Friday, June 27, 2014

San Pedro de la Rua, Estella, Navarra

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

  Called “Estella la Bella” in the Middle Ages, Estella remains beautiful and is packed full with sacred sites but none that exceed the 12th century hilltop church of San Pedro de la Rua.  

The doorway is a multi-lobed Mudéjar style by Muslim craftsmen working in medieval Christian Spain. The archway holds several mystical keys often missing in other entranceways. One medallion over the arch points shows the hand of God holding up three fingers for the Trinity. Another depicts a lamb and the chi-rho that both represent Christ, but notice that the Alpha and Omega are in reverse, leading some to believe that the artisan was influenced by Arabic or Hebrew, both of which are written from right to left. 

Islamic creatures populate the arches, such as the two Persian-style winged birds on the left capital. Interwoven throughout the arches are Biblical tales, fanciful plants, and Celtic knots. 

 Inside is an open, rounded altar that holds Mary on the viewer's left, and left of her, an enigmatic pillar of three braided serpents. Mary is from the 13th century, but the three serpents are the 1893 restoration work of sculptor Cayetano Echauri who was a specialist of occult symbolism. He wanted to restore the medieval esoteric tradition of this region in his work. The three serpents represent good, evil, and wisdom and they are intertwined to represent the interplay of wisdom in discerning good from bad. 
Further back, San Pedro’s cloister reflects the mixed heritage from the front of the church, especially in the Basque pre-Christian solar disk tombstones and the Islamic Mudéjar-style plants and animals on the pillar capitals. 

To learn more about the deeper esoteric past and present in Estella and other mystical sites on the Camino, please see my book, The Spiritual Traveler Spain and my app (both on iTunes and Android), The Esoteric Camino France & Spain.

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