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Sanctuary of St. Michael of Aralar

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Churches and chapels

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Sanctuary of St. Michael of Aralar - Altarpiece
Vista Santuario San Miguel, al fondo San Donato
Sanctuary of St. Michael of Aralar
Imagen de San Miguel de Aralar

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Sanctuary of St. Michael of Aralar - Altarpiece
San Miguel en Excelsis (St. Michael in Excelsis), a sanctuary with more than a thousand years of history, stands high up on the Sierra of Aralar, just below the peak of Mount Artxueta, from where you can enjoy a stunning view. Its interior houses a Romanesque altarpiece, a masterpiece of European enamelwork. This spot will speak to you of the legend of the dragon and Teodosio de Goñi, of its Charlemagne-related past, and of the remote times of the dolmens that can today be found scattered amongst the fields and the beautiful beech woods in the surrounding area.

St. Michael in Excelsis is an austere church with three naves, divided into four sections, which stands on the Sierra of Aralar. It is located at a strategic point on the peak of Mount Artxueta which can be accessed by road from Lekunberri and gives a spectacular view that encompasses the Arakil or Barranca corridor, San Donato and the sierras of Urbasa and Andia. There is also a road from Uharte-Arakil, to the south of the sierra.

The present church was built during the first half of the twelfth century as an extension to the Romanesque building dating from the beginning of the eleventh century. It is an austere and sober building with little decoration. The chapel was built between 1170 and 1180, from when some of the ornamental features on the doors and the apse of the Epistle date.

The Sanctuary is known across half the world for the Aralar Altarpiece, a work of art 2 metres long by 1.14 metres high which presides over the presbytery of the church. This masterpiece of Romanesque art is a frontispiece of enamels and rock crystal from the beginning of the twelfth century. The altarpiece was stolen by the famous art thief Eric "The Belgian" in 1979. Between 1981 and 1985, sixteen of the eighteen stolen medallions were recovered, and 191 of the 286 precious stones, and after its restoration is was returned to the Sanctuary in 1991.

Also in the Sanctuary you can see the image of St. Michael, a reliquary from the 18th century in gilded silver which represents the archangel with his wings unfolded and arms held high, holding up the cross over his head, where an old wooden carving is kept; the reliquary which, according to tradition, was left by the angel himself in this spot. The image is carried through dozens of Navarran towns every spring to be greeted by the local residents and authorities.

San Miguel is one of the best-known spiritual centres in Navarre and a place of legends such as that of Teodosio de Goñi. The story goes that Don Teodosio, the Lord of the fiefdom, lived in the Navarrese valley of Goñi in the eighth century. On his return from war with the Arabs, he came across the devil disguised as a hermit on the road, who told him that his wife had deceived him with a servant. On reaching his home, Teodosio stabbed the couple lying in the bed with his sword, not realising that they were his parents. As a penance, the Pope condemned him to walk the mountains carrying a cross and bound with chains until they broke. Wandering across the Sierra of Aralar one day, a dragon appeared before him and Teodosio invoked St. Michael, who killed the beast and freed him from his chains. Right there and then, Teodosio built the sanctuary in which his chains are kept and the reliquary of St. Michael is venerated.

The entire Sierra of Aralar is a paradise for lovers of rambling and hiking: on one side of the sierra is the Plazaola 'Green Route', a walk that will take you to the spring of the river Larraun or a visit to the caves of Astitz, and on the other side is the Barranca, with its dolmen routes and towns such as Uharte Arakil, famous for its sheepdog trials. From there you can also climb a track up to the sanctuary. In winter, if it snows heavily, you can practice cross-country skiing.
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Did you know that...?

Next to the car park is a table explaining the spectacular views from the Sanctuary, the reason why the site has been included as one of the 35 resources selected in the Route of Landscape of Navarre. Water and viewpoints.

Location

Opening hours

Otoño:

  • Horario habitual: de 10:00 a 14:00 y de 16:00 a 19:00.  ** Celebraciones litúrgicas: domingos y festivos, a las 12:30.
  • Puente de El Pilar (del 12 al 15 de octubre): horario sin cambios.
  • Día 1 de noviembre (festivo): horario sin cambios.
  • Puente de diciembre (del 2 al 19 de diciembre): horario sin cambios.

Invierno:

  • Horario habitual: todos los días, de 10:00 a 14:00 y de 16:00 a 18:00. **Misas: domingos y festivos, a las 12:30.
  • Navidad (del 23 de diciembre al 7 de enero): horario sin cambios.

PRICES

Remarks: gratuito.

Guided visit

Description: todos los días directamente en el santuario o concertando cita previamente (948373013; 626030234).

Price of the visit: Grupos 1€

Opening hours, dates and guide prices. We recommend you confirm with the entity in question.

Practical information