It rises solitary in the middle of a plain and open landscape, in the valley of Valdizarbe almost in the same geographical center of Navarre, in the route that the pilgrims who enter by Somport bring in their walk towards Santiago and shortly before this one converges in Puente la Reina with the one coming from Orreaga - Roncesvalles. The octagonal building dedicated to Saint Mary of Eunate was built during the fruitful reign of Sancho the Wise of Navarre, in the second half of the 12th century, around 1,170, and according to documents the promoter of this singular church was a queen who calls herself Doña Sancha. This fantastic work of Romanesque style although well differentiated by its octagonal plan and the cloister that surrounds it, is related to the order of the Temple by its structural similarity with the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, its many marks of stonemasons found in the stones of the church and its similarity in shape with the Dome of the Rock of Jerusalem, in the ancient temple of Solomon where the Templars had their headquarters.
But the hypothesis is also considered that it could be the work of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John, whose presence, on the Jacobean routes, with buildings to help and house the pilgrim, is more than proven, so it could be that the church of Saint Mary was a temple, possibly funerary, related to one of these hospital complexes. We know of a document from the Priorate of Navarre dated around 1,251, in which a pact is cited between the knights of Saint John of Jerusalem and brotherhoods of Obanos so that they could meet in the hospital that the order had on the Way and could even be buried there. In another document from Pamplona Cathedral of 1520, the numerous graves found here are mentioned. Burials were made around the outer arch and several have been found with the pilgrim's scallop.
Before entering the church, the visitor strolls in admiration through the singular cloister, also octagonal, that surrounds the church, whose arches form with the walls of the temple, a corridor in which, to the right and left, one cannot miss details of its capitals, corbels that represent human figures, arches and openworked and blind windows. Of the cloister only three of its eight sections are from the time of construction of the church, the other five have been restored centuries later, in one of the capitals of the original archery appears a crucified without a cross flanked by fourteen characters. Two doors give access to the interior of the temple in which its silent beauty floods everything.
To place oneself under the grandiose octagonal vault supported by strong nerves and between each one of them a cloth with small octagonal skylights, increase if possible the sensation that something spiritual or telluric surrounds the whole and invites to sit and to recreate in the tenuous light and the tangible silence, all this under the attentive look of a precious image that reproduces the forms of the original Romanesque carving of the Virgin of Eunate with the Child, sadly disappeared.
Sometimes what tradition tells us is oral history itself, which has been alive and maintained for centuries and ends up being corroborated by written documents, this is what seems to have happened with the promoter of this emblematic church. What has been told for years is that a queen who could be called Sancha, inspired by the Holy Spirit ordered the construction of the church of Saint Mary of Eunate, the house or hospital nearby and also founded a brotherhood to counter what then lurked around the place, and is that there used to be settlements of gangs of thieves that caused much concern due to the aggressions and murders that pertrechaban. On her death she was buried in the cloister of the church and for years, according to the ancient ordinances of the Brotherhood of Saint Mary of Onat, a funeral liturgy was held in her tomb.
The name Eunate, with which the church and its surroundings are known today, we could say that it is recent and its meaning would come to be "one hundred doors". But from the beginning of the 13th century until today it has been known as Onat, Onate, which in Basque means "the good door". Curiously enough, in Latin "eunato" means "well-born".
One of the legends or traditions relates the Templars to Saint Mary of Eunate. Its typical Templar construction with an octagonal plan, with which this order marked all its encomiendas trying to reflect on them the Dome of the Rock of Jerusalem of the ancient Temple of Solomon, Templar headquarters, together with the marks that the stonemasons left on the stones of the temple, have given rise to it. One of the legends that is said to say that King Solomon himself, upon the death of the Queen of Sheba, entrusted the Templars with the remains of the latter so that they could bury them on the Way of St. James and to keep the burial place hidden he also gave them a secret code and that it is the portico of Saint Mary of Eunate together with her twin, that of Saint Michael the Archangel of Olcoz, that hides it.
The Camino A-12 dual carriageway that links Logroño with Pamplona/Iruña serves as an access road to the towns of Obanos and Muruzábal, and from there following the NA-601 to Saint Mary of Eunate. Also by this same road, but in the opposite direction, we can reach it from the N-121 and the AP-15 between Pamplona/Iruña and Tafalla. Muruzábal has a bus service that connects it with Pamplona/Iruña and nearby towns. In addition, in Obanos there is a bus stop that covers the Logroño-Pamplona line.
Both from Muruzábal and from Obanos we will reach Saint Mary of Eunate following the NA-601 towards Enériz, until we find ourselves on the right hand side as we go in this direction with the detour that takes us to the doors of the church where we will find a large car park to leave our vehicle and from there walk the short distance that separates it from the location of the church.
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