It is located in the Yerri valley, to the north of Estella, surrounded by mountains and natural environments of great beauty. At the beginning of the 11th century, according to documents, there was a small community of Benedictine monks in the Irantzu valley whose monastery was built around the church that was dedicated to Saint Adrian and which was donated to them for this purpose by the bishopric of Pamplona to whom the church belonged. But it was the Cistercians who took charge of the abbey in 1.176. The Monastery of Santa María la Real in Iranzu knew then a long period of splendour that lasted until well into the fourteenth century. In the 13th century, the newly founded Cistercian women's monastery of Santa María de Herce in La Rioja was even under his direction.
The epidemic of black plague, together with the wars that the 15th century witnessed, led the monastery to lose part of its heritage and a slow decline began, which was halted in part when the Cistercian congregation of Navarra and Aragon joined together. At this time their abbots were appointed by royal designation. With the disentailments came for the monastery the exclaustration and the plundering, consequently the abandonment. In 1942 it was rebuilt under the auspices of the Institución Príncipe de Viana and in 1945 its current inhabitants, the Theatine Fathers, were established in the monastery.
Of the medieval structure of the Monastery of Santa María la Real de Iranzu, in very good state of conservation, several dependencies remain to which the majority of them is acceded from the cloister that constructed between centuries XII and XIV exhibits its variety of styles. Attached to the cloister is the Gothic lavatory with an original hexagonal fountain, where the monks used to go to wash themselves, always and according to the rule of their Order, which forbade them to bathe their whole body, but they were obliged to wash their feet every day between Easter Sunday and the September Cross. In front of it is the refectory, a room of medieval origin but profoundly reformed in the seventeenth century and entered by a Gothic doorway. The kitchen, whose monumental chimney faces the outside, was built in the 13th century. The chapter house, which was built at the same time as the church in the 12th century, was where the monks met the abbot every morning to review the rules of the Order and organise the day-to-day running of the monastery. The cillerería that was the warehouse. The abbey house that although it conserves a central cloth with a great arch of century XII, was restored in the baroque. The punishment cells, where the monks suffered their penance with bread and water.
The church of Santa Maria, built in the late twelfth century and according to the rules of St. Bernard, the sobriety of its walls calls for calm and its natural lighting given by a central rose window and the strategic location of the windows floods the room. Outside, next to the ruins of what was the infirmary is the chapel of St. Adrian, which was the first oratory of the monks while building the monastery. Next to the monastery begins a quiet walk along the Irantzu River canyon, which partly coincides with the legendary path that leads to the Dulanz, on top of the Urbasa mountain range. The Monastery of Santa María la Real de Iranzu and the surroundings where it is located form a beautiful postcard that invites you to enter it and dive into the time and history of the place and the people who inhabited it.
It is traditional that on the Day of the Abbey, which is the culmination day of the patron saint fiestas of Abárzuza, a popular meal is held in the Monastery of Irantzu.
Within the rules of the order of the Cistercian monks are the silence and the prohibition to eat meat, so they created fish farms, rehearsed and devised new ways of channeling water for crops, and it is said that the language of gestures they used to communicate led to the current one for deaf-mutes.
Legend has it that back in the 14th century a hermit monk named Dulanz lived in the monastery. From time to time, this monk would disappear for long periods of time, because according to him, he had a mission to fulfill. One of those disappearances took place a cold winter, as always the hermit took the Roman road that through the ravine of Irantzu joined Navarre with France passing through the highest point of the Sierra de Urbasa and defying the storm walked and walked and as he climbed the mountain the cold was taking over his body, but he continued with the sole desire to fulfill his secret mission. The winter passed and the warm spring came sweetly awakening to a fruitful spring, but the monk had not yet returned to the monastery. One day, when a muleteer and his mules reached the highest peak of Urbasa, the frozen body of the reckless hermit was found next to a hermitage there, but on his face a great peace was drawn. And is that the monk Dulanz retired to this place to pray in seclusion and solitude, feeding on berries and drinking rainwater perhaps this was his secret and important mission? Since then this place has been known as Dulanz.
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Abárzuza can be reached by following the NA-120 road that links Estella with Etxarri-Aranatz and Beasain, or also from nearby Arizala in the middle of the NA-700 between Estella and Pamplona, where the NA-7320 also comes to a stop, which reaches this locality from the Camino dual carriageway around Lorca. Abárzuza has a regional bus service that connects it every day of the week with the other towns in the region and with Estella. The service is called Bus Tierra Estella and is carried out by La Estellesa. More information on telephone numbers 948 550 127.
At the entrance to Abárzuza as we arrive from Etxarri-Aranatz we will find the crossroads with the road that after four kilometres will take us directly to the Monastery of Santa María la Real de Irantzu, where we will have a wide car park where we can leave our vehicle.
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