It is situated at the top of the mountain of the same name, watchful and protective over the town of Ochagavía to the north of the valley of Salazar. The Romanesque temple of the Virgin of Muskilda dates from the 12th century and it is believed that it was built during the reign of Sancho el Fuerte. It was restored in the mid-17th century. The owner of both the land and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Muskilda is the town of Ochagavía. The sanctuary has been governed from time immemorial by a lay patronage that already in the 17th century had several lawsuits with the ecclesiastical hierarchy over its dominion because, faced with the economic prosperity of the place, the bishop wanted to supervise the accounts to which the patronage opposed being excommunicated, the residents of Ochagavía themselves were frightened under the threat of excommunication. Today it is the Patronato Mere lego that maintains and administers the assets of the sanctuary and is formed by the town council, the secretary and the priest and is presided over by a butler who is elected annually from among the people of the village being a woman, the Xerora, responsible for caring for the chapel.
Going up towards the sanctuary you can see the ruins of the hermitage of Santa Cruz, in an esplanade the Gothic cross of Arritxuria, a humilladero and a stone prismatic called "El Pilar" precede a closed enclosure by a stone wall that keeps the buildings of the hospedería, the house of the hermit and the Romanesque hermitage. The temple has two access doors of which the main one is of a marked Romanesque style. The tower is quadrangular with a cone-shaped roof made of wooden slats in the purest ancestral style of the region. A wrought iron grille from the 15th century separates the nave from the presbytery in which a baroque altarpiece of 1,672 houses the niche of the Virgin. The temple is adorned with mural paintings, paintings and pictorial coverings of great beauty. The sedative carving of the Virgin is Gothic in style, from the 14th century, and she holds a flower in her right hand while the left hand rests on the Child seated on her knees. To the beauty of the whole enclosure must be added the beautiful panoramic views that presides, dominating a spectacular landscape.
Traditional pilgrimages are made on different dates to the hermitage of Our Lady of Muskilda. By Saint George, on 23rd April, by the Holy Cross on 3rd May, by Saint Anne on 26th July in which, in addition to distributing bread and wine among the pilgrims, the fifths of 80 years celebrate their feast. In the pilgrimage on 15th August it is presented to the next Mayordomo and on 8th September it coincides with the patron saint fiestas of Ochagavía, the procession around the hermitage accompanied by the famous Dancers of Ochagavía led by the Bobo, masked bifronte character, a character that resembles the god Janus able to observe at the same time, with its two faces, the past and the future.
In other Navarrese valleys there are also places with the name of Muskilda. This name derives from the Basque word muskil, a word related to piles of stone with religious traditions such as dolmen tumuli. In Ochagavía the Muskilda is a sacred mountain that dresses of beeches, and the crestero way approaches to the fields of pastures of Arpea and Abodi besides to the Forest of Irati. From its top there is a beautiful panorama overlooking the Orhi, the first peak of the Pyrenees that surpasses two thousand meters in altitude.
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Near the hermitage there is a stone pillar four meters high, with a niche that keeps a small image of the Virgin, in the pillar there is an inscription that says that the town of Ochagavía raised it in the year 1.654. And legend has it that inside the pillar is the oak in which a shepherd found the image of the Virgin.
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We arrive at Ochagavía following the NA-140 that reaches the locality from the N-135 that joins Pamplona with Roncesvalles, finding the detour shortly before arriving at Roncesvalles, just in the section that goes from Espinal to Burguete. This same road NA-140 but on the other side connects Ochagavía with Isaba and France. You can also get there via the NA-178 which, at Lumbier, links the A-21 motorway between Pamplona and Jaca with the NA-140 in Ezcároz, a neighbouring town of Ochagavía. The town also has a bus service that connects it with Pamplona from Monday to Saturday, both inclusive.
To get to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Muskilda we have two options, to ascend on foot following the path of about 3 km that starts from the highest area of Ochagavía or the path of the Pilgrimages, somewhat shorter but steeper. The next option is to reach the sanctuary by car, for this we must leave Ochagavía following the NA-140 direction Isaba for a few kilometers take the detour that ascends to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Muskilda, at whose doors we find a small parking area next to the picnic areas.
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8:05 h.24.8 km.
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