Estella Spain

Estella and the Irache Wine Fountain

The main Albergue in Estella is on the left just as you enter the old town. It is welcoming and has good facilities, however, it can become very hot and humid during the heat of the summer and I prefer an Albergue in the smaller towns sometimes.

Estella has a population of about 14,000, and many good restaurants and cafes within 10 minutes walk of the Albergue. The town’s main square is Plaza de Los Fueros has many cafes and is a pleasant place to relax weary feet and watch the world walk by.

Hospital de Peregrinos de Estella, municipal, 50 Calle Rúa, €6, 96 beds, W€3, D€2, K, V, Cred, @, Bike, Tel: 948 550 200, Closed from the 19th of December till the 15th of January.

Albergue de ANFAS, association, 7 Calle Cordeleros (bajo), K, W€3, D€3, V, @, Bike, Tel: 639 011 688, 948 554 551, Web: Open May to September.

Albergue San Miguel Archangel, parochial, 18 Mercado Viejo, donation, 36 beds, K, @, W, V, Bike, Tel: 615 451 909, 948 550 431, Open from Easter to November.

Albergue Juvenil Oncineda, municipal, 11 Calle Monasterio de Irache, €10-14, 121 beds, B€5, M€10, W+D €6, V, @, K€1/30mins, Bike, Tel: 948 555 022, 948 55 39 54, Web: Open mid March to October.

Camping Lizzara, Paraje de Ordoiz, s/n, €5,62, Bar/Restaurant, Supermarket, Pool, V, @, Bike, Tel: 948 551 733, Web: Open all year.

Estella was a planned town built on the former village of Lizarra, (Basque for Ash due to the abundance of ash trees around the river Ega). One of the reasons for Estella being so interesting is the Camino route was changed slightly in 1090 by King Sancho Ramirez who wanted to encourage settlement in the new town.

I have seen a few changes in the Camino Frances over the last 10 years, more with my research for this book, and sometimes I can wish to walk the original route rather than accept the present. This illustrates to me how the Camino has always been an evolving path. Estella is another town that was granted a charter to encourage merchants from France to settle here.

The French district was initially on the left bank where they were granted special privileges, this lasted until Sancho the Wise allowed the local Navarrese population the same privileges and allowed them to live among the French settlers during the 12th century.

Each district within the town had its own church and different groups which led to fighting and separate hostels for pilgrims until under Charles V they were all merged into one.

History of Estella

Bridge in Estella

The early history of Estella in many ways reflects Europe as a whole. The town was formed but then quickly divided itself into three distinct warring areas: San Pedro, San Juan, and San Miguel. Within the districts, the French and Jews lived apart from the native Navarrese.

Each district built walls against its neighbors. In the 12th century, the Jewish population was about 10%, one of the five largest in the Navarra region. By the tax census of 1366, the Jewish population had dropped to 3%, most of the population had been massacred in the 1328 Navarra civil war.

As in the rest of Europe relations between Christian and Jews oscillated wildly. Throughout Spain, in 1391 there were anti-Semitic riots which again largely destroyed much of the local population and then in 1498 Jews were expelled from Spain. Many did not leave but converted to Christianity.

This has echoes in the 21st century when a Spanish village, Castrillo Matajudios, made the news as they wanted to rename their town. The village is further along the Camino nearer Burgos, Castrillo Matajudios translates to “Camp Kill Jews”. On top of local, regional, and national wars Estella coped with the black plague decimating the population in 1348, 1362, 1380, 1400, and 1420.

For such a small compact town Estella has an overwhelming amount of sights to see that were built due to the Camino passing through the town. There is a Tourist Office on Plaza San Martin, 200 meters from the main Albergue, they can supply a map of the town.

Next to the tourist office is the 12th century Palace of the Kings it was built by Sancho el Sabio and is an excellent example of Romanesque civil architecture built in the style of the palaces in the French Benedictine area of Cluny. Although it was built as a palace there are no records to suggest that any monarchs lived here.

Originally the building had one floor, later additional floors were added however they have been completed in a way that creates a harmonious facade. Look up at the capitals to see the beauty of the palace, (capitals are the tops of columns where they meet the load they carry, often they are ornamental and spread out from the column).

