The Church of Saint Mary of Eunate is a 12th-century Romanesque church located about 2 km south-east of Muruzábal, Navarre, Spain, on the Way of Saint James. Its origins are disputed due to lack of documentation. Its octagonal plan and the fact that it is not located in a present-day village or town but in the countryside contribute to its enigmatic nature. It is a famous site on the French Way path of the Camino de Santiago.
The church is built of dressed stone and its plan is a slightly irregular octagon with a little three-side apse. It presents the typical architectural features of the European Romanesque art (dressed-stone masonry, robust walls, semicircular arches, little windows made of alabaster, etc.) as well as some other local Romanesque characteristics like the chessboard-shape decoration in Navarre and Aragon.
Its eight walls sustain an eight-rib vault, inspired in Cordova's caliphate art. This structure is very similar to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Torres del Río, Navarre, 55 km far from Eunate and also on the Way of Saint James. The whole building is surrounded by arches that seem to have been partially reconstructed more recent than the original construction of the church. They may have been built centuries later using rests of a hypothetical now disappeared cloister.
The church is a hermitage dedicated to the Virgin Mary and people from all of the Valdizarbe valley celebrate a traditional romería there. This function is the only unquestioned known use of the building as it is the only one that is documented. The early documented reference to Eunate dates from 1487 and refers to a sodality devoted to the Virgin of Eunate. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the building, its location on the Way of Saint James and the comparison with other coetaneous religious buildings demands further explanation about the origin of the church.
Since the late 19th century, there have been several theories about the original function and authorship of Eunate. Due to its octagonal plan, the first theories stated that Eunate was a Templar church, related to other central plan churches like the above mentioned Holy Sepulchre of Torres del Río, and other undoubtedly Templar buildings like the Templar convent of Tomar, the Temple Church of London or the Holy Sepulchre of Pisa; all of them inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. This alleged Templar origin and the aura of mystery that surrounds the church have contributed to esoteric interpretations. While the presence of Knights Templar in this zone of Navarre is not documented, the importance of another military order, the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem or Knights Hospitaller, that could have operated a hospital ('hostel') for pilgrims to Santiago, is well known. Archaeological excavations have found many burials and the typical St. James' shells.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.