Jewel of Romanesque architecture, centre of spirituality
It is nestled between the peaks of the Sierra de Aralar, next to the top of Mount Artxueta, in the municipality of Uharte Arakil. The Sanctuary of San Miguel de Aralar has more than a thousand years of history, because according to excavations carried out it seems that the current temple is located on the site of an earlier one from the Carolingian period of the 9th century, although few remains have been preserved from that period, some horseshoe-shaped windows and ashlars from the outside of the central apse may be reminiscent of it.
We do not know for sure what could have destroyed this primitive pre-Romanesque temple, perhaps the Muslim hordes when they entered the realm of Pamplona, but according to documents, it was rebuilt in 1032 and consecrated in 1074, during the reign of Sancho Garcés IV. This new Romanesque church was built in two phases, the first comprising the area of the apses and in the second, twelfth century, was expanded with the construction of the three naves and the narthex or interior portico, being again consecrated in the year 1141. In the time of Sancho the Wise, between 1170 and 1180, would rise in the third section of the central nave, the chapel of San Miguel. It is said that it was built in the place where the archangel appeared. The Romanesque complex of the current sanctuary may well be the same as it was in the 12th century.
The closed portico of San Miguel in Excelsis is located at the foot of the church, is like a vaulted nave in which are the three covers of direct access to each of the naves of the temple, being that of the central nave the most monumental, but if something is known to the sanctuary is by the altarpiece of Aralar, beautiful front of enamels and rock crystal, masterpiece of European goldsmithing of the twelfth century, which presides over the presbytery. The sanctuary also keeps the image of San Miguel, which is in itself an 18th century reliquary where a very old wooden carving is kept which, according to tradition, was left by the angel himself in this place.
The image of San Miguel de Aralar, following a deep-rooted custom, goes through hundreds of villages, parishes, schools and entities every year in different outings. It is believed that this tradition arose a long time ago with the aim of bringing the confreres, who because they were sick could not go up to the sanctuary, to their adored, venerated and sacred effigy of the Archangel.
From the Sanctuary of San Miguel de Aralar, surrounded by wide meadows, you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view that includes the corridor of Arakil or Barranca, San Donato and the mountain ranges of Urbasa and Andía. Next to the car park is a table explaining the spectacular views from the Sanctuary. The whole Aralar mountain range is a paradise for lovers of walking and hiking, on one side of the mountain range are the Plazaola greenway, the walk that leads to the source of the Larraun or the visit to the caves of Astitz, and the other, the Barranca, with the routes of the dolmens.
Legend has it that Theodosius, a Navarrese knight, left for the war, leaving his young wife Constanza at home. After a long period of absence, on the way home he met the demon disguised as a pilgrim who told him that his wife Constanza had a more intimate relationship with the servant than usual and even shared with him to bed. Theodosius then arrived at his house and when he glimpsed what looked like two bodies in his conjugal bed, blinded by what this affront supposed, he drew his sword and killed them. Crazy with pain went out to the street and what was not his stupor when he saw Constanza returning from the religious services and that with great joy ran towards him telling him that he also had a pleasant surprise because in his absence he had invited Theodosius' parents to live with her. Theodosius changed his anger at the pain when he saw that he had murdered his own parents and to redeem himself he put on a thick chain that united his waist and neck and lazy in the fields far from the villages. One day when the unfortunate penitent was in the Sierra de Aralar, close to a deep abyss, a dragon, who lived here, prepared to attack him and then Theodosius entrusted himself to Saint Michael who appeared surrounded by a great radiance carrying on his head a cross, killed the dragon and broke the chains that imprisoned the man and the legend goes on saying that Theodosius then built a temple where the apparition had taken place and dedicated the rest of his life to the cult of the Archangel; that the wooden effigy, covered with silver today is venerated, was left by the saint himself; that the chains worn by Theodosius are those hanging on the outside of the chapel and that the hole to the right of the altar is the one that communicates with the legendary abyss.
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To access the sanctuary we can do so from the town of Huarte-Araquil, in the middle of the A-10 motorway that links Pamplona-Iruña and Vitoria-Gasteiz. It is on the old NA-2410 road that borders this town and links it to nearby towns, where we find the beginning of the narrow asphalted track that climbs up to the sanctuary. Another option is to do so from Lekunberri, on the A-15 motorway between Pamplona-Iruña and San Sebastián-Donostia, from there the NA-7510 road starts, which takes us through the beautiful spots of the Sierra de Aralar to the sanctuary without loss.
In the vicinity of the San Miguel de Aralar sanctuary we will have several parking areas where we can park our vehicle and get close to the site to make the visit.
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