17 kilometres to the north of Estella-Lizarra
, in the midst of the Urbasa-Andía Nature Reserve
, surrounded by forests and pastures, stands one of the highest villages in Navarre —Lezáun (from the Basque for place of the cave)
. A small town, a former Yerri Valley council with its own municipal government since 1952.
In the centre of town, next to the public school and overlooking a farmstead, clustered around steep, narrow streets with numerous noble houses
with wooden eaves —such as the house of the Azpilicuetas, close relatives of Saint Francis Xavier
who apparently used to go to the town on visits— we find the church of San Pedro de Lezáun. This charming rural parish church was built in the twelfth century in the late romanesque style
. In the sixteenth century, a new, larger Gothic building absorbed the Romanesque construction. However, the medieval structure is still visible in the chapel and outbuildings of the present church.
The parts of the primitive romanesque church that still remain include the twelfth century polygonal ashlar tower, the baptismal font and the portal, of simple design albeit with storiated capitals
of great value. They represent the cycles of childhood and all extol the Blessed Virgin as key figure. They portray the following episodes in a very natural fashion: the Annunciation and St. Joseph's dream with the Angel giving the news to the Blessed Virgin and a sleepy St. Joseph; the Visitation with the Blessed Virgin and St. Elisabeth hugging each other, and the Birth with the Blessed Virgin and Child lying in the manger.
Once inside, you should look out for some of the more curious treasures
: a keystone with St. Peter and his keys; another keystone with the inscription "1571", the date when the Gothic nave was completed; a group of musicians; a carving of St. Barbara with glass eyes (brought from a seventeenth century shrine); a sixteenth century renaissance figure of Our Lady of Candlemas, easily identifiable by the candle she holds in he hand; St. Peter (or St. Michael) fighting the devil on the seventeenth century early baroque main altarpiece.
The best way to get to know this church is by joining a guided tour
that will also take you through the history of Lezáun and its noble houses, ending with a glass of wine and a tapa, to leave you with a good taste in your mouth.