The Camino… by sea

When talking about the Camino de Santiago, one usually thinks of backpacks, walking staffs and pilgrims striding through fields and towns. However, it’s more than likely that some pilgrims in centuries past took that voyage through the sea… or at least, that is the excuse that four irish adventurers used when starting a similar adventure in a naomhóg (irish traditional boat).

Dómhnall Mac Síthigh and his three colleagues began this adventure two years ago starting from their residence in Kerry, in southwestern Ireland. Rowing and sailing, they followed the irish coast up to Wales and Cornwall, and then crossed the Channel to Brittany (France); from there, it was just a “simple” matter of following then the european coast until Santiago.

This year, after two summers spent at sea, they finished their odyssey at the Basque Country, and next year they expect to start again their trip for the third year in a row, for the final stage along Spain’s northern coast.

Santa María de Eunate

Of all the monuments that the pilgrim can find along the Camino de Santiago (St. James Way), one of the most original is probably the Church of Saint Mary of Eunate, one of the greatest achievements of spanish romanesque architecture.


How to arrive.

Eunate is located 2 km. of Muruzábal, in Navarra. If you are following the Camino Francés, once you reach said town you can take a detour towards the church, instead of going straight to Obanos. Once in the church, you don’t need to backtrack to Muruzábal to go back to the Camino; you can follow the N6064 until you reach Obanos and Puente La Reina.

Why it is special.

The church of Eunate (one hundred doors, in the Basque language) is a romanesque construction from the 12th century, although there’s a lot still unknown about its origins. Since it’s outside the town, and archaeological excavations have found scallops (symbols of pilgrimage) in the burials alongside the church, it’s been speculated that it was used as a hospice for pilgrims.

(Pictures courtesy of TaxNavarra).

The most original feature in this building, aside of the arches that surround it, is its octagonal plan, extremely unusual in romanesque art. This plan, similar to that of other churches founded by the Knights Templar all across Europe, has caused all sort of theories and legends about its association with said military order, despite the lack of evidence.

The legend of Eunate and Olcoz.

Regarding this church and a similar one in the nearby town of Olcoz, there is an interesting legend, which we will recount at a later time…