The River Esca passes through the village of Roncal, which is located in the middle of the valley. The houses in the village are of great interest, possessing numerous features characteristic of the architecture of the Pyrenean valleys. The Church of San Esteban and different houses, such as “Casa Sanz” and “Casa Gambra”, are worthy of note, making this one of the most interesting villages in the Navarrese Pyrenees. Mention of this village cannot be made without reference to one of its most famous sons, the tenor Julián Gayarre, who never forgot the village of his birth. Proof of this are the fronton and the building of the General Council of the Valley, which he paid for out of his own pocket. You can now visit the Museum-House, home to many of the tenor’s personal effects, and the Mausoleum (in the village graveyard), declared a monument of cultural interest.
Church of San Esteban
A Gothic-Renaissance-style building mostly constructed in the 16th century with a nave with chapels between the buttresses, a crossing and a pentagonal chancel. The roof employs starred vaulting with straight ribs. From the outside, it is a large, solid block of ashlar with a tower rising on the end section. The entrance is a semicircular arch beneath a portico in three sections. A large, octagonal, Baroque altarpiece dominates the interior. The other altarpieces are Baroque and Churrigueresque. The choir stalls are 18th-century Baroque. The most remarkable piece of silverware is a late-Gothic, silver-gilt, processional cross.
Chapel of the La Virgen del Castillo
A building located at a high point at one end of the village. Both its location and the name “castillo” (castle) suggest an old fortification which might once have occupied the spot. The current building dates from the 16th century and has a Greek-cross floor plan consisting of a nave in a single section, a crossing and a square chancel. There is a simple wooden choir at the opposite end from the chancel and the interior is lit through semicircular windows. The chapel is presided over by a seated Virgin with child in the Romanesque style from the end of the 12th century. The façade has a 17th-century, semicircular doorway flanked by pilasters and the building is crowned by a simple bell gable.
Chapel of San Sebastián in Navarzato
Located in the countryside in the abandoned settlement of Navarzato, some 45 minutes from the village. The chapel was built in the Romanesque style with a rectangular nave and a semicircular chancel. The ceiling of the nave consists of wooden beams and that of the chancel, a cul-de-four. A Renaissance carving of Saint Sebastian which once formed part of an altarpiece which has not survived to our day presides over the chapel. The exterior forms a picturesque sight thanks both to the chapel’s dainty dimensions and the privileged natural setting.
Mausoleum of Julián Gayarre
Located in the local cemetery and considered one of Mariano Benlliure’s finest works. The Mausoleum dates from 1895 and in 1900 it was exhibited with great success at the Universal Exhibition in Paris; when the exhibition came to an end, it was brought back to Madrid. The Queen Regent, Maria Christina, wanted the mausoleum to be erected opposite the Teatro Real, but Gayarre’s family pointed out that their uncle wanted to be buried in the Roncal graveyard. It was finally installed in Roncal, over the tenor’s tomb, in 1901. The sculptures on the mausoleum are cast bronze and the sarcophagus and steps are made of marble. The figure on top, who still seems to want to hear the tenor’s voice, is Fame. Two figures, representing Harmony and Melody, hold up a bronze coffin whilst kneeling on a marble sarcophagus on which smaller sculpted figures hold the names of the great works that Gayarre performed. At the base sits the inconsolable figure of a woman, Music, with a broken lyre, weeping over the terrible loss of the great tenor.
Located on the side of the road, this four-storey building, whose outer walls are rendered and painted, has porches and, on top of these, there is a terrace. The building houses the municipal library.
General Council of the Valley of Roncal
Built in 1956, the building houses an exhibition of typical Roncal costumes
Julián Gayarre House-Museum
Installed in the house that Julián Gayarre had built in 1879 on top of the one he was born in. Gayarre’ relatives probably lived in this square, three-storey house with attic and a hip roof on a permanent basis, whilst Gayarre himself only spent his holidays there. Inside, it has now been adapted in order to meet its new function. Opened on the 2nd of January 1990, on the centenary of Gayarre’s death, it contains:
• Ground floor: an outline of Gayarre in his day through documents, photographs, awards, scores and gifts, all displayed in showcases. Other stranger objects are also exhibited, such as the billiard table, bicycle and calash that Gayarre acquired on his travels.
• First floor: exhibition of costumes and apparel that Gayarre wore for his performances, together with gifts, letters, press cuttings and photographs.
• Second floor: the tenor’s bedroom and a piano room containing other objects belonging to him have been left as they were.
A bronze plaque by the Roncal sculptor Fructuoso Orduna which the village of Roncal dedicated to the tenor decorates the façade.
This house is located in the Arana district of the village and dates from 1777. It forms a majestic, cubic block with three floors; the ground floor is made of ashlar blocks, while the other two are rendered, save the surrounds of the windows and the corners, which are highlighted in ashlar. The ground floor consists of a portico with two semicircular archways set on pillars and closed with a balustrade on the façade, while the sides have just one arch. The door to the house, a semicircular arch whose haunches are decorated with pebbles, is inside the portico. On the second floor, there is a Rococo version of the Valley of Roncal coat of arms supported by children and topped with a helm; the field of the coat of arms shows the head of a king over a bridge and rocks.
18th-century, Baroque house (1739) in the Iriartea part of the village. The two floors of the building are rendered and the surrounds of the windows are set off with ashlar blocks. The doorway is a semicircular arch with a cornice-like structure around the top and the date 1759 on the keystone. Over the doorway, the village’s coat of arms with pebble decoration and topped with a helm. The quartered field has the head of the King of the Muslims over a bridge in the first quarter, a hound passant in the second, a tower in the third and crags in the fourth. The house is said to conceal secret passageways and hiding places from more turbulent times: from the 18th to the 20th century.
Casa Sanz Orrio
Palatial house from the second half of the 18th century. The chief features of the Baroque façade are the door and the coat of arms, which includes the sun, a symbol granted to those who had served in America. The ground plan of the house is square and it has three floors and a hip roof, the lines of which are broken by a tiled roof lantern. In its day, the lantern housed a bell which was used to announce the meetings of the General Council, which were held in the house. Inside, the central staircase and the traditional kitchen with large hood and floor-level fire are worthy of note.
Nature Interpretation Centre
A Nature museum which describes the characteristics of local plant and animal life, and the customs and ways of life of the valley’s inhabitants through audiovisuals, panels, models and videos.
Located in the part of the village called Arana, the washing place dates from 1771 and was restored in 1996. One stone bears the inscription: “Marichalar me fecit. Ano 1771″ (Marichalar made me. Year 1771).
Dolmen of Lubrakieta
A dolmen in the municipal district of Roncal, but located at the bottom of the Valley of Belabarce, alongside the Isaba-Zuriza track, discovered in 1943 by J. Elósegui.