It is perfectly adapted to the profile drawn by the hill on which it sits, forming an indisputable part of the medieval town of Artajona. Located in the central part of the Foral Community of Navarra, in what is called the Middle Zone, in the merindad of Olite, in the region of Tafalla. In the place that today occupies The Cerco de Artajona have been found traces of settlements dating from the Iron Age as well as the Roman era is known of the existence of a small defensive nucleus back between the first centuries BC and II after Christ. But it was not until the 11th century that the monks of Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, with the authorisation of King Sancho Ramírez and the donations of churches and rents to foreign monasteries to encourage the repopulation of the area, began the construction of the primitive Romanesque church and walled the population surrounding the temple.
The present form of the Cerco and the present Gothic church, is due to constructions of the XIII century. It is known that at that time the Cerco was divided into two zones, one being the military zone to the right of the line formed by the gates of San Miguel and Remagua, with the Castle and its Donjón or Torre del Homenaje, and to the left would remain the civil and religious zone with the sanctuary. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries imprint the defensive character of the Cerco de Artajona, as there were continuous wars between the Kingdom of Navarre and Castilian for the latter's desire to annex the old kingdom of the Pyrenees. When Navarre finally passed into the hands of the Castilian crown, the Cerco de Artajona lost its defensive role and began to deteriorate until in 1568 the decision was taken to rent the towers as dwellings for families in order to take over their maintenance. Then the Donjón, in a circular shape, was given a new use, the walls were revoked and it was transformed into a storehouse for the ice and snow that the winter provided, that is to say, a fridge. In the nineteenth century, with the Carlist War, this construction regained its military character and at the end of it in the year 1918 was occupied as a dwelling until the water brought from the Arga to the town caused its demolition.
The silhouette of the Cerco de Artajona majestically dominates the landscape showing nine of the fourteen towers that formed part of the wall, the current one is from the 14th century. Of the three gates to the walled enclosure, south, north and east, that of San Miguel to the north seems to be named after the existence of a hermitage in the vicinity dedicated to the saint. The other portal that has been conserved is that of Remahua, to the south, this one connected intramuros with the rabal and did not allow the passage of carriages. Once inside the citadel, in the square is the fortress church of San Saturnino, declared a Historic-Artistic Monument, a temple that was built in the 13th century over the ruins of a previous Romanesque. The tower of the church, in addition to being a bell tower, was also a watchtower and was even a prison and in order to reach the highest point a drawbridge had to be crossed. On the square façade of the church, its large archivolt façade, with San Saturnino and its inseparable bull, the gallery of blind arches on both sides, it is believed that at the beginning they could contain the images of the apostles, and a large Gothic rosette.
From the promenade that surrounds the temple, apart from enjoying spectacular views that are lost in the distance, you can see the curious cover of sinuous shapes that has the church where the tiles have given way to some stone slabs to collect rainwater and channel it to the cistern that is under the church, throughout the Cerco there are several cisterns but the most important is this temple, can store up to 83000 liters of precious liquid. Walking along the Cerco de Artajona where today a few privileged neighbours live in the houses attached to the walls and towers forming a perfect and inseparable whole, one arrives at the homage tower, the residence of the king, known as Donjón, whose circular floor plan has been preserved and it is known that it could be up to 20 metres high. In this impressive setting it is easy for the visitor to feel like the protagonist of a bygone era, who knows perhaps a noble knight, a peasant, if you have a poet's soul can be a minstrel, or why not the king.
The now traditional medieval festival of Artajona "Encounter with history", declared a Festival of Tourist Interest of Navarre, is a nice way of discovering the ups and downs to which the town was once subjected. In August Artajona and the Artajoneses dress in medieval costumes and stage medieval tournaments, knights' parades, falconry exhibitions and typical markets. This is a great open-air play that delights locals and visitors alike.
The towers of the Cerco de Artajona are called "bestorre" because they are hollow and open on the inside of the wall, having the double effect of protection both inside and outside the wall. They were joined together by wooden steps and consisted of several floors, the ground floor was storage, the central were for the guard corps and the upper for surveillance. With this scenario it is not surprising that the place was chosen to shoot the film Robin and Marian.
In an environment of continuous defenses and battles for the territory between the towers there was a code to be able to communicate and to warn each other of possible dangers and attacks, this was achieved by means of mirrors and their reach was even of several kilometers. And the legend goes that from the Cerco there was a tunnel that crossed the whole village to escape the sieges, the cave of Santa Catalina.
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Artajona can be reached from Tafalla by following the NA-6030, this same road in turn connects Artajona with Mendigorría and from there through the NA-601 with Puente la Reina and with the Camino dual carriageway between Pamplona and Logroño. You can also get to the town by following the NA-6020 that goes to Artajona from one side of the road between Tafalla and Estella, and on the other from the N-121 in the vicinity of Pamplona.
Once in Artajona we can park our vehicle and go up through the streets of the locality until the Cerco or we can follow the NA-6020 road towards Pamplona in search of the asphalted track that goes up to The Cerco de Artajona. This track is found after leaving Artajona, just after passing by the hermitage of Our Lady of Jerusalem, or just before reaching it if we come from Pamplona. There we will take the detour that will take us to the ample parking available at the entrance of the fortification, where we will be able to park our vehicle and to accede to her.
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