Thursday, June 26, 2014

Eunate, Navarra, Spain

(among the most magical (and often most-overlooked) places on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, begun on 6 June 2014)

Santa Maria de Eunate is a beautiful little remote round chapel surrounded by grazing sheep and rolling hills between Pamplona and Puente la Reina. 

No one knows who built this octagonal chapel dedicated to Mary. It may have the Templar Knights, who were inspired by the eight-sided Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. What makes this 12th century church all the more enigmatic is its 33-arched cloister surrounding the outside of the church like Saturn’s rings and that eunate is the Basque word for “one hundred doors.” 

From Basques to Christians and Muslims, there is a mixed ancestry at work here. 

Thirty-three is Jesus’s age when he was crucified. Jesus is a part of a holy trinity. Prayer beads in Islam number 33 and are circled three times to meditate on the 99 names of God. Eunate’s 33 arches can be walked around three times like a labyrinth or  walking rosary, arriving at 99. Enter the chapel door and you have “one hundred doors.” 

That this meditation is set in one of the most enchanted landscapes of northern Spain adds to its depth.

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