Very close to Estella-Lizarra
, three kilometres from Abárzuza between the green valleys that make up the Yerri mountains, stands the monastery of Irantzu. It perfectly fulfils the conditions established for its construction "… at the bottom of an enclosed valley, close to a river where the water flows abundantly and with the sky as a horizon, in order to be closer to God". The Cistercian monks established the monastery in 1176 and although they were protected by the Carlists during the Desamortización (confiscation of church property) of 1835 they had to abandon it in 1839 when it became the property of the State.
The building remained empty until 1942 when its reconstruction started, and a year later the Teatine fathers settled in Irantzu. They are the current inhabitants of the monastery, although it had traditionally been Benedictine.
The entrance gives direct access to the Gothic section
, built between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, which explains the variety of styles from the half-point galleries from the earliest part to the pointed arches with interior trefoils and bull's eyes in elaborate tracery from the full Gothic period. From the cloister, which still houses a Gothic washstand with an original hexagonal fountain, you can access most of the rooms of the monastery.
This is where the guided tour
begins, which introduces you to the kitchen, in medieval style with a gigantic fireplace; the refectory, transformed in the 17th century; the pantry that served as a storeroom; the abbot's residence, restored in the Baroque period; the punishment cells, in which the monks and converts paid for their sins on a diet of bread and water; the capitular hall, built at the end of the twelfth century, which is still in its original state; and the church of St. Mary, built at the end of the twelfth century. This church, in a Latin cross layout with one central and two side chapels, has a surprising amount of light due to the positioning of the windows.
The monastery has an Interpretation Centre
which is accessed from the cloister. Here you can find information on the monastery, its surroundings, and sights of interest in the area and the rest of Navarre. Although the monastery does not make things it does sell products under its own name, such as liqueurs, chocolates, caramelised almonds, honey, pastries, cheese, wine and ceramics, as well as books on the monastery and leaflets on the river Iranzu gully and other tourist itineraries.
Next to the monastery is a spacious picnic area from which various tracks
lead off, such as the one that goes up the river Iranzu gully, an easy walk with some excellent views of the luxuriant holm oak woods and limestone outcrops that make up the area.