Roncesvalles, known as Orreaga in Basque, is a historical place in our geography. This enclave, located at the foot of the Navarrese Pyrenees, has always been a point of entry to the Iberian Peninsula from French lands.
Home of deeds, battles and songs. A village that is a living memory of the passage and tradition of the Camino de Santiago, and that since the Middle Ages has given refuge and rest to countless pilgrims and personalities.
What to see and do in Roncesvalles
Royal Collegiate Church of Santa María de Roncesvalles
It is probably the most representative building of Roncesvalles. It is one of the best Gothic-style buildings in Navarre, which even preserves an image of the Virgin from the 14th century. Precisely King Sancho VII El Fuerte was its promoter, as his idea was to be buried there one day.
Chapel of St. Augustine
It is also known as the Tower of St. Augustine, the Royal Chapel or the Chapter House. Apart from its architecture and sculpture, the most remarkable thing about this chapel is that it has housed the tomb of Sancho VII el Fuerte since 1912. Of the primitive funerary complex (built in 1234) only the recumbent relief of the monarch on the slab is preserved. The present-day funeral complex is in the neo-Gothic style.
Chapel of the Holy Spirit
This building probably dates back to the 12th century and is considered to be the oldest building in Roncesvalles. It is of Romanesque style and is also known by the name of “Silo de Carlomagno“. This is because it is said that it was here that Charlemagne ordered the burial place for Roland and his men who fell in the battle of Roncesvalles to be built.
Library and museum
The building is located next to the Priory House. The museum includes a large number of sculptures, objects and books belonging to the Collegiate Church. Among its most outstanding pieces are a seated Gothic sculpture of the Virgin, the Triptych of the Crucifixion (16th century painting), a 13th century silver chest, a processional cross, Charlemagne’s chess set and the Miramamolin Emerald.
The library is not open to the general public. In order to enter, prior authorization must be requested to demonstrate interest for research purposes.
Nowadays it works as a very successful youth hostel, among all the people who do the Camino de Santiago. The current building dates back to the 19th century. Of the old pilgrims’ hospital dating back to the 12th century and its later modifications, there are hardly any remains of the original building other than some thick walls.
On the other hand, we must not forget that Roncesvalles is located in a privileged natural environment, so there are many plans and natural routes in the surroundings of the village. One of the star places is the nearby Irati Forest.
The Irati Forest, which is the second largest beech and fir forest in Europe. In our article about this incredible natural space, you will find all the information you need to get to know it.
Near the village you can also enjoy the path of the Canónigos, a path that will give you breathtaking views of Roncesvalles. Another of the special natural places full of legends in the area is the Bosque de las Brujas (Witches’ Forest), which you will walk through on the stage from Roncesvalles to Zubiri.