Puente_la_Reina_-_Iglesia_de_Santiago_31_ZaratemanTravellers entering Puente la Reina must pass in front of the monument to the Pilgrim, which is hardly surprising, considering that few places are more crowded with pilgrims at this junction of the two branches of the French Route, one of them coming from land of Aragon, the other from Navarra. The pilgrims cross the town with monuments on all sides : churches, convents, noble houses … but one thing stands apart from all the rest : the impressive medieval bridge.

The name ‘Puente la Reina’ derives from its famous romanesque bridge over the river Arga, which is considered by many to be the most beautiful and balanced of the French Way. It was built in the twelfth century for a Queen of Navarra, whose name is still not known for certain. However, 450px-Puente_la_Reina_-_Iglesia_de_Santiago_17_Zaratemanmost historians tend to think that it was either the Queen known as Doña Mayor, wife of DonSancho el Mayor, or perhaps Doña Estefania, wife of DonGarcia the Najera. What is not in doubt is that she was the wife of someone. The bridge has six arches with ridged profile. Originally it had a central tower, but this was subsequently lost in the course of some rebuilding.

The construction of the bridge enabled pilgrims and traders pass through the town, thus contributing to its growth and importance. For this reason, Puente la Reina is quoted in the Codex Calixtinus, the guide attributed to Aymeric Picaud, which highlights the fact that this is a town in which the two branches of the French route meet : one coming from Roncesvalles and the other from Jaca.

800px-Puente_la_reina_Piotr TysarczykLike many villages of the Way, Puente la Reina is organized through a long main street around which most monuments are arranged. Some of them are linked to the presence of the Order of the Templars in the town, and the convent of the repairmen, which was Templar hospital. Beside it, joined by a vaulted arch, stands the church of the Crucifixion, with its two naves; one of which is Romanesque while the other is Gothic and contains an unusual Rhineland statue of the Crucifixion, dating from the fourteenth century.

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Images: Commons Wikipedia (Piotr-Tysarczyk, Zarateman)

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