It is a town located in the central part of the Foral Community of Navarra, in what is called the Middle Zone, in the merindad of Olite, region of Tafalla. The presence of man in Artajona dates back to the third millennium BC, as can be seen in the dolmens of "Portillo de Enériz" and "La Mina". The Romans also settled in the place that today occupies the town and surroundings, of which remains as a legacy a thousandaire of the third century and with it the first writing found in the history of Artajona. During the High Middle Ages the area was depopulated and those who remained were grouped next to the Cerco, but it did not take long, at the end of the eleventh century, the canon Hugo de Conqués, promoted the repopulation and with it the economic growth of Artajona.
The 12th and 13th centuries saw the rise of the town, which became the richest priory of the archpriesthoods of La Ribera and Valdizarbe. The plagues of the 14th century considerably reduced the population and in order to avoid abandonment and as a reward for the aid given to the crown, the King of Navarre Charles III the Noble granted it the title of very noble, illustrious and loyal town of Artajona, granted it privileges and declared its inhabitants free men and infanzones, from that moment it became a royal town. At the end of the Middle Ages, Navarre became part of the Spain of the Catholic Monarchs; in the Navarrese civil war, in the 15th and 16th centuries, between the Agramonteses and Beaumonteses, being Artajona agramontesa, it fell under the dominion of the Beaumont lineage. The Royal Council of the Kingdom, after more than a century of litigation, gave Artajona the rank of Good Town and incorporated it into the Crown and Royal Heritage.
In Artajona the past, the present and why not the future, are intermingled and give visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in past history with so much presence of the place. In this small town, which was even a wedding present from King García Ramírez to his wife Doña Urraca, the Middle Ages are present in its cobbled streets and alleys, in its 18th century passageways or in its monumental houses and palaces adorned with coats of arms from the Calle Mayor; in the Cerco, a 12th century walled enclosure; in the 13th century fortress church of San Saturnino. In the Rabal or lower part of the town, outside the walls, is the parish church of San Pedro, a thirteenth-century Gothic church with a slender medieval tower and a beautiful façade. On the outskirts of Artajona, the 18th century basilica of Our Lady of Jerusalem houses a famous Romanesque carving of the Virgin of Jerusalem, patron saint of the town, and also on the outskirts but in the opposite direction, the hermitage of San Bartolomé keeps a large carving of the saint. Artajona also preserves an impressive Gothic reliquary of the Vera Cruz, making it an essential passage for pilgrims who, following the itinerary of the Templar route of El Camino de la Vera Cruz, from Roncesvalles and sharing the French Way of Saint James, arrive at Puente la Reina and from there continue their pilgrimage to Caravaca de la Cruz, one of the five holy cities of the world, Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela, Santo Toribio de Liébana and Caravaca de la Cruz, where a Lignum Crucis is kept and venerated.
If you have the good fortune to visit Artajona on a special holiday you can enjoy the concert of bells that, ringing asynchronously, are banded by a group of neighbors prepared for it, "the bandeadores", filling the air with very special chords. The bells of Artajona are part of its heritage, and the town can proudly say that it is the only place in the world where the bells are placed upside down. The visitor, eager for experiences, and to complete such an intense journey through the life and history of the village, can approach one of the most important examples of megalithic culture in Navarre, the dolmens found a few kilometres from the town centre, that of Portillo de Enériz, in which the funeral chamber and a corridor are clearly differentiated, and that of the Farangortea Mine.
Artajona celebrates its patron saint fiestas in honour of the Virgin of Jerusalem on 8 September. San Saturnino, patron saint of Artajona, is honoured on 29 November. In March, on the weekend coinciding with Saint Joseph's Day, the small festivities are celebrated. In Artajona several pilgrimages are also celebrated, such as that of San Bartolomé on 24 August or the pilgrimage of the Virgin in May.
Among the events held in Artajona to celebrate its patron saint San Saturnino, popular chestnut, aizkolaris and harrijasotzailes, "log cutters and stone lifters", is the unique and traditional race of Layas. Young people from the village, dressed for the occasion and climbed on layas, old farm implements, compete to be the first to arrive, ascending a cobbled slope to the Medieval Fence.
The Romanesque carving of the Virgin of Jerusalem attracts attention for its small size, only 31 cm high, is bronze and has enameled ornaments, is a reliquary image of the thirteenth century, was a small Virgin of battle, which was carried on the arzón of the horse for protection in battles or dangerous trips to Jerusalem. The image keeps as relic earth of the Holy Places. In order to admire the patron saint of Artajona, the friars who live in a building adjacent to the sanctuary leave the key if it is closed.
Legend has it that Godfrey of Bouillon, protector of the Holy Sepulchre and leader of the first Crusade, being in the Holy Land in the year 1.099, wanted to reward the courage and help given by Captain Artajones Saturnino Lasterra, offering him what he wanted but he, despising wealth and possessions, asked Godfrey for the image that Godfrey carried on the arzón of his horse. The king after thinking about it, because for him that image of the Virgin was an amulet and a real treasure, as it seems to have been made by Nicomedes and painted by St. Luke, very saddened he agreed to it and Saturnino returned to his land carrying next to the carving of the Virgin, land of the Holy Sepulchre and a Lignum Crucis that today is venerated in the parish of the village. On the journey back to Lasterra he began to lack the money to pay for an inn and as a garment he left the image of the Virgin, but what would not be his surprise when he found his precious image in his saddlebags again on the road. His arrival in Artajona was cheered and filled with honours and he deposited the precious treasure he had brought in the parish church of San Saturnino. Some time later a church was erected, in a different location from today's, to house the Virgin of Jerusalem.
Artajona can be reached from Tafalla 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 the motorway of Camino between Pamplona and Logroño. You can also get to the town by following the NA-6020 which goes to Artajona from one side of the road between Tafalla and Estella and the other from the N-121 near Pamplona.
Artajona has bus services that cover different routes and that daily connect it with Tafalla, Pamplona, Obanos, Puente la Reina or Logroño and the other nearby towns and on the routes. The bus stop is located at Calle Hospital, 20-24.
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Atravesada por el Camino de la Vera Cruz, en una vía secundaria a 31 kilómetros de Pamplona, se encuentra Artajona, un pequeño pueblo-castillo de agitada historia medieval protagonizada por nobles, reyes, papas y obispos en el que el visitante se convierte en uno de sus personajes principales..