One capital has three of the deadly sins, it illustrates sloth using musicians as they distract one from piety or duty with their secular seductive power. However, the most important capital at the time was Roland fighting with the Muslim Ferragut. The building is now a museum and art gallery.

Most of us know the 7 deadly sins, however, this seems like an appropriate time to list the 7 virtues: faith, hope, charity, temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice.

The Church of San Pedro de la Rua is a 12th century fortified Romanesque church, which was located in the original French area. Within the church is a fragment of the True Cross and a bone of San Andres. Legend says that Greek pilgrims became ill and died in the Hospice of San Nicolas and when he was buried in the cloister the grave glowed.

When the grave was opened the clerics found the fragment of the True Cross, the bone of St Andrew, and the pilgrim’s crosier and gloves – this revealed that he was not a common pilgrim but the bishop of Patras.

Only two of the four sides of the cloister remain, however they are works of art. The Romanesque capitals are highly decorated and worth seeing, each capital depicts four scenes or episodes from a story. Interestingly St Andrew is featured in eight scenes 100 years before the above bishop brought his shoulder bone to Estella.

The Church of Santo Sepulcro was built for the French community by wealthy merchants before 1123. The founding of the church is a common medieval anti-Semitic legend where a spiteful Jew threw a cross into the river and it stops here and could not be moved to any other place. The cross has since agreed to be house in the Church of San Pedro de la Rua above.

The Church of San Miguel, half church half castle, controls the eastern approaches to Estella. St Michael is the Archangel who leads the heavenly armies against the devil’s armies, therefore most churches dedicated to him are fortress churches protecting a town.

The lesson I take from today and especially Estella is that war is easy and keeping the peace is hard. I, therefore, ask myself where am I helping?

Today’s Route: 22.5 km

San Miguel Church in Estella

Estella to Los Arcos Map

This day is 23 km and not too hard – unless you end up walking in the mid-day sun in July or Aug – that should really be avoided.

Again we are out of step with the majority of pilgrims who would be stopping at Estella today. It is also great to stay in quieter places, the albergues, and hostels that are not the places where a day map in a guidebook ends. (See the best Camino guidebooks)

One item not to miss today is the wine fountain – there are photos below of it. Many pilgrims stop here and try the local wine, others have problems walking to their destination as they fill a bottle… What can I say?

Day 6 on the French Way find us sleeping overnight in Los Arcos. When I last stayed in the main hostel in Estella they severed breakfast – not something that you will get at many hostels.

It was coffee, tea, and bread with jams, enough to get me going and miss the early cafes in Estella and continue to Villamayor de Monjardin before stopping for something to eat and drink, about 8km.

There are two routes leaving Estella the main one which stays on the right hand side of the N111 and the other which is not so well sign-posted on the left hand side of the same road. Cross the road and walk the second route to see one of the most talked about sights of this day.

There is a wine fountain “Fuente del Vino” shortly after leaving the main part of the town beside the Monastery of Nuestra Senora la Real de Irache.

Both paths join again just before Azquata and then head uphill to the highest point of the day at Villamayor de Monjardin. Eat or buy some food here and fill up with water as it is 12 km to Los Arcos without any more village stops and only one not very appealing fountain for water along the rest of the route.

The Day starts at about 400 meters and reaches its height at Monjardin around 650 meters. From here to Los Arcos you will be walking along gravel tracks that are surrounded by vineyards and farmland. There are great views down along long sloping tracks, which make the latter half of the day easy on the eyes and the feet.

The main Albergue in Los Arcos is at the far side of the town it is big and comfortable – but can be noisy from outside at night. In Los Arcos I ran with the bulls during a fiesta – it was an invigorating experience, make of that what you will.

Ayegui – Irache Wine Fountain

Irache wine fountain

2 km, wine fountain

wine fountain at Monasterio IracheThe wine fountain is part of the ancient Monastery of Irache in Ayegui which is essentially a suburb of Estelle, it is the best-known wine fountain along the Camino Frances and maybe Spain.

There are two fountains, built during 1991, which are known as the Wine Source and Source Irache, one dispenses wine and the other freshwater.

The fountain is gated and opens between 8 am and 8 pm daily. There are two signs at the fountain:

“We are pleased to invite you to drink in moderation. If you wish to take the wine with you, you will have to buy it.”

