It is in the city of Nájera, in the middle of the French Jacobean Way, and nestled within the route of the Riojan monasteries. With almost 1000 years of history, the primitive Monastery of Santa María la Real de Nájera, under the Benedictine order, is believed to welcome pilgrims on their way to Santiago.
In the last quarter of the 11th century, the Castilian king Alfonso VI donated the abbey of Nájera to the monastery of San Pedro de Cluny. From the end of the 12th century until almost the end of the 15th century, it went through difficult stages, disputes between bishops and monks, donations and restitutions, until, becoming an independent abbey in the 16th century, it reached great splendour. Napoleon's troops caused serious damage to the abbey and in the 19th century it was abandoned and used for different activities: hospital, prison, school, theatre... and even a bullring.
In the mid-twentieth century, various administrations took part in its restoration and a community of Franciscan monks was established there. The current architectural complex was built on top of the 11th century Romanesque church, which was consecrated to the Virgin of the Cave. Inside the monastery there are two well-defined spaces, the Temple and the Cloister. The church is Gothic in style, in the high altar can be seen, a vase with lilies, a lamp and a bell, all in allusion to the legend and in the center, the image of Santa Maria la Real. In a chapel on the left is the sepulchre of the Dukes of Nájera. The choir has a masonry that some scholars point out with mixtures of Mudejar, plateresque and flowery Gothic.
Under the choir is the Pantheon of the Kings, inside it houses the mortal remains of several monarchs, both Navarrese and Castilian and Leonese. We pass to the Cave, whose guardians are the prayerful images of Don García and Doña Estefanía, the founders of the Monastery, this is where its history began. The Panteón de los Infantes, is located in the last section of the church where before it was the Real Capilla de La Santa Cruz, which was destined to the liturgical acts of the chaplains. The cenobial cloister can be accessed through the Puerta de Los Reyes, which is open at the head of the church. In the cloister, called Cloister of the Knights because it houses numerous burials of nobles, we can see the Chapel of La Vera Cruz, with five sepulchres, dates from the 13th century. We also contemplate the Imperial Door, or Charles I of Spain and V of Germany, the Royal Staircase and in order to contemplate the arcades from the garden, we go out through the Door of the Tree of Good and Evil.
If the Monastery of Yuso is known as El Escorial de La Rioja for its monumentality and linear classicism, Santa María La Real has also been called on numerous occasions for the grandiosity of its Royal Pantheon and the large number of royal burials it contains.
The legend of The Hawk and The Partridge tells. That while the Navarrese king Don García IV was hunting back in 1044, his falcon entered a cave chasing a partridge, tired of waiting for it to come out, he entered to look for it and what he found was marvellous, because a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary appeared before him, a lamp lit, a silent bell, and a vase with flowers, and at the foot of the image with their heads inclined were the falcon and the partridge. This impressed him so much that he decided to found here a monastery and a hostel for pilgrims.
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To get to Nájera by private transport, the main access roads are the A-12, the N-120, which connects Nájera with Logroño and Burgos, and the LR-113, which connects it with nearby towns. The Nájera bus station has an intercity bus service, with daily service from Monday to Saturday, as well as a stop for the regular bus line between Burgos and Logroño.
Next to the bus station we will find a small car park and going up the course of the river from this one. From any of them we have the possibility of crossing the river Najerilla to enter in the historical helmet of Nájera. The monastery is located next to the town hall, in the Plaza de España, we will find the entrance to the enclosure in the Plaza de Santa María, to which we arrived bordering the facade of the monastery by the street Rey Don García.
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