It stands in the upper part of the medieval village of Ujué, in the eastern part of Navarra, in the Ujué mountain range. Its origin dates back to the 9th century when Iñigo Arista ordered a temple to be built next to the fortress that this king ordered to be built. This first pre-Romanesque church was demolished to erect a new Romanesque building in the 11th century under the auspices of King Sancho Ramírez. In the 14th century, Charles II the Bad ordered part of the Romanesque naves to be demolished in order to build a single Gothic building. The choir, the undertowers, the crenellated towers and the façades were also built, as well as the church was surrounded by promenades and walls. All of this gave the complex the appearance of a fortress that it still has today. Throughout the Middle Ages, the fortress church of Santa María de Ujué was one of the main centres in Navarre for the worship of the Virgin.
From the Romanesque period, the church of Santa María de Ujué conserves the three semi-drum apses, the first body of the large tower, the openings of the large bells with their columns and a precious carving of the Virgin, dating from the end of the 12th century, plated in silver during the time of Charles II, which presides over the central apse of the sanctuary. At the foot of the temple, the choir, the masonry and the lectern recall when numerous clergymen gathered here for their songs, as Uxue was a priory of great importance from the 11th to the 19th century. Surrounding the church, the covered promenade lets you see the beauty that jealously guards. Under the small tower a window lets you see the city of Olite perfectly framed, do not forget that in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries both localities maintained a close relationship. Immediately you reach the viewpoint with Gothic balcony and wooden ceiling that has been preserved since the fourteenth century. Continuing there is a large Gothic portico, also covered, which houses the north facade of the church which is somewhat simpler than the south, the main, Gothic masterpiece. In front of the north doorway, through arches, you can access the esplanade called El Castillazo, which is the place where Iñigo Arista ordered a defensive fortress to be built in the 9th century. In the southern area, the promenade is transformed into an open gallery from where you can enjoy a beautiful and wide panoramic view of the banks of Navarra.
Continuing along the Paseo de Ronda, on a wall, you see a Calvary from the year 1616 and at its feet under the ground there is an ossuary crypt which is accessed by lifting a slab from the ground, and finally you reach the area where one wall protects a real jewel, the exterior of the three Romanesque apses. Between the wall and the façade of the apses there were different buildings, pilgrims' hospital, house of the vicar... of which four geminated windows can be seen on the wall. The temple has two towers, a higher one that holds the remains of the Romanesque and houses the large bells and a lower and robust one that was built with the Gothic extension of the fourteenth century. From the high areas, which can also be visited, you can see the vaults of the temple from above, as well as from a terrace on the roof you can see the beautiful Romanesque door that was placed in the fourteenth century as a window in the main tower and from the same place also the capitals and Romanesque archivolts outside the bell tower. Opposite the south portal of the sanctuary stands the abbey house or palace of Charles II, with an impressive façade and a set of stone corbels that hold two large balconies. The fortress church of Santa María de Ujué was declared a National Monument in 1936.
In the central apse of the church, near the image of the Virgin, in a niche behind a grille, there is a glass vessel located above a polychrome wooden box, this vessel contains the heart of Charles II the Malo who died in 1.386 and wanted the body buried in the cathedral of Pamplona, the viscera in Roncesvalles and that his heart would take him to rest near his beloved Virgin in Ujué.
When the crown of Castile conquered Navarre, Cardinal Cisneros ordered the demolition of the fortress of Ujué; the church of Santa María with its two crenellated towers and the parish house or palace of Carlos II were saved from demolition, being the only thing preserved today as they were before the conquest. The rest of the buildings were left unkempt..
In the right wall of the choir have been recovered some mural paintings of the fourteenth century with a curious symbolism. In one of these paintings you can appreciate a theme known as the encounter of "the three livings with the three dead", a scene widespread in Europe that makes reference to the Black Death and death and whose 13th century story tells that one day three knights went out hunting and meet on their way with three corpses that approach them and with voice from beyond the grave predict: We were as you are, you will be as we are"
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Access to Ujué can be found on the NA-5311 road that links San Martín de Unx with Murillo del Fruto, a town near Carcastillo and Santacara in the south of Navarre. There is also a daily bus service to Pamplona, Olite, Tafalla and a different towns along the route. The closest train stations to Ujué are those of Tafalla and Olite..
In the same locality of Ujué we will have several areas fitted out as car parks, from which we will go to the highest part of the locality where the Church fortress of Santa María de Ujué awaits us.
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