The Cathedral of Santa María is the city’s most emblematic monument and the one which houses the greatest number of historical and artistic treasures. It was built in the XIV and XV centuries on the site of an earlier Romanesque building and, before that, the Roman settlement of Pompaelo. Its Neoclassical façade conceals a sober, Gothic interior, based on the French Cathedral of Bayonne. The cloister is its most prized feature.
The mausoleum of the king who united the city in 1423 and his wife, Leonor of Trastámara, is in front of the presbytery. It is a work in alabaster from Sastago by Johan Lome de Tournay from the Franco-Flemish, Burgundian school. It is considered one of the most important works of sculpture in Navarre. 28 figures of noblemen and clerics accompany the bodies of the monarchs. Beneath the sepulchre, there is an inaccessible crypt containing the remains of kings and princes buried in the Cathedral.
One of the Cathedral’s treasures and one of the most splendid images of Christ on the cross from XVI-century Spain. Juan de Anchieta’s masterpiece is in the chapel of Saint John the Baptist, first on the left as you go in. It was originally placed in the Barbazana Chapel. Legend has it that the world will come to an end when Christ’s hair touches his chest.
The images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul receive visitors to the chapel from either side of the door. The interior is presided over by the Virgin del Consuelo, a figure in polychrome stone of exceptional value. Special attention should be paid to the octagonal Gothic vault over the tomb of the Bishop Armando Barbazán (1319-1355), to whom this, the oldest chapel in the cloistral complex, is dedicated. It is one of the locals’ favourite places to hold weddings. The remains of several Pamplona Bishops rest in its crypt.
The Cathedral’s true treasure and one of the finest exponents of Gothic architecture in the world. Built between 1286 and 1472, few cloisters in Europe meet its stature.
Each of its four sides is lined with six, wonderful, pointed arches, whose tracery evocatively plays with the light on the stone. Above, the overcloister; in the middle, a small garden. The five doorways are the most important sculptural group in the enclosure.
46 of the 56 keystones on the vaults in the cloister are decorated with relief work. They symbolise the world of the creation: the rivers of Paradise in the corners, the winds mark the cardinal points on the central vaults and, completing the allegory, the tasks of the year.
The Cloister is a small museum showing the evolution of Gothic monumental and decorative sculpture, from the XIII century (the first capitals in the west wing) to the last third of the XIV. The decorative and iconographic repertoire is rich and varied, particularly on the capitals. It is not limited to religious themes, but includes day-to-day, popular and imaginary scenes.
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