It is a village nestled at the bottom of the valley that gives it its name, the easternmost in the Navarrese Pyrenees, set on a hillside on both sides of the river Esca. It is the capital of the Mancomunidad del Valle and is made up of the neighbourhoods of Arana, Iriartea and Iriondoa, which on the left, ascending towards the summit of Santa Bárbara, are the nucleus of the largest population, and on the right, at the foot of the chapel dedicated to the patron saint of the town is the neighbourhood of El Castillo and San Juan. The first archaeological remains show that there were settlements in the valley in the Neolithic period and, as is to be expected, the events that mark the history of the municipality are similar to those of the other villages that make up the Roncal Valley.
The name Raonkali already appears in documents from the 9th and 11th centuries. From the 10th century onwards, its political, administrative and judicial structure developed in unison with the kingdom of Navarre. In the 14th century it was established as the Community of the Roncal Valley and its General Assembly strengthened this district. The fifteenth century brings for the inhabitants of the place the confirmation of their privileges of nobility by King Charles II and years later by Ferdinand the Catholic. The wood exploitation of the XVIII century gives a notable economic impulse to the area. The War of the Convention, and later the Carlist Wars, also take as a scenario the Valley that it sees, in the year 1.846, as the seven municipalities that compose it arise, that until then had shared administrative and jurisdictional circumscription, Uztárroz, Isaba, Urzainqui, Roncal, Garde, Vidángoz and Burgui. Although the General Assembly survives to administer the common natural goods, pastures, trees...
Roncal, inserted in a wonderful landscape of pine and beech forests, is a beautiful village of cobbled streets in which large stately homes coexist with buildings of popular and traditional character. In the Castle district is the hermitage of Nuestra Señora del Castillo, from which you can see a beautiful panoramic view of the town in which stands the church of San Esteban built in the sixteenth century in a Gothic-Renaissance transition style. Strolling through its streets, mansions such as the Casa Gambra, in the district of Iriartea, is a building from the 18th century. The palace of Sanz Orrio, from the second half of the 18th century, has a lantern on its roof covered by a roof that once housed a bell that was used to warn the meetings of the Board held here.
The Casa López is located in the Arana neighbourhood, also dating from the 18th century. The town hall with its arcades, the Julián Gayarrede house-museum, which was the birthplace of the famous tenor turned into a museum where objects and documents of the artist can be exhibited, whose monument-mausoleum, a work of the highest artistic value made in bronze by Mariano Benlliure, which was exhibited in the Paris Exhibition of 1900, can be admired in the cemetery. Before leaving the village to enjoy the environment that surrounds him what better than to visit the Nature Interpretation Centre, which will show us the flora and fauna of the place through panels and audiovisuals helping us to discover them later in their habitat.
Roncal celebrates its patron saint fiestas in honour of the Virgen del Castillo on 15 August. On 20 January and 1 May San Sebastián is celebrated, with a pilgrimage to its hermitage located in the uninhabited area of Navarzato.
To this day, there is still an ancient tradition, that of transhumance. At the end of September, there in San Miguel, the congozantes, who have the right to use and enjoy these pastures, set out with their sheep from the Roncal Valley.
When Angelo Roncali, who was later Pope John XXIII, made a pilgrimage to Santiago in 1908, he visited the Roncal Valley looking for the possible origin of his surname.
Legend has it that in the palace of Sanz Orrio lived Juana Sanz, a woman who also sang, as Julián Gayarre and that like him, in the nights of full moon it is heard singing.
Roncal is located on the NA-137 road that crosses the entire valley from Sigües, near the A-21 that joins Jaca with Pamplona, to its highest point on the border with France, connecting Roncal with towns such as Burgui, Urzainqui or Isaba.
Roncal has a bus service that runs from Monday to Saturday from Pamplona-Uztárroz-Pamplona.
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