The first stop in the Camino

This beautiful town has historically been the first stop for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. It is famous for the battle of Roncesvalles, where the knight Roland was killed in 778.

Plan your stay in Roncesvalles

The visit to Roncesvalles town can take a full morning. The rest of the day, we recommend visiting where the famous battle took place. In the surrounding villages there are plenty of active tourism companies that organize hiking and other activities in the valley and the neighboring Park Irati.

Since prehistoric times, Roncesvalles has been gateway to the Iberian Peninsula from France. There, Romans carved a route linking Bordeaux with Astorga and the Celts, Goths and Moors travelled the same way centuries later.

In 778, to lift the siege of Saraqustra (Zaragoza), the mighty French army of Charlemagne undertook the way back by the same route they had entered months earlier. Passing through Roncesvalles its rear was attacked and massacred by surrounding tribes and, in the hollow of Luzaide-Valcarlos, fought Roldán, the first knight of Charlemagne. The battle of Roncesvalles was immortalized in the late eleventh century in the Chanson de Roland, an epic poem of unknown author that has left the iconic image of the gentleman playing his olifante and throwing his sword Durandal the river to prevent it from falling into the hands of their enemies.

In the ninth century, King Sancho Garcés Roncesvalles consolidates as the main gateway of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. With the massive influx of walkers a primitive population center around the Pilgrim Hospital, promoted in 1127 by the Bishop of Pamplona and work erected by Alfonso I Fighting begins to develop. Given its importance, since its heyday (XIII century) it has been under papal protection. The town of Roncesvalles grows thanks to its strategic location and the fame of his hospital.

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Old view of the Collegiate of St. Mary

Wars and confiscations in the nineteenth century led to economic crises, until at last it began to recover in the mid-twentieth century thanks to the Camino de Santiago, when a new rise of the Jacobean route relocalized the population in its rightful place.

The main building of Roncesvalles is the collegiate church of Santa Maria built in the early thirteenth century as a mausoleum by Sancho VII the Fort. After long periods of abandonment it was rebuilt in the seventeenth century under its present appearance. Attached to the cloister is the Chapel of St. Augustine, in whose center lies the tomb of Sancho VII with its imposing dating from the thirteenth century headstone statue. At the gate of the chapel can be seen the chains, according to tradition, the king of Navarre Store snatched the emir Miramolin after the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa and forming part of the shield of Navarre.

The Sancti Spiritus to the Chapel, also known as Silo of Charlemagne, was originally intended for the burial that the Frankish king designed for Roldan. The current building dates from the twelfth century, which makes it the oldest in the town, and its structure highlights its roof slabs of limestone pyramid topped by a small dome Florentine cross. Attached to it is the Church of Santiago, a XIII century building completely refurbished during the twentieth century retaining its original, austere and simple Gothic look. The small bell volley shot comes from the old Ermita de San Salvador de Ibañeta, which centuries ago helped guide the pilgrims to the town. Inside is an interesting sculpture of St. James the Apostle.

Nothing remains of the original building of the famous Pilgrim Hospital of Roncesvalles. The present is the result of a complete renovation that during the seventeenth century, gave it its current neoclassical appearance. It is a large complex horizontal structure with a classicist access as pointed arch, with columns on their sides and triangular pediment and his effort.

On one side of the Priory House are housed two of the most interesting spaces of Roncesvalles. The first is its famous Library, which houses more than fifteen thousand volumes of various disciplines including prevail Theology and Philosophy. Some of the most valuable volumes are in another space: the Museum of Roncesvalles. This contains a lot of artworks divided between painting, sculpture, jewelry and tapestries that represent a comprehensive overview of local history. Chess stand Charlemagne, a reliquary known by his given name available checkerboard, and a triptych of the Crucifixion the sixteenth century belonging to the Flemish school.

Que ver en Roncesvalles
Capilla de San Agustín y Silo de Carlomagno

The most famous episode of the town is remembered in two monuments. On the outskirts, is Ibañeta Monument, a stone structure that marks the spot where it is believed that Charlemagne found the body of the knight Roldan. In the center, coinciding with the twelfth anniversary of the battle, the Monument to the Battle of Roncesvalles rose. It has large limestone plates and is a bronze replica of a capital of the Palacio de los Reyes de Navarra in Estella, allusive reliefs depicting the battle.


Practical data


43° 0′ 0″ N, 1° 19′ 0″ W


Pamplona 47 km, San Sebastián – Donostia 127 km, Madrid 449 km


923 m


26 (2013)

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