Friday, September 6, 2013

Incantato Favorite: Olite, Spain

Situated in the far north of Spain and bordering the Pyrenees Mountains is the region of Navarra. In the center of this green and mountainous region sits the town of Olite. It is a medieval and picturesque town with narrow streets lined by noble stone houses with coats of arms on their facades, many of which were built between the 16th and 18th centuries. As you take a stroll through the old part of town, you could also run into grandiose wooden eaves, medieval galleries and a number of splendid churches.
The town is surrounded by a Roman wall, and Roman remains from the 1st century have been found here, although Olite is thought to have been founded by the Goth King Suintila around 621. In the Middle Ages, Olite was the seat of the Royal Court of the kingdom of Navarra, first held in the year 1276. Due to its royal importance, the most striking and dominating feature of Olite is the Castle-Palace, which occupies one third of the medieval old town. The palace's thick walls were home to monarchs and princes and the Castle-Palace is the best example of civil Gothic architecture in Navarra and one of the most notable in Europe. It was declared a national monument in 1925. 
The complex is actually two palaces built next to each other. The old palace is from the 11th-13th centuries, although now only the walls and towers remain. The new palace dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries and represents a stunning example of French Gothic architecture. Even though it was heavily fortified on the outside, it was beautifully decorated by Mudejar artists on the inside with ceramic tiles and a marquetry ceiling. Today, the castle is a complex of courtyards, passages, large halls, royal chambers, battlements, and torrents. One of the more famous churches in Olite is the Gothic Iglesia de Santa Maria La Real, which dates back to the 13th century. It is situated partly in the palace and is the former royal chapel, and features a richly carved Gothic portal. 

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