“Pilgrim, if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and make a toast to happiness.”

Albergue San Cipriano, municipal, 3 Calle Polideportivo, €6, 80 beds, B€3, M€9, W€3, D€3, @, Bike, Tel: 948 554 311, Open all year.

A short distance further on the left is the Monastery of Santa Maria la Real de Irache. It was founded in the 10th Century and vacated in 1985 because of the lack of Novitates, the earliest records of the monastery date from 958.

A pilgrims hostel was founded in the monastery in 1054 by Don Garcia de Najera. In 1060 King Sancho el de Penalen gifted the town to the monastery; the inhabitants of the town then paid taxes in wine, wheat, and labor.

The monastery achieved great grandeur in the 11th century under Saint Veremundus who greatly increased the wealth and prestige. A Romanesque church was started in the late 12th century and completed in the early 13th century. The church contains a 14th century Virgin del Rosario and a French Gothic crucifix.

The monastery entered a period of decline from the 13th to the 15 century. A new Benedictine community from Valladolid established a school in 1522 and later in 1605 the Benedictine university in Sahagun was transferred to Irache where it continued to grant degrees in theology, philosophy, medicine, and canon law, until the early 19th century.

Today it is worth stopping to see the very well preserved cloisters and the church. However many visitors will be there to visit the Wine Museum or the Bodega.


Azqueta Spain

6.5 km, bar with 24 hr vending

There are reports of a small 9 person albergues in the village. If you have more detail please forward to me for inclusion in the next update, thanks. It is said that the village was given to a knight in 1128, who had caught thieves who had stolen treasure from the monastery at Irache.

However, by 1346 the village was owned by the church in Pamplona. It is a small village that you will pass through in two minutes unless you stop to see the 16th century church of San Pedro.

The church tower is the 20th century, however, the rest of the building is a mix of Gothic and Romanesque.

Interestingly the 17th century sculptor appears to have used the angel of the Annunciation as an opportunity to study the naked human form.

Just before Villamayor de Monjardin, there is an unusual 13th century Gothic Fountain of the Moors. There are steps that lead down internally to the water level. The fountain was restored in 1991.


Villamayor de Montjardín

Villamayor de Monjardín

1.8km, Water, cafe, shop

After Villamayor, the highest point of the day, there are no villages, food or water, until Los Arcos, therefore, stock up before leaving. It is a pleasant 12km through open countryside with little shade to Los Arcos, there is a fountain along the route but the water is not drinkable.

Albergue Hogar Montjardín, run by a group Dutch called Oasis Trails, association, Calle de la Plaza, €8, 23 beds, B€5, M€10, Bike, Tel: 948 537 136, Web: Open April to November. They also have 2 private rooms for €25, each private room has a double and single bed which can accommodate three people.

Albergue Villamayor de Montjardín, private, 1 Calle Mayor, €15, 20 beds, B&B, K, W€3, D€3, @, Bike, Tel: 677 660 586, 948 537 139, Web: Open March to October.

Still a few kilometers out from Villamayor de Monjardin the skyline is dominated by the 17th century Baroque tower from the Church of San Andres. The church is a 12th century Romanesque construction with a barrel vaulted roof and semi-circular apse.

One of the capitals on the south side illustrates a combat scene of Roland fighting Ferragut. The most valuable of the church’s treasure is the 12th century silver Romanesque processional cross.

On top of the hill is the ruined castle of San Esteban de Deyo, (St Stephen). The castle base is roman, however, the castle itself has been reconstructed after each of the many conquests it fell to.

It was the last major Moor stronghold in the area until it fell in 914 and was captured by King Sancho Garcia. In Pseudo-Turpin tales Charlemagne supposedly captured the castle, this is thought to be french propaganda to stir interest in Iberia.

However, an interesting tale emerges from this story: Charlemagne before marching his troops into battle the next day asked God to indicate which of his troops would not survive.

On the morning of the battle as the troops put on their armor, 150 men were marked on their backs. These troops were told to stay back and guard the camp, however after the battle when Charlemagne returned the 150 had mysteriously died (Perhaps a message to Charlemagne not to out-think God).

The next stop on the route, Los Acros, is 12.2 km down the road.

Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred = Credential, Bike = Bike Storage

Estella to Los Arcos Elevation Map

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