We enjoyed a walk down the Foz de Lumbier but didn’t want to return to the Parador at Sos del Rey Catolico just yet so decided to visit the Monastery of Leyre.
A brief history of the Monastery of Leyre
The Monastery of San Salvador of Leyre, to give it its full name is in the east of Navarre in the Sierra de Leyre Mountains. There is a record of a monastery here as early as 848 AD. And also in the 9th century the relics of Nunilo and Alodia, sisters who were martyred for their faith, arrived at the monastery. This established the importance of the monastery.
King Sancho III was brought up at the monastery. During his reign in the 11th century the Abbots were also the Bishops of Pamplona. It was a Cluniac order at the time. In the 11th century the Camino was being developed. This brought revenues into the monastery. In the 13th century there was a switch to the Cistercian order.
Finally in the 19th century monastic life ended through the legislation by Mendizabal, the equivalent of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in England.
Things started looking up again in 1954 when a community of Benedictine Monks arrived from Santo Domingo de Silos and the twenty monks still care for the monastery today.
The old monastery is to the right of the plan below and includes a hotel. The new buildings are on the left. In the middle is the church with the original Romanesque building and its rounded apse to the south and the larger and later Romanesque church adjoining it to the north.
The Monastery of Leyre is one of the most important monasteries in Spain. 1
The crypt supports the apse above and it is a very important structure in the history of Spanish Romanesque architecture.
The Tunnel of St Virila was an exit from the monastery and it now closed off. St Virila was the Abbot of Leyre in the 10th century and his statue is at the far end of the tunnel. There are rather extraordinary legends associated with the saint.
The Porta Speciosa
The Porta Speciosa is the main public entrance to the church. It is a hugely complex construction which tells the story of the Bible. Master Esteban, who built the Platerias Gate in Santiago de Compostela, was involved here as well. The doorway dates from the 12th century when the side walls of the church were extended. In the 16th century the roof was raised and Gothic vaults added.
I would have loved more time to explore the details on the doorway…..
Inside the Church of the Monastery of Leyre
The Church feels good, at ease, and it smells of incense which I love. There had been a wedding that morning and the flowers were still in the church. We say the wedding party leaving just as we were arriving.
Driving back to Sos
We stopped to look at The Yesa Reservoir in the valley was formed by damming the Aragon River. It is known as the Sea of Aragon! Construction work on the dam started in 1928. The dam finally came into service in 1960! The aim of the project was to irrigate the Bardenas and the Cinco Vilas areas. The project flooded the valley and buried several villages.
The Bardenas Canal is also described as an aqueduct. I noticed it when we drive from the Bardenas to Sos without realising what it was. The project is massive and ongoing.
The Monastery of Leyre is remarkable and I would love to return and stay in the hotel. The monks sing in Gregorian Chant in the morning and evening services and it must be magical.
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