This is the northernmost of the seven villages that make up the Valley of Roncal. On the banks of the River Esca, Isaba stands out for the organisation of its houses into different neighbourhoods, in which you can find wood and stone buildings lining narrow, cobbled lanes. Of these buildings, the Church of San Cipriano is particularly worthy of note. The House of Memory, a modern-format museum describing the customs and traditions of Roncal, is also well worth a visit.
The Valley of Belagua, with numerous megalithic remains, such as the dolmens of Sakulo and Arrako, opens out to the north of the village. The area also has some marvellous views and landscapes.
Finally, no description of this area would be complete without mentioning the fact that it is home to Navarre’s highest mountains (Mesa de los Tres Reyes) and its deepest chasms (Chasm of San Martín).
Church of San Cipriano
Located in the middle of the village, this fortress-like building was constructed in the 16th century on top of a smaller 13th-century building burned down by the French in the 15th century and of which one doorway still remains. It has a nave with a single, Gothic-style vault. The 16th-century, Renaissance altarpiece consists of four main parts with beautiful Plateresque decoration and shows scenes from the Passion and the lives of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The third section has polychrome, oak carvings depicting the Birth of Christ and the Adoration of the Magi. The columns that separate the vertical divisions and main sections are adorned with pagan motifs. One of the altarpieces in the side chapels is Baroque and the other is Rococo. Baroque organ from the 18th century with more than 1,000 pipes. The Baroque choir stalls date from the 18th century and show scenes from rural life in the valley.
Chapel of Idoia
Located at a beautiful spot 900 m from Isaba and accessible on foot. The chapel has a Medieval core, further built on in the 16th century, and is a surprisingly large, spacious building made of cut stone. It has a brotherhood house annexed to it. The 18th-century, Baroque altarpiece by Juan Baines from Isaba is presided over by an image from the end of the 14th century. The Virgin has the baby Jesus on her knee and holds a globe in her hand. The altar rails were brought by the young women of the village from the Monastery of Igal in Salazar.
Chapel of Belén
This small, 18th-century chapel presided over by an image of the Virgin Mary is 5 minutes from the village on the path to Belabarce.
Chapel of Arrako
This chapel stands alongside a prehistoric monument on the plain of Belagua, some 10 km from Isaba, in order, so it is believed, to Christianise magical, pagan rites and places. The Rococo altarpiece is presided over by a 14th-century image of the Virgin Mary. Uncertainty surrounds which century the chapel was built in because it has no defined style. It was looted by the French in 1793 and the Virgin’s crown, a chalice, a paten and livestock grazing around the chapel all went missing.
Built in the second half of the 19th century, the building has three storeys. The first consists of a porch with arches resting on pillars made of ashlar blocks. The other storeys are rendered
Housed in a typical Roncal house in the village centre.
House of Memory >
There are two Romanesque bridges at kilometre 1 and 1.5 on the road from Isaba to Belagua which used to belong to the old track to Belagua. A little further up, just over 2 km from Isaba in the same direction, stands the Bridge of Otsindundua, known as the Bridge of Ibón, built 5 centuries ago in 1568.
Coats of Arms
There are two types of coats of arms on fountains and the façades of houses; two versions of the coat of arms of the Valley of Roncal that locals adopt as their own. The coat of arms carved in stone on the fountain of Uturrotx, in the Plaza de Ángel Galé, is quartered and shows a hound, a castle, some crags and the head of a Muslim over a bridge, depicting the history of the Valley. The hound and the castle represent the loyalty and strength of the Valley, the crags reflect its harsh terrain and the head of the Muslim over the bridge symbolises the defeat of the Muslims at the hands of the people of Roncal at the Battle of Olast in 785, at which a Roncal woman cut the head of Abd al-Rahman I, Emir of Cordoba, off as he made his way through the Pyrenees. History shows that it was not, in fact, the Emir who lost his head, but rather one of his generals. Older coats of arms depict only the head of a King of the Muslims over a bridge and are prior to 1797, the year in which King Charles IV granted Roncal the other quarters on its coat of arms following the War of the Pyrenees against the French.
Typical Roncal houses are made of stone and wood and have steep gable or hip roofs to prevent snow from building up. The entrances are normally Gothic with doors in the form of semicircular arches and coats of arms carved into the keystone. The chimneys are round and have small roofs over the top and the wooden balconies are used to dry clothes and food. The houses are separated by narrow alleys.
These buildings pepper Belagua and the pastures and fields in the valleys. They were the houses in which the shepherds spent the spring and summer with their flocks until autumn arrived and they returned to the Ribera region. The ground floor served as a shed for the sheep and there was also a small kitchen with camp beds where the shepherds could eat and sleep. The roof housed a loft where hay could be stored to feed the animals.