Every July 6th
at 12 noon millions of people all over the world are watching the façade of the City Hall of Pamplona
on TV. The media are there to record the spectacular "chupinazo", the moment when a ceremonial rocket is launched from the building to start the fiesta of San Fermín
The City Hall is in the heart of the Old Quarter of the city, and its site is not a coincidence. In 1423 King Carlos III ("el Noble") of Navarre enacted a law called "El Privilegio de la Unión" (Privilege of the Union)
to put an end to centuries of bickering and confrontations between the three boroughs and located the building on the spot where the three boroughs that existed at the time (Navarrería, San Saturnino and San Nicolás) came together.
The building has been renovated on a few occasions, the last in the middle of the 18th century, but none of the changes have affected its beautiful and colorist façade, where the Baroque and neoclassical styles
The City hall stands on the site of a moat, a no-mans-land that effectively belonged to everyone, where the three ancient defensive systems of the city joined up. It was demolished on two occasions, the last in 1951, although its emblematic façade that gives on to the Plaza Consistorial (part of the Bull Run) that was designed by the cleric José Zay y Lorda remained intact.
At the top, there is a pediment in the purist style with a figure of Fame (the announcer of fiestas and other glories) with a bugle, surrounded by the heraldic arms of Pamplona and Navarra. In its centre is an 18th century clock, which everyone watches closely in the minutes leading up to the launching of the "chupinazo". On either side are two large representations of Hercules, and the ensemble is the work of Juan Lorenzo Catalán.
The three-storey façade of the building is characterised by pairs of columns in the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian styles that divide the balconies. The rails of these balconies have gilded lions, the symbol of the city.
At the bottom, the late baroque entrance to the building is lined by two stone statues of Prudence and Justice, which were sculpted in 1754 by José Jiménez. Through the entrance in the hallway is a polychrome wood coat of arms with the heraldry of the Bourbons (1735). An inscription of the lintel of the inner door reads "Patet omnibus jauna, cor valde magis" ("The door is open to all, but especially to your heart").
Inside, the noble floor (the first floor) stands out. It contains the official Reception Room, the Mayor's office and the Council Chamber, the Reception Room being the most lavishly furnished. There are portraits on the walls of Isabel II, the violinist Pablo Sarasate, the tenor Julián Gayarre, a canvas of San Fermín and, in the adjoining chapel, reliquaries of San Fermín and San Saturnino and a silver cross considered to be the best example of 16th century Pamplonese silverwork.
In the Council Chamber, where sessions are held every two weeks, particularly worthy of note is the glass door commemorating the Privilege of the Union. The Mayor's office holds the seven keys of the gates to the ancient city walls, an embroidered official flag and the three silver maces of the city that can be seen in processions.
For all these reasons and others that the visitor will discover, the City Hall and its surroundings, the heart of the Old Quarter of the city, is a place to visit at leisure. A souvenir photo in front of the building is something you will see happening at any time of the day. Guided group visits to the City Hall can be arranged by appointment.