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The Church of Santa María

Churches and chapels


The Church of Santa María - The Church of Santa María
icono pie de fotoThe Church of Santa María
The Church of Santa María - Iglesia de Santa María la Real
icono pie de fotoIglesia de Santa María la Real
The Church of Santa María
The Church of Santa María


The Church of Santa María
The church of Santa María de Olite is one of the most important Gothic buildings in Navarre. Its artistic beauty is as interesting as its history. Lying adjacent to the old Royal Palace, the favourite residence of King Carlos III the Noble, it was used by Navarrese monarchs for great festivities and solemn ceremonies. Its elaborate façade, in which you can see the influence of the workshops of Nôtre Dame in Paris, will detain you and invite you to peruse the stories in the doorway. Inside, the single-nave church houses a Renaissance altarpiece presided over by a Gothic sculpture of the Virgin Mary and an image, also Gothic, of the Christ of the Good Death.

The church of Santa María stands in the medieval town of Olite, the main town in the municipality of the same name in the Central Zone of Navarre, and is a Gothic building whose construction lasted from the 12th century through to the beginning of the 14th.

The façade is one of the most significant collections of Gothic sculpture in Navarre. Despite the profusion of adornment, it retains great refinement and balance. You can appreciate the work of various master craftsmen and the influence of Parisian workshops. Elsewhere in Navarre, the churches of the Holy Sepulchre of Estella-Lizarra and San Saturnino in Artajona feature similar models.

Under a huge rosette, the main doorway is made up of eight archivolts which display exuberant plant motifs. Amongst the mass of leaves you can make out two figures praying under pelmets; this is possibly Juana I of Navarre and her husband, the King of France, 'Philip the Handsome', who reigned in Navarre during the period in which the front was built.

In the tympanum you can see a smiling Virgin Mary, seated with the Child, and various scenes from the life of Jesus: the Annunciation, the Birth of Christ, the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight to Egypt, the Presentation in the Temple and the Baptism of Christ. In the lintel you will be entertained by a piece in which reality and symbolism become confused: a man perched up on a holm oak shares the scene with a hybrid creature playing the bagpipes and a grotesque quadruped, amongst other characters. The wealth of iconography continues on both sides of the door, where you can find reliefs of the lives of the apostles framed by a series of arches.

Going into the church, which has just one nave, you will discover another of the buildings great treasures: a magnificent high altarpiece in Renaissance style, presided over by a lovely Gothic carving of the Virgin and Child dating from the 14th century, in the Navarrese style with a French influence.

In the church, the Christ of the Good Death is worshipped, a Gothic work from the 14th century, seemingly from the now-disappeared church of San Lázaro. The town professes great devotion for this crucifix of such great dramatic quality, and the patron saint festivities are held in its honour.

After visiting the church, the Royal Palace of Olite awaits you, one of the most important Gothic castles in Europe, as well as the winding streets of the town which reveal all the splendour of its medieval past.


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