Today, Olite is not much of an impressive town – but it has a dream castle Palacio Nuevo de Olite. The original fortress is reported to be a first-century Roman building where the Old Palace stands now. The first mention that we have of the old castle dates from the 13th century. In 1388, as Carlos III of Navarra (whose grave we had seen the previous day in Pamplona ) starts the process of clearing the area surrounding it, buying houses and so. The official ampliation of the palace started in 1399, and the actual construction of the new castle in 1402. First, the keep was erected, then the surrounding towers, without much planning, giving was a capricious space with staircases, yards, and even a hanging garden. Construction ended in 1420.
When Navarra was annexed to Castille, the decline of the castle started. Later, during one of the several Spain-France wars, soldiers’ distraction caused the first fire in 1794. later, in 1813, the castle was intentionally burnt down in 1813 to avoid that the French made a stronghold out of it. The wood-decorated room were completely destroyed and only the stone walls remained, although barely. The castle was used as makeshift quarry from then on, until in 1902 the modern regional government bought it. In 1925, after considering three proposals, it was decided too restore the castle using Jose Yárnoz Larrosa, who became the main architect. He chose a restoration style known for aiming to make things “as they should have been” – so rather idealistic. And one has to admit that the castle does look pretty cool, even though apparently it does not preserve the original structure too much. Throughout this time, a mulberry tree might have thriven for about 500 years.
The point of this is that the castle is cool. Pretty much fake, but cool.
After having breakfast, I set off for a few pictures. It was not too early in the morning, even, but at least the square was empty and clean, unlike the evening before. I stopped to examine the entrance of the church Iglesia de Santa María la Real. The church dates back from the 13th century, and is famous because of the decoration of its main façade and the sculpture around the portal, though personally, I was more taken by the atrium just in front of the church. While it does obstruct the view of the façade, the architectural ensemble ends up looking super cool – except for the little porch built in the 2015 restoration that… well… might be necessary but does not allow for the best view.
I went around the complex formed by the two Medieval castles Palacio Viejo and Palacio Nuevo de Olite, the walls and the old egg-shaped building that used to work as a snow-powered fridge of sorts.
We went in. The restoration of the palace is “in style” so you cannot tell what is new from what it is not. The inner area includes access to the towers, the keeps, the so-called King’s gallery, the hanging garden, and the centennial mulberry tree. I climbed about half of the towers and the keep itself, and I have to say it was pretty fun.
Unfortunately, when we left the castle, we were not allowed into the church Iglesia de Santa María la Real as there was going to be a wedding – despite being no notice outside but the normal opening times, within which we were. Sometimes I feel tempted to take pictures even when I know it’s not completely okay, in order not to miss opportunities later. Before we left town, we found a nice viewpoint to try to catch site of the whole castle.
Afterwards, we drove southwards towards Tarazona, back in the region of Aragón. It is not a big town, with but an interesting point to get to know – the cathedral Seo de Nuestra Señora de la Huerta de Tarazona. Built throughout the evolution of Gothic art, between the 13th and the 15th century, it was later enriched in the 16th century with Renaissance decoration and interior, and sprinkled with Mudejar details. The cathedral is in the middle of restoration, and the organ is fenced off. The cloister shows lots of panels on the works being done, too.
We had lunch after visiting the cathedral, but we did not feel like staying around until the archaeological gardens. Thus, we just took the car back home, even though we might have been better off checking out some more places in town. Lesson learnt then, more planning is required in this kind of escapades…