Gares in Euskera, is located in the Middle Navarre, to the south of the Sierra del Perdón, in the Valdizarbe Valley and irrigated by the river Arga which here increases its flow with the waters of the river Robo. It seems that Puente la Reina-Gares arises from a primitive Vascon settlement called Gares. Its origin and evolution has been marked by the old bridge over the river Arga. In the 11th century, a nucleus of population developed around the Jacobean route, making it a perfect example of a "village on the Way". Shortly afterwards, in 1221, Alfonso I the Battler granted the Estella charter to the settlers of "Ponte de Arga, which is also called the Queen's Bridge". Its urban structure is an example of a "village-street", a town built on the basis of its main street and not around a protective castle. Its entire history is linked to the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela. Its own name is justified because Queen Doña Mayor, wife of Sancho el Mayor, ordered the bridge to be built in the 12th century precisely to facilitate the passage of pilgrims.
Puente la Reina-Gares had two hospitals, the oldest, which initially belonged to the Templars and later belonged to the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, dating back to the tenth and eleventh centuries. In 1448, under the reign of John II, John of Beaumont, Grand Prior of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem, ordered another hospital to be built on the same site as the previous one built by the Templars. There was also the hospital called the Crucifix, which had great importance during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is also worth mentioning the hospital of the Villa, mentioned since 1556. In the care of the sick there was a hospital woman. In 1857 the hospital was moved to another place and the old building was destined, by Order of the Municipal Beneficence Board, to a hospice for poor passers-by. Later, the Daughters of Saint Anne took charge of it.
Puente la Reina-Gares was spared the destruction of many fortifications and walls after the conquest by the Castilians in 1512. The remains of the old walls can still be seen today in the current Paseo de los Fueros and in the old fence. The 19th century also left its traces in Gares as it was the scene of intense battles during the Carlist Wars.
Puente la Reina-Gares is a clear example of a fortified medieval town, with a rectangular floor plan, straight streets and quality buildings. Its historic centre has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest. The union of the two most travelled Jacobean paths is announced by the monument to the Pilgrim from which, passing under the arch of the church of the Crucifix, late Romanesque in the 12th century, leads us to walk along the main street to the beautiful Romanesque bridge of seven eyes. Between the houses you can see several towers of its walls to the south of the town. Following the route along the main street we will see the parish church of Santiago, from the end of the 12th century, of great proportions and restored in the 16th century. The convent of the Trinitarians from the 13th century, enlarged in the 16th century and reformed in the 18th century, which is opposite the church of Santiago, is now privately owned.
We can contemplate houses with medieval and Renaissance façades and Baroque facades, which make the Calle Mayor an incomparable setting. The Plaza Julián Mena and the House of the Cutlery from the 17th century, the main square, the House of the Link, next to the Romanesque bridge, a true icon of Puente la Reina-Gares, with seven eyes, one of them at the beginning of the bridge, is buried. The church of San Pedro, from the 15th century, is another of the parishes of Gares. We leave the village passing by the convent of the Comendadoras del Sancti Spiritus from the 13th century. This area, which is separated from the village by the river Arga, is known as Zubiurrutia and there was an ancient medieval settlement.
The patron saint fiestas are from 24th to 30th July, on the occasion of the festivity of Santiago. Around the day of San Isidro, the young people with the collaboration of the City Council, organize a weekend festive.
The day of Santiago is traditional the greeting of flags of the locality and of the brotherhoods. Another peculiar tradition is that on the day of the Virgin of the Soterraña, patron saint of the locality, the people of the village congregate in the town hall building to ask the Consistory that in the programme of festivities, there are cows. On the last weekend in September, the traditional fairs are held, today converted into a craft fair. It is a weekend in which the traditional fried food competition is held, the big day is on Sunday, the Calle Mayor is filled with craft stalls. In addition, at around 14:00 hours, there is a World Race of Layas, in which participants try to reach the goal first uploaded on "layas", which is a tool with which long ago the field was worked.
The carnivals of this village were celebrated from Sunday to Tuesday before Lent. On Sunday afternoon the young people and some married people dressed up and had fun improvising jokes. They also played "al higuico". In order to do so, they took in their hands the end of a wand from whose opposite side hung a thread with a fig tied at its end. Striking the wand with a small stick they carried in the other hand, they put the fig in continuous movement, and it was a child who had to catch the fruit with his mouth. The "mascaritas" went out of their homes, trying to leave as inadvertently as possible and the street was filled with these carnival characters.
Legend has it that on the pilgrims' bridge, the one that was ordered to be built by Queen Doña Mayor, in a place of difficult access, there was an image of the Virgin. When something important was being celebrated, for the city itself or for the rest of Navarre, a little bird would arrive to clean the image. It is said that back in 1834, during the first Carlist war, there was the Count of Viamanuel, general of the Elizabethan army, walking through the streets of the town and as he approached the Romanesque bridge he saw some locals who, with great hubbub, looked absorbed in the image of the Virgin of Puy. As he approached he saw that the admiration they showed was because a bird cleaned with the water it collected in its beak, the face of the Virgin and with its wings carefully removed the cobwebs. The count began to mock the bird and the admiration of the people and these offended booed him, then the count, full of anger, thundered their guns simulating an attack by General Zumalacárregui. Two weeks later he was defeated and shot by the traditionalist troops and the bridges agreed that it was a fair punishment from heaven for mocking the beloved "Txori".
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To Puente la Reina-Gares, take the A-12, the Camino dual carriageway between Pamplona/Iruña and Logroño. We can also get there by the NA-601 which connects it with the AP-15 and the N-121 between Pamplona/Iruña and Tafalla, as well as linking it with nearby towns such as Obanos and Mendigorría.
There is a regular bus service covering the Logroño-Pamplona route.
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