Halfway between Olite
, and standing at the highest point of the village of San Martín de Unx
, stands one of the most delightful rural Romanesque churches in Navarre; it is also an excellent viewpoint to gaze out over the landscape from its modern porch. Simplicity is one of the great virtues of this mediaeval church, essentially Romanesque but with Proto-Gothic elements such as vaults and pointed arches. Among the treasures of this monumental site, the features that really draw one's attention are the baptismal font, the decoration of the capitals and the Romanesque crypt
, the scene of weddings and christenings.
The first thing that surprises the visitor in this 12th-century church is the height of its east end. It is perceived as such because the apse stands over the crypt to offset a difference in height. The original structure of the Romanesque building is conserved: a single nave with four sections, a barrel vault and a semicircular apse on the inside but polygon-shaped on the outside, supported by prominent and strong buttresses. The current appearance of the church, however, is the result of additions and reforms that have taken place over the years. For example, the modern porch that replaced the old mediaeval tower that is now an excellent viewpoint over the nearby farmhouse and the landscape.
After a general look, it is time to look for some small details that should not be missed. We can start with the great variety of decorations on the corbels of the cornice: monsters, men, animals or musicians looking down from a height.
We continue with the two façades of the church. The southern front -Romanesque and very simple- is the original gate to the now deserted settlement of Sengoriz, and the western (also Romanesque) is well-proportioned and very well worked. Under an eave containing a contortionist and a musician we find two original corbels, capitals that relate history such as one where San Martín de Tours shares his cape with a badly-dressed beggar, or Samson fighting with a crouching lion. The characters have large heads and hands, hair with split strands and clothing with pleats and parallel incisions. These are characteristic of the work of the maestro of Uncastillo, one of the most renowned sculptors in the 12th century.
Once inside, the visitor will be surprised by the baptismal font decorated with a number of characters between arches and columns, an exceptional piece in Navarre; a 19th-century carving of the Virgin Mary; a Renaissance altar piece with the bishop San Martín in a central niche; or the three-windowed altar, one of them blind and another with remains of old paintings.
One of the most striking corners of the church is the mediaeval crypt, the most purely Romanesque part of the building. It was constructed under the main chapel to level the land, and the only way in as a strange spiral staircase. Its area is marked out by six isolated columns and another two attached to the walls whose capitals show a simple repertoire: large leaves of different sizes, wild beasts with disproportionately large heads showing their teeth or human heads with hair, beards and moustaches. The east end has three splayed arches that appear to be embrasures on the exterior and create an intimate and mysterious play of light, providing a new perspective with each step you take.