Between many other large towns such as Pamplona and Sangüesa, Monreal is a small, but pleasant Navarran town that definitely deserves a visit. Although becoming familiar with the town itself won’t take more than a couple of hours, Monreal is located in the center of a natural environment that requires a longer stay to enjoy. The town is protected by La Higa, one of the most well known mountains in the surrounding areas that offers various trails to hike around the mountain and even climb up to the peak. In the surrounding areas, you will find many areas with important natural value such as the river mouths known as foces de Lumbier y Arbayún or the Javier castle and the Leyre monastery in Yesa. As a stopping point along the Aragonese Way to Santiago in its trajectory towards Puente la Reina, Monreal is also a good resting place that many pilgrims take advantage of.
Although the first written references to Monreal happened during the 12th century, it is thought that an important settlement existed in its place before that. You can still see the remains of the castle, which originally was a remodeled defense fortress to serve as the residence of the Navarran royalty. In 1149, García Ramírez awarded the town with the regional code of laws of Estella in an attempt to increase the importance of Monreal, whose population was growing because of the arrival of new inhabitants from the south of France. These new privileges allowed the town to achieve many activities, especially commerce, which made Monreal an important passing and stopping point in the Way to Santiago. It is known that the town already had a hospital made for pilgrims in the 12th century. The strategic, political, and economic importance of the town is reflected in many facts, like its seat and vote in the Navarran government.
Upon entering the 15th century, Monreal’s support of Juan II against his son Carlos de Viana brought new privileges to the villa, one of which was the celebration of a weekly market, which aided in the growth of its arks. Years later, in 1521, the conquest of Navarra by the Castilian troops marks the decline of Monreal, dramatized by the demolition if its castle. Despite the progressive disappearance of its political and economic relevance, the villa was able to maintain its position as a strategic point. Today, despite the differences, Monreal continues to be one of themes popular stops in the final stretches of the Aragonese Way to Santiago.
Always protected by La Higa, Monreal can be considered a small but pleasant historical site with cobble stone streets and houses that conserve the old houses that reflect its rich past. Within its main monuments, you will find the Iglesia de la Natividad, the only surviving temple this town had. Despite the fact that its origins are Roman, the current architecture of the building is the result of a series of remodels that have almost eliminated all remnants of its original construction. Although it saves a certain element of gothic style, the current church is the result of reforms during the 18th century. The altarpiece inside stands out because of its interesting sculptural aspects. The other important monument in this town is the Medieval Bridge. Constructed employing a gothic style, its role was important in the town, as it was the main access point to the pilgrims that arrived at Monreal on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Currently, this bridge can be found in perfect condition and is completely accessible. On the outskirts of Monreal, you will see the San Blas transept, built in the 16th century.
On the hill near the town, you can visit the ruins of the Monreal Castle, which is composed of the remains of its original tower. At almost 1,289 meters of altitude and occupying part of the peak of La Higa, you will find the Saint Barbara Chapel. This small construction is the only one that still exists of the eight that used to be located in Monreal. Its current location is not the original one because the chapel needed to be moves a couple meters due to the radio and television constructions that have been in the same place since 1977. Every first of May, Saint Barbara is the site of a popular pilgrimage in which many of the neighboring towns participate.