Enigmatic places of the Way of Saint James: Santa María de Eunate
'The first surprise that this construction reserves us, if we observe its plant, is the fact that the octagon that governs it is not perfect. When we enter and see the ribs of its vault we can verify it. However, one has the feeling that this irregular octagon was drawn like that, imperfectly, for a very specific reason. Could it be that the extension of the line from the center to each of the angles can lead us, following a straight line, to the location of other sacred magical places frequented, sought and required by the Order of the Temple ?. Indeed, if we extend on a map these directions so clearly indicated by the structure of Eunate we will go to San Miguel in Excelsis, the mount of the Temple of Castro Urdiales, to San Bartolomé de Ucero, to Tomar, Ágreda, to Lourdes, to Miravet, to Toledo ... '(1).
Whether or not the theory of Atienza, both the hermitage of Santa María de Eunate, and the twin cover that is also located in the vicinity of Valdizarbe Valley, specifically in the church of San Miguel de Olcoz, continue to be completely open to all elements type of hypothesis and speculations.
Although Atienza did not seem to doubt the Templar authorship of the hermitage of Santa María de Eunate, this, precisely, continues to be one of the enigmas that generates the most controversy; to the point that there are many historians and researchers who tend to point to the order of the Holy Sepulcher as the true architects of what is clearly an authentic jewel of the peninsular Romanesque.
Its octagonal plant -not perfect, as Atienza aptly points out- is another of the factors of confrontation, above all when accepting or rejecting the hypothetical theory of the Templar model of architecture. Interestingly, this same controversy is found in the small village of Torres del Río and its church of the Holy Sepulcher, located on the border of the provinces of Navarra and Logroño.
And yet, the statements of Fernando Arroyo Durán (2) are of great interest, in relation to the close ties that united both orders -Santo Sepulcro and Orden del Temple- at least in the time of his first Grand Master: Hughes de Payns , emphasizing the detail that in those enigmatic beginnings, it is difficult to differentiate one from the other.
Close ties, in addition, that the Templars also maintained with other orders somewhat outside the iron church orthodoxy of the time, as, for example, that of San Antón -the Antonians, as they were commonly called-, to the point to share with them what is perhaps the most esoteric of all the crosses they used: the Tau.
On the other hand, the fact that, although the site of the hermitage is not part, properly speaking, of the route of the Way of the Stars that, beyond the Pyrenees -Roncesvalles and Somport, mainly- joins with other routes in Puente la Reina, the pilgrims deviate on purpose, regardless of the detail of having to travel a few more kilometers, on a path that is already long, difficult, strenuous and complicated.
It seems that, among other functions yet to be determined, it had a more than plausible funerary character, if we take into account the numerous localized burials, the bodies corresponding, in many cases, to pilgrims, as the finding confirms. of numerous shells or scallops with their remains.
On the other hand, it is evident that this type of octagonal or ascensional hermitages, as they are also called, have a clear oriental influence, based on the model of the so-called Dome of the Rock or Mosque of Al Aksá, of Jerusalem, located In the place where once stood the famous temple of Solomon, in whose stables were installed the first Templars, and where precisely they receive their name: Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.
More than likely Oriental influence can result, as well, the ancestral custom of the pilgrims to make several turns with their bare feet around the outer cloister of the chapel, an action that would have its correspondence in the Muslim rite called the Tawaf, that, precisely , which the Muslim pilgrims perform around the Kaaba (3).
Being this a rock of meteoric or celestial origin, it is possible to wonder if in Eunate there was some similar element; and it occurs to me to think of the titular Virgin -probably black, in origin- the present being a mere reproduction; theme that would take us, again, to the freires of the Temple, inasmuch as more and more researchers agree that it was they who introduced the cult for the figure of the Virgin Mary, and possibly, many of the images , as well; to the point that, in his Rule 306, and in a very significant way, it was specified: And the hours of Our Lady should always be recited first in this house ... because Our Lady was the beginning of our Order, and in it and in his honor, if it pleases God, it will be the end of our lives and the end of our Order, when God wants it to be (4).
And a data without doubt significant: numerous originals of Black Virgins, contained this type of celestial element, well in its constitution; either on its base or as a relic hidden inside.
Interesting, on the other hand, may be the fact of reviewing the presence of similarities with other myths related to the Way of the Stars, such as the presence of two dark and legendary queens: one, named Lupa, in Galicia - derivation , perhaps of loup, wolf in French and emblematic animal of the brotherhoods compañeriles? - related to the legend of the transfer of the remains of the Apostle and another here, in Eunate, involved in the construction of the hermitage.
Of the latter, it is said that his body was buried just below the octagonal chapel, being, in addition, occasionally identified with one of the figures of serpentine body and crowned head -some identify them as an allusion to real characters from the time of building the building, twelfth century (5) - which can be seen both on the front of Santa María, and on the cover of San Miguel.
Notes, References and Bibliography:
(1) Juan García Atienza: 'Second Guide to Magical Spain', Ediciones Martínez Roca, S.A., 1982, page 93
(2) 'Codex Templi, Templespaña 2005, Punto de Lectura, S.L., April 2006. Article by Fernando Arroyo Durán,' The Order of the Temple of Solomon: the first years and their social environment ', page 65.
(3) For more information, I recommend reading the article by Ildefonso Robledo Casanova, 'Sacred Octagonal Architecture (II), Romanesque Ascension Chapels in Spain', Historia 16, Ano XXVI, No. 321, January 2003, page 101.
(4) Piers Paul Read: 'The Templars, monks and warriors', Ediciones B, S.A., 1st edition, March 2010, page 202.
(5) Pablo Alonso Bermejo, 'The stars of Eunate, symbolic guide of the north cover', Templespaña, Society of Templar and Medieval Studies, 2009.
NOTICE: Originally published in my blog TRAS LAS HUELLAS DE LOS CANTEROS MEDIEVALES, with the title of Santa María de Eunate vs. San Miguel de Olcoz. Both the text (except for quotations, duly referenced) and the accompanying photographs are my exclusive intellectual property. The original entry, where you can check the authorship of juancar347, can be found at the following address: https://canterosmedievales.blogspot.com/2010/12/santa-maria-de-eunate-vs-san-miguel-de.html
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