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  • Writer's pictureDiem Burden

Ruins of San Pedro church, Viana

In Viana (Navarra) is the ruin of the 13th century San Pedro church, which is free to enter. Sadly, the majority of pilgrims refuel in Viana, then simply walk past the main entrance to the church without even looking in!

The church was the first to be built in Viana and was an integral part of the defensive structure of the city. It was much taller than the current church in the main plaza! Arrow slits can still be seen in the walls of San Pedro.

It contains some original ceiling painting, but more interestingly, a closer look will reveal a variety of stonemason 'signatures'. When these buildings were constructed, many stone cutting teams were used, and to ensure they got paid for their work, they marked each of their stones with the stonemasons 'signature'. As this was before most people could write, it comprised a distinctive mark. It's a great activity for kids to see how many different signatures they can spot. They are clearly visible near to the painted ceiling area. Most people nowadays mistakenly dismiss this as graffiti.

The church is available to rent for parties, weddings, etc, and the cupola makes for some great acoustics if any pilgrim is musical. It is also a great place to get out of the heat and chill, as the big old walls stay cool during the hottest days. If you are staying at the municipal albergue alongside the church, you may get to see a free concert from your window!

Passing through the church, exit into the mediaeval alleyway alongside the municipal albergue, and you can enter the gardens to the rear (formerly the cemetery). Blessed with gentle elevator music, this garden is also a great spot to chill and eat a packed lunch, and a great place to watch the sunset. The nearby bar will sell you a drink to go (para llevar) to take to the garden.

The views across the Ebro Valley to Logroño are spectacular, and you can spot the camino as it winds its way across to that city.

The walls

If you (carefully!) look over the edge, you will see the great walls of the old fortified Viana. Viana was the frontier town between the ancient kingdom of Navarra and Castilla, who was the enemy. The Ebro river in Logroño was the de facto border between the two kingdoms, and this spot was ideal for seeing the enemy advancing. To see the walls from below, follow the camino of the old centre, and as you pass through the gate, you will come across an end house which is weirdly round in shape. This is because it was a defensive tower protecting that gateway (see the old plan of the village in photos). Turn left at the roundhouse and walk for 150m and you will be at the foot of the walls.

The church was bombed and damaged in during the Carlista wars in the early 1800s. In 1844, after some poorly done extension work, the church collapsed.

Buen camino!

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