaflet from the Tourist Office. Proceed as follows to enter the town and continue your journey.
Turn right along main road but when you enter the town do not follow “centre city” traffic signs over road bridge, (river) but fork right, past sign “Estella” in tiles on a building in front of you. Turn left over a (very) steep humpback bridge. Turn right on the other side to the Plaza San Martin (fountain).
To leave Estella, carry straight on along Calle San Nicolas (i.e. behind Palacio). Keep straight on and pass under archway at end of the street to a road junction (church on your left). Keep straight on this main road, which divides after 300 m. Cross over to the right hand side and take the right fork, up an UMUR next to a petrol station and go up hill behind large hypermarket. Bear right at a factory and keep straight on to village of Ayegui.
Cyclists should leave Estella by the N111 and climb steadily through minor industrial buildings out of the town.

1km to Ayegui/Irache




A SUMMARY OF A PAGE FROM The Village to Village Guide To The Camino Santiago: With Permission Simon Walleberg Press. The Book is available at Amazon & Most Bookshops.

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Next Village:1km to Ayegui/Irache

A SUMMARY OF A PAGE FROM The Village to Village Guide To The Camino Santiago: With Permission Simon Walleberg Press. The Book is available at Amazon & Most Bookshops.