The Church of Saint Mary of Eunate
The Church Saint Mary of Eunate stands isolated in the middle of an expanse of fields in Navarra province, close to the lovely Camino town of Puente de la Reina. It takes you by surprise to come across such a solitary and striking edifice amidst a wide-open expanse of fields.
Dated at about 1170, Eunate is something of a mystery. Its origins are unknown, but many think it must have been inspired by the hexagonal Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The octagonal layout and the cloister that surrounds make it different to any other Romanesque church. Some historians think it may be the work of the Knights Templar, perhaps a hospital of the Order of St. John. Local tradition claims it was built as the funeral chapel for a noble lady who lies entombed under the church.
Eunate is quite unique architecturally; surrounded by a gallery of 33 arches with decorative capitals and the serene interior is also ornately carved. It remains a place of great interest to modern day pilgrims. Evidence points to its varied use over the centuries, as a pilgrims' hospital, a funeral chapel, a beacon for pilgrims, a place of Christian worship and even a telluric sanctuary for those seeking esoteric powers.
From Puente de la Reina on the Camino Francés, you have to build in extra time to make a special trip here - it's about 10 km, well waymarked and well worth it. Eunate is actually situated on the Camino Aragonés which runs from Toulouse in France and joins up with the main Camino in Puente.
It is opened daily at 1030 for 3 hours and again at 1630 for 2 hours - but do check these times locally at the tourist information in Puente de la Reina.