Gallipienzo, Spain 2018


Ensconced on a ridge over 600m high stands the old town of Gallipienzo. Located in the Central Zone of Navarre, 20 km from Sangüesa, it was built in the 10th century as a defensive stronghold against attacks from invading Moors and is regarded as one of the most picturesque watch tower villages of Navarre. One of the town's outstanding monuments is the Church of the Saviour (15th c.) declared as an item of cultural importance.

Walking around the cobbled streets there are the ruins of stately houses with stone crests. At the top of the town you find the Mirador de Gallipienzo, with spectacular views over the river Aragon and the Nature Reserve of Kaparreta, where circling vultures and eagles can be seen .

Less than 10% of the original population are left in the town today - the town seemed to have moved wholesale to a new town on the valley floor sometime in the 1960s, leaving the hillside littered with abandoned farms and houses. They got running water, electricity and vehicle access in the new town, luxuries not available in the old town. Very few live permanently in the old town today, but people seem to be slowly restoring houses as holiday homes.

The streets are too narrow, too steep and too stepped to allow any cars to circulate. Everything from furniture to food has to be wheeled by barrow to the houses.

The overall effect is of a spectacularly scenic ghost town

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Heredad Beragu Hotel

The hotel is in a recently restored complex of old houses in the old town of Gallipienzo Gallipienzo itself is about an hour from Pamplona, and is a fortified hilltop town that has been mainly abandoned today - the inhabitants moved to the valley floor around 1960. Gradually people are buying up the ruined houses and restoring them. The town was an interesting place to walk around

This hotel is made from the ruins of 4 of the original houses Given its remote position, you are not going to find anywhere else to eat locally. But providentially the hotel has a wonderful evening meal, and an even better breakfast. Both meals were quality products.

The detail of their restoration is fantastic: apart from well done bedrooms, there is an impressive lounge and a dining room with open views over the River Aragon in the valley far below

The welcome and hospitality of the two owners is at a level that one would like in every hotel, but rarely gets like this. They will give you a list of places to see locally like the Gorge, the Castle of Javier and the Gregorian chants by monks. At the end of the day why not sit on their terrace and enjoy a glass of Navarra wine. I thought that the hotel offered good value for money with both accommodation and with meals. We hope to stay there again.

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A walk before breakfast, below the hotel and through lots of abandoned houses

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Foz de Lumbier

Griffon vultures flying over the cliffs, sheer rock faces where birds nest, a river with clean and fresh water that cuts through the narrow and changeable rocks, the remains of a bridge that (according to legend) was built with the help of the Devil, two tunnels through which the first electric train in Spain (the Irati) used to run. The result is that the foz de Lumbier, a narrow gorge cut by the river Irati, has been declared a Nature Reserve.

Its spectacular rock faces, isolated for centuries, have led to the conservation of singular vegetation covering the steep rock outcrops that are the nesting grounds for large birds of prey. An unequalled spectacle of reddish walls, from whose cracks trees and bushes hang and serve as nests for the birds.

The gorge can be walked for 1300 metes along a path that runs along the river at the foot of the cliffs, and follows the old railway line. This section of track is very short, and the gorge leads effectively from one plain to another.

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Castle of Javier

Built in the 10th century, this castle was the birthplace and childhood home of Saint Francis Xavier, son of the Lords of Xavier, hence his surname. The town of Javier belonged to the Kingdom of Navarre which was always its own kingdom, never belonging to France.

Today the castle has been extensively restored and is fundamentally a place of pilgrimage to St Francis Xavier. If you not into Catholic Saints, then the place does not hold much for ou. Though it is very impressive from the outside.

The castle consists of three buildings with different antiquity. The "Tower of the Kristo Santua" is the main fortified building and chapel, holding an interesting Late Gothic crucifix and a series of murals depicting the dance of the death, unique in Spain. The "Tower of Homage", call also the San Miguel Tower, is the oldest in the castle. It also harbours the museum dedicated to the life of the saint. In its foundations Muslim vestiges have been unveiled, possibly dating from the 10th century. In the 11th century, the first enclosure that sheltered the early surround rooms. In the 13th century, two polygonal bodies and two flanking towers were added in all four cardinal directions.

Francis Xavier, born here in 1506, was a Navarrese Basque Roman Catholic missionary, became a co-founder of the Jesuits. He was a companion of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits who took vows of poverty and chastity at Montmartre, Paris, in 1534. He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time and was influential in evangelisation work, most notably in India. He also was the first Christian missionary to venture into Japan, Borneo, the Maluku Islands, and other areas. In those areas, struggling to learn the local languages and in the face of opposition, he had less success than he had enjoyed in India.

Xavier was about to extend his missionary preaching to China when he died on Shangchuan Island. He was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1619 and canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. He is considered to be one of the greatest missionaries since Saint Paul. He is now co-patron saint of Navarre with San Fermin.

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Monastery of Leyre

We went to the evening service at the Monastery of Leyre to hear their Gregorian chanted mass.. These religious melodies date back as far as the Eighth Century.

The Monastery of San Salvador of Leyre is a religious complex to the south of the Sierra of Leyre, in northern Navarre. It is one of the most important historical monasteries of Spain. The oldest records of the site date from 842, when Íñigo Arista, considered the first king of Pamplona, and Wilesindo, Bishop of Pamplona, made a donation to the monastery. The monastery grew in importance thereafter, acquiring numerous properties and wealth during the first and middle stages of the Kingdom of Navarre, thanks to the privileges and donations made by the Navarrese kings.

The monastery was expanded in the twelfth century. Several kings of Navarre were buried there. Since then it has been in various states of repair, undergoing many expansions and remodeling (the most extensive carried out in the sixteenth century, when almost the entire monastery was rebuilt). Romanesque architecture pieces have survived until the present day (such as the church, with its Porta Speciosa), as well as parts that are even more ancient such as the notable crypt. The monastery is located on one of the various routes of the Way of Saint James coming from the Corridor of Berdún and Jaca.

The name of the monastery has been adopted as a female name under the form Leire, especially popular across the Basque Country. Leyre was founded as a Benedictine monastery, but later came to be owned by Cistercian monks. Currently, the monastery belongs to the Chartered Community of Navarre, which has transferred the monastery to its original inhabitants, the Benedictine order, for care and operation.

The monks file in, there are about 25 of them, and the service takes about 30 minutes. Some years ago we had been to the Gregorian chanted serve by Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos. I thought at that service was better. The singing at Leyre was not in the same class, but interesting nevertheless

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On to St Emilion

Trip to Gaynor and Vic