Iglesia San Martin de Tours

Star Travel Rating

5/5

Review type

Things to do

Location

Date of travel

2013

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with

Husband

Reasons for trip

St Martin de Unx is a Navarre hill town dominate by Iglesia San Martin de Tours. It is a medieval fortified town built on the site of a demolished castle. Capilla de San Miguel sitting in a walled graveyard at the top end of the town was the castle chapel. It is shut and the graveyard kept locked.

It is a pleasant little town with a few shops and narrow roads lined with tall stone houses and even narrower alleyways off. The houses have big wooden doorways , small metal balconies and metal grilles over the lower windows. We parked on the street in the lower part of the town and climbed up to the church passing a small shop selling very good bread.

According to the guide books, Iglesia San Martin de Tours is supposed to be open 11-1 and 4.30-6.30. A sign on the door said it was only open Saturdays and Sundays. We said “bother” but could then hear voices inside the church, so banged hard on the door to be let in. It all went very quiet and eventually a woman appeared looking rather bemused. The two women were cleaning the church and were delighted that a foreigner would want to visit their church. The pointed out the spiral staircase to the crypt and indicated we needed to put €1 in the meter for lights. They refused the €2 entry when we offered it. They were very keen to point out all the things of interest in the church which taxed our minimal Spanish to the limits but be smiled and nodded.

The church has a large nave with big buttresses. On the south side is a large porch with open arches and a metal grille door to the street. There is a tall round apse at the east end with faces carved on the corbels beneath the eaves. This is buttressed and has narrow slit windows at the base with larger round top windows above.

There is a splendid west doorway off the street. The pillars pillars on either side have carefully carved capitals with figures and foliage. We could see St Martin sharing his coat with a beggar and warriors fighting with animals. Above are three arches, each with a different carved design of spirals, bosses and squares.

We were let in through the south door under the porch which is much less elaborate. The pillar capitals are a stylised scroll design and the arches are decorated with crosses.

The church is built above a Romanesque crypt dating from 1156. This has six round pillars with carved ‘water flowers’ capitals which still have traces of paint on them or heads or beasts. These support round arches forming the ceiling ribs. Wall pillars also have carved capitals. The floor is made of of long thin pieces of stone carefully arranged in a herringbone pattern. There is a simple altar made up of blocks of stone. The only source of natural light is a small recessed round topped window at the east end.

Back inside the church the large nave has wall pillars with carved capitals leading to the ceiling ribs. At the east end is a semi-circular apse with three recessed round topped windows surrounded by round pillars with carved capitals and a round arch. There is a narrow carved frieze above and below them. There is a polychrome wood statue of Mary holding the Christ Child on the north wall with a processional banner behind it. On the south wall is a crucifix. The processional stand has a carved and painted statue of St Cedro , the patron saint, holding freshly picked ears of wheat. At his feet is a small statue of a woman ploughing with two oxen.

In a recess in the north wall is a painted carving of two bishops with saints standing on pedestals on the wall above.

There is a splendid and very large Baroque reredos on the north wall, painted predominantly in shades of red, blue and gilt. It is an amazing piece of work. You need to look carefully as there is a tremendous amount of detail. In the centre is a carving of St Martin. Scenes on either side and below show the last supper, the disciples asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus in front of Herod, Christ carrying the cross and his body being removed by the women. At the top is a depiction of the crucifixion with Christ on the Cross with the Virgin Mary and St John. At the top is God the Father holding a globe with a cross.

Red pillars have gilt spirals on them. There are carvings of cherubs and on the right of St Martin is a carving of St Roch showing the infection on his leg to an angel. On the other side is St Sebastian pierced with arrow heads. The integral host box has a carving of the risen Christ.

There is a huge carved stone Romanesque font with figures set between pillars (all differently carved) and round topped arches. The two women were very keen to point out Mary holding the baby Jesus.

At the back of the north aisle is a glass coffin tomb containing the statue of a dead body in a loin cloth, but no further information

This is a really nice church, lovingly cared for. We were very pleased to have managed to get in.

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