Pamplona, a pleasure for the senses
Pamplona shows contrasts between the modern city –with many gardens and avenues- and the medieval walled city –with side streets, squares and old monuments-. Unlike other cities in which the old center and the new one are separated, Pamplona admirably mixes tradition and modernity in the same areas. And we can find that mixture basically in the wall (built in the 16th and 18th centuries) embracing the city, which is extraordinary long and, in part, parallel to the Arga river. When walking along side the wall, we can find the most beautiful gardens, long avenues and the oldest monuments of the city; and all that coexists in extraordinary harmony. The old walled city is placed on the Arga river valley and conforms –together with the neighboring towns- a urban continuity where 250 000 residents live; that is the 50% of the Comunidad Foral.
We would like to thank the Pamplona Town Hall for the text and photographs provided.
Ciudadela (The Citadel)
One of the most interesting fortifications is the Ciudadela; king Philip II ordered its construction in 1571, but it was actually finished in 1648. It was based on the Antwerp Citadel and had five bastions, though only three of them are still standing.
Nowadays, it houses art exhibitions and cultural events, which take place all year round. The Ciudadela consists of five buildings:
The Pabellón de Mixtos was reformed in 1720 and again in this century. It has two large exhibition halls, which are connected and have independent exits.
The Cuerpo de Guardia is the first building you find when entering thought the main entrance. It now serves as an office for council workers and a warehouse. The stretch of wall was completely rebuilt in the 1970s. The
Horno is a circular building used to exhibit avant-garde art. The Sala de Armas was originally an artillery arsenal and was built by Verbon in 1725, who also built the Citadel in Barcelona.
The Sala de Armas has four floors. It is the biggest building in the Ciudadela, and where the main art exhibitions and cultural events take place.
The Polvorín dates from 1694 and is the oldest building still standing within the complex. It also holds art exhibitions.
Every night during the San Fermin festivals, thousands of people go to the Ciudadela and to the Vuelta del Castillo Park to see fireworks displays. These displays undoubtedly attract the festival’s biggest crowds.
Chamber of Comptos
The Chamber of Comptos is located on Calle Ansoleaga. It was an old palace before becoming the head office of the “Tribunal de Cuentas” (Audit Court) of the Kingdom from 1525 to 1836. King Charles II built it to reinforce control over royal finances. Although this Chamber disappeared in 1836, it was reestablished in 1980 as an autonomous body for controlling public accountancy.
Coins from the different Navarre reigns as well as financial documents signed by the kings are kept inside this Chamber. This medieval building, dating from the 13th century, is considered to be the sole Gothic civil building in Pamplona.
The pointed arch at the main entrance and the reduced pointed windows highlight. By the middle 18th century, a coat of arms picturing the royal arms of Spain was put on the door. As peculiarity, a small passage covered by a pointed barrel vault leading to a beautiful garden with a water well is remarkable.
Fueros Statue. Paseo Sarasate
Opposite to the Palace of Navarre and at the end of the Paseo de Sarasate, the Fueros Statue (with 25m high) is located. It was erected in 1903 by public subscription in defense of the Navarre “fueros” (regional jurisdiction). The statue was as a symbol of protest against attempts in 1893 by the minister of the treasury at that time, Germán Gamazo, to abolish Navarre ancient regional jurisdiction.
The statue was created by Manuel Martínez Ubago and, among other symbols, bears the coats of arms of the former Courts of the Kingdom of Navarre. The coats of arms represent work, peace, justice, autonomy and history. At the monument's top, there is the bronze figure of a woman symbolizing Navarre, who holds the chains of the coat of arms and the ancient laws.
This statue has never been officially inaugurated; however, five plaques commemorate the reason of the statue and the rights. Nowadays, it is a meeting point.
The City Hall
One of Pamplona's most emblematic buildings is the City Hall, built by José Zay y Lorda in 1752 and with a perfectly conserved Baroque façade. In each of the three floors of the building, the columns of the balconies are of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian styles. At its top there are two lions bearing the city's coat of arms, and in the corners there are two Hercules figures. There are two statues, one on each side of the doorway: one symbolizes justice and the other temperance.
This building commemorates the union in 1423 of the three different towns existing at that time: San Cernin, San Nicolás and Navarrería. That union was achieved by means of the Privilegio de la Union promulgated by king Charles III, “the Noble”. Said document established the place where the city hall had to be located –which is the same place where it stands today-; that place did not belong to neither of the three towns above mentioned. Although it was always in the same place, the Casa Consistorial was subject to many demolitions and renewals. The Chupinazo is launched from the City Hall’s second floor balcony.
Santa Maria la Real Basilica Cathedral
It is the main religious building of the city. Its construction began in the second half of the 13th century -on the site where the old Romanesque cathedral stood-, but it was not finish until 1525. The cathedral has three Gothic naves, and the chapels are different in style. The main vestry was built at the end of the 14th century and decorated in a rococo style in the 17th century.
