The real capital among the rocks

Nájera was the capital of the kingdom of Navarre during one of its periods of greatest growth. During this time of splendor, there occurred many historical events that would be reflected in its monuments, works of art and festivities.

Plan your trip to Nájera

Take your time viewing Nájera’s historic monastery (and enjoying the beautiful stories about its construction and its myths) and its interesting historical and archaeological museum. Do not miss a beautiful tour through its old city and river.

In its vicinity are other magnificent monumental destinations: the “rival” of San Millán de la CogollaSanto Domingo de la Calzada and Ezcaray. There are multiple active tourism options available in the nearby Ezcaray, covering the Parque de las sierras de la Demanda y de Urbión. You can also discover the French Way, which passes through this town.

Do you want to visit this place?

Nájera and its origins

The city of Nájera is of pre-Roman origin. It later was one of the most important Roman sites in this area, although its period of greatest splendor will take place in the Middle Ages.

In the 8th century the Arabs occupied the village that stood on the current Nájera. They were amazed by the high hills that protected it. Hence it denominated Naxara (place between rocks) and its river Naxarilla, from which its current name is derived.

A place for the Court

Two centuries later, in 923, the King of Pamplona Sancho Garcés I, in collaboration with the monarch Ordoño II of León, conquered the town of the Muslims. Just one year later, in 924, the army of Caliph of Cordoba Abderrahman III ransacked and destroyed Pamplona. This forced the court of Navarre to move to Nájera.

The King Sancho Garcés III the Great kept the capital in the village, giving the final impetus to grant a charter and to celebrate it the Cortes.

In addition, he favored the passage of pilgrims on the Way to Santiago, turning the city into a key point on the pilgrimage route. The monarch Garcia Sanchez III of Najera further developed the work of his father, inaugurating in 1052 the building complex of Santa Maria de Nájera and transferring important relics to encourage pilgrimages.

Old photo of the Cloister of the Knights

Nájera’s Prosperity

In 1076, Alfonso VI joined Castile and granted a charter of conditions (similar to the existing one) that would inspire those of many other places of Castile. The settlement of a thriving Jewish community and the dynamism of the unions, along with the continuous flow of pilgrims, contributed to Nájera’s rising as a quickly prospering town.

Henry IV of Castile was granted the title of “Very Noble and Loyal” in 1454. In 1465, he ceded the city to Pedro Manrique de Lara, II Count of Treviño. In 1482 the Catholic Monarchs confirmed this concession and also gave the duchy of Nájera for services rendered to their cause.

From the seventeenth century, the town gradually began to lose favor of other riojanas cities.

The city of Nájera has the most history in La Rioja. It is located in the vicinity of the Sierra de la Demanda. The city has protective areas: first, the high peaks, and second, the Najerilla River to the east. In the twentieth century the city spread to the other side of the river.

The popular monastery

The main attraction of Nájera is the Monastery of Santa María la Real. It is a monumental complex built in the mid-eleventh century by orders of García Sánchez III as bishopric, convent and family vault.

According to legend, it was erected on the site of a cave (which in fact can still be accessed from the church) where the monarch found an image of the Virgin Mary. Early interventions are purely Romanesque but, given the continuous expansion and renovation from the fifteenth century, its appearance becomes more Gothic and Renaissance. On the exterior its tower and rounded buttresses give it a solid appearance of strength.

From inside, with three naves and transept, stands Claustro de los Caballeros (s. XVI), which combines Gothic, Plateresque and Renaissance styles. By it you access the 15th century Gothic style Church and the Panteón Real, where you will find the tombs of the 30 kings of Navarre and their families. In particular, we highlight the tomb of Doña Blanca de Navarra for its artistic value. She was the mother of Alfonso VIII and Don Diego López de Haro, Lord of Vizcaya.

The monastery was used after the confiscation nineteenth century as infantry barracks, theater, public works depot and warehouse, until in 1889 was declared a National Monument.

Monastery of Santa Maria la Real

Discovering the past in Nájera

In Plaza de España, next to the ancient monastery,you will find the Museo Histórico Arqueológico de Nájera, built in the old palace of the abbot of Santa María la Real. The museum displays many historical pieces from nearby archaeological excavations, from Paleolithic to the Middle Ages materials and ethnographic background of the region.

Another interesting building in town is the Parish Church of La Santa Cruz, declared a National Monument. It is a building whose foundation dates back to the eleventh century, although its present appearance is the work of the seventeenth century. It highlights its magnificent dome on scallops topped by flashlight. The temple houses the relics of San Prudencio, among other saints and pictures from Santa María la Real.

A walk along the river

You should complete the visit with a nice walk through the old part of the town, which houses traditional shops and an authentic medieval atmosphere. You can continue walking towards the river.

Across the river is the Convent of Santa Elena, a sober mid-sixteenth century building currently inhabited by a community of nuns. The temple of the monastery, from the seventeenth century, is the only part of that you can visit. It has a Latin cross with a single nave hemispherical dome.


Monastery of Santa María la Real
Najerilla River

Practical data


42° 24′ 57″ N, 2° 44′ 3″ W


Logroño 27 km, Burgos 113 km, Madrid 351 km


491 m


8377 (2013)

About the author