If you like the idea of contemplating different artistic styles in the same building, make sure you visit the church of Santa María in Los Arcos; it is also one of the largest churches in Navarre. Los Arcos, located half-way between Estella-Lizarra
and Viana on the Pilgrim's Way
to Santiago, has the privilege of being home to this monumental and richly decorated building. It was built and renovated between the 12th and 18th centuries, so you can enjoy Late Romanesque, protogothic and even Renaissance and Baroque architecture there.
Inside there is an enormous 17th-century altarpiece presided over by a Gothic image of Santa María, as well as other Rococo and Baroque altarpieces, altars with reliquaries, Mannerist stonework in the chorus, an interesting chest of drawers in the vestry, one of the most spectacular organs in Navarre
and a beautiful 16th-century cloister.Estella-Lizarra/a> and
The church of Santa María stands in the square of the same name, the historic centre of this town of 1,300 inhabitants on the river Odrón. The Pilgrim's Way to Santiago was partly responsible for its construction, which began at the end of the 12th century, an era when the pilgrimage route was very popular
Its Plateresque 16th-century façade is one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Navarre. There are heads of cherubims, a Virgin Mary seated with her Child, crowned by angels, and sculptures of San Pedro and San Pablo (Saints Peter and Paul). If you visit on April 23rd or August 16th and the day is clear, you can see the setting sun light up the face of the image of the Virgin Mary. In front of the façade is a 17th-century porch in the classical style, consisting of a gallery of seven pointed arches covered with a sharp-edged dome.
The church has a Latin cross layout with a single nave, and the interior will surprise you thanks to its strong Renaissance and Baroque decoration in the form of plasterwork, paintings and altarpieces, which even hide the mediaeval structure at times.
We would highlight the great altarpiece, a Baroque work that has sculptures of three religious cycles: the Figuration of the Church, the Passion of Christ and the one dedicated to María. It is presided over by a 14th-century carving of the Virgin Mary with Child. Its original black colour disappeared in the restoration carried out in 1947.
Baroque decoration characterises the altars of St John the Baptist, the Virgin of the Rosary, St Francis Xavier and San Gregorio Ostiense and las Ánimas, while the altarpiece of the Visitation is a late Gothic work from the 15th century adorned with figures of prophets, scenes from the adoration of the Magi and the birth of Jesus.
Other treasures are the stonework in the chorus, in 16th-century Mannerist style, and the beautiful organ of the parish (1760), possibly the most elaborate in Navarre. Tastefully decorated in a combination of golds and blues, it has three levels of pipes, some of which are of painted wood, and trumpet motifs on the outside. Admire the nine carvings of musician angels around the sound box, and the figureheads of the mouths imitating human grimaces.
A visit to the church of Santa María would not be complete without seeing the late Gothic cloister from the 16th century. It is finely proportioned and decorated with animals and plant motifs.