An effigy of the Virgen del is on the main altar. The Kings of Navarre swore their oaths of allegiance during their coronations facing the effigy. The main nave contains the mausoleums of King Charles III, “the Noble”, and of his wife Queen Leonor; it was carved in alabaster by the sculptor Jehan Lome in the 15th century, and is one of the most important sculptures in Navarre.
There are some noteworthy altarpieces; one located at the 16th century Santa Cristina Chapel is particularly remarkable. The choir stalls are 15 meters (49 feet) long and 12 meters (39.3 feet) high, and were carved by Esteban de Obray. There are also various Romanesque carvings and an effigy of Christ by Alonso Cano. The cloister -built between 1277 and 1472- is considered to be a European Gothic masterpiece. The Puerta de Amparo, the Barbazana Chapel and the Puerta Preciosa –all of them dating from the 14th century- and the 12th century Jesus Christ Chapel and the Refectory are of great interest. The tombs of Bishop Miguel Sanchez Asiain and of Pere Arnaut and Johana de Beunça (husband and wife) are also noteworthy.
The neoclassical façade was built between 1783 and 1800, according to the designs of Ventura Rodríguez. The Maria bell, made in 1584, is hanging in one of the cathedral’s twin towers. With 12,000 kg, it is Spain’s second largest bell; the biggest one is in Toledo.
San Cernin Church
The San Cernin Church is named after the Pamplona’s co-patron saint, which comes from the translation into French of San Saturnino. It was built in the 13th century on the same site where another Romanesque temple previously stood. Like the San Nicolás Church, it served as a fortress, and this is visible in the two towers which battlements were replaced by capitals in the 18th century.
The Baroque Virgen del Camino Chapel also dates from the 18th century and is located where the cloister was originally housed. The 16th century portico is enclosed by an arched vault that contains effigies of San Saturnino and Santiago.
The so-called “gallico” is remarkable; this is a weather vane with the form of a cock located at the top of church’s main tower –also south or clock tower-, which became one of the most popular emblems of the city.
Opposite to the church and on the ground, there is a plaque commemorating the small well, called the Pocico de San Cernin, which water was used by San Saturnino to baptize the first Christians in Pamplona, according to tradition.
San Nicolas Church
San Nicolas Church was rebuilt in 1231 as a fortress, and this can be seen in its tower’s battlements. It is from the Romanesque Gothic transition period; the vault and apse are Gothic, whereas the rest of the building is Cistercian.
The church housing a Romanesque sculpture of San Nicolas is surrounded by arches built in 1887. Its main aim was to defense this borough against the neighboring boroughs, since they were almost always fighting before the unification of the city through the Privilegio de la Union in 1423. Therefore, it had thick walls, railings and three watchtowers; only one tower (renewed in 1924) is still standing.
Nowadays, it is one of the emblems of the Old Part of Pamplona, leading an area of great commercial activity during days and cheerful university environment during nights.
San Lorenzo Church
This religious building lacks architectonic value; however, it has sentimental value because it houses the San Fermin Chapel. Therefore, all the official religious events during the San Fermin Festivities take place in this chapel.
It was built in 1901 -according to the designs by Florencio Ansoleaga- replacing another Baroque church; only one tower remains of the original church. It is neoclassical inside and has a Baroque chapel dedicated to San Fermin, which was built between 1696 and 1717 under the request of the City Council. Said chapel was built by Santiago Raón, Brother Juan de Alegría y Martín de Zaldúa.
The geometric domes and the lantern located at the upper part are remarkable. There, an effigy of the saint is kept since 1717; that image is a 16th century silver plated statue of San Fermín on a silver pedestal. The peculiarity of this effigy consists in that we do not know whether the face of San Fermin was originally black or it got black due to the candles or the passage of time; in either case, it is a “dark-skinned” saint. The church also houses an 1883 image of Our Lady of La Dolorosa.
Plaza del Castillo
The Plaza del Castillo, surrounded by an arcade, is Pamplona's best-known square. In the Middle Ages markets, tournaments and popular entertainment took place here. The name comes from the castle that was built here in the 14th century. Then, and until 1843, bullfights were held in the square. It was a fully enclosed square until 1931, when the theatre was knocked down to provide access to the Avenida Carlos III.
The Magdalena Bridge
The Magdalena Bridge is in Pamplona's Magdalena district. It is a part of the Camino de Santiago (St. James' Way) that passes through the city and the main entrance to this city. It is the most important and popular bridge. The bridge has three large slightly pointed arches, triangular cutwaters and semicircular arches. By its side, there is a modern viaduct connecting the urban center and the Chantrea quarter.