Estella Tourist Attractions
The ancient little town of Estella, lying on the Río Ega well away from the main traffic routes, was founded by King Sancho Ramírez in 1090 on the site of an earlier Roman settlement. During the Middle Ages it was an occasional residence of the kings of Navarre and a staging-point on the pilgrims' road to Santiago de Compostela, the Way of St James. A 12th century guide for pilgrims describes it as a hospitable city. The Jews and Franks (Frenchmen, foreigners) who were encouraged by the kings of Navarre to settle in Estella lived in their own separate quarters of the town and contributed to its prosperity - still evidenced by its many towers and palaces.
San Pedro de la Rúa
A prominent landmark of Estella is the tower of the 12th century church of San Pedro de la Rúa, which is approached by a steep flight of steps. In its combination of pointed and cusped arches the doorway shows Moorish influence. An unusual feature of the interior (aisled, with three apses) is a column in the central apse formed of three intertwined snakes. In the Baroque Capilla de San Andrés in the north aisle is a silver shrine containing a relic of St Andrew, brought here in the 13th century by a bishop of Patras.
San Pedro de la Rúa - Cloister
The cloister was damaged in 1573 by falling debris when the castle on the hill above was blown up, and only the north and west sides remain. It is of particular interest for its capitals, depicting the Massacre of the Innocents, scenes from Christ's life and Passion, the stories of St Lawrence and St Andrew, the arrest of St Peter, etc., together with animal and plant ornament.
Palacio de los Reyes de Navarra
Below the church is the Plaza de San Martín, from the east side of which Calle San Nicolás leads to the Puerta de Castilla, through which pilgrims left the town. On this street is the Palacio de los Reyes de Navarra, the palace of the kings of Navarre, the basic structure of which goes back to the 12th century; the towers and gallery were added in the 16th century. On the main front of the palace are two columns with capitals depicting the fight between Roland and the Moorish giant Ferragut (on left) and devils tormenting misers and animal musicians (on right).
Gustavo de Maeztu
The Roral Palace houses a museum with paintings by Gustavo de Maeztu (1887-1947).
In the Plaza de San Martín is the 16th century Ayuntamiento, with two very fine municipal coats of arms on the facade.
Calle de la Rúa
From the Town Hall Calle de la Rúa leads east, lined by handsome burghers' houses and noble mansions, notable among them the 16th century Casa de Fray Diego de Estella and the 17th Century Palacio del Gobernador (both on the left-hand side).
Farther along Calle de la Rúa, on the right, is the church of Santo Sepulcro, which was begun in the late 12th century. In the tympanum of the Gothic doorway are represented the Crucifixion, the Entombment and the Resurrection of Christ; flanking the doorway are fine statues of Apostles.
San Miguel Arcángel
On the left bank of the Río Ega a flight of steps goes up to the Mercado Viejo, in which is the church of San Miguel Arcángel, in a style transitional between Romanesque and Gothic. Although at first sight the exterior of the church is plain, its north doorway is one of the finest examples of Romanesque sculpture in Navarre. The door is flanked by five columns on each side, with capitals depicting Christ's birth and childhood and the Massacre of the Innocents; the last two have hunting scenes and plant ornament. The figural ornament continues on the archivolts, and in the tympanum is a figure of Christ surrounded by the symbols of the Evangelists. Flanking the doorway are two masterpieces of sculpture: on left the Archangel Michael fighting a dragon and Michael and Abraham fighting devils for men's souls, on right the Resurrection. In the north aisle is a fine retablo of Santa Elena (1406).