Where the Pilgrims' Way to Santiago de Compostela enters Puente la Reina
, a town in the Central Zone of Navarre, the pilgrims stop at the little square on Calle del Crucifijo. Here stands the hostel of the Padres Reparadores, the former pilgrims' hospital, and the Church of the Crucifix. After crossing the road, the Pilgrims' Way continues along the Rúa Mayor to then leaves by the emblematic Romanesque bridge that gives the town its name.
The church dates back to the end of the 12th century and was founded with the name of Santa María de los Huertos by the Order of the Templars
. After they were expelled in 1312, the military order of St. John of Jerusalem took charge of their assets in the town in 1443. Around the middle of the 15th century, the convent of the Sisters of St. John was built next to the church, as well as a hospital for caring for pilgrims making their way to Compostela. The Brotherhood of the Crucifix took over hospital care in 1469, giving its name to the church. Having been abandoned for years during the Desamortizaciones (Disentailments-confiscation of church property) and the Carlist wars, the Padres Reparadores (Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) took charge of it in 1919, which enabled it to be preserved.
A notable feature on the outside is a covered passageway, or nartex
, which joins the church to the former pilgrims' hospital. The tower, on which construction started in medieval times, was completed in the 17th century.
Before going into the church, stop for a moment in front of its beautiful 13th-century doorway
. It contains three archivolts: the first is smooth, the second is decorated with pilgrims' scallop shells, and the third displays some curious figures, some of a moralising nature, such as angels, as well as birds, lions and a harpy, amongst other beasts.
On entering the Church of the Crucifix
, you will be able to appreciate the differences between the two naves: the original one from the 12th century and the extension from the 14th century. The older one, in Romanesque style, has five sections with a slightly pointed barrel vault roof. On the Evangelist side, another Gothic-style nave was subsequently built, with four sections covered by a pointed barrel vault.The Crucifix
In the apse of the Gothic nave you will have the opportunity to admire a huge crucifix, an exceptional work of Medieval religious imagery
. The beautiful Gothic carving, dating from the first half of the 14th century, has been associated with examples of Rhenish work due to its "Y" shape on wood that replicates a tree with the bark left on. You can also see the Italian influence in the exquisite treatment of Christ's facial features and the positioning of his feet. His expression of pain is notable, accentuated by his arms positioned in a very pronounced "V" shape and the strongly dynamic impression of his torso and feet.
Although the crucifix is attributed to the Templars, there is no evidence to confirm this, as the first document that makes reference to this piece dates from 1325 and the Templar Order was expelled in 1312. Legend tells that the crucifix was donated by some German pilgrims who, on returning from Santiago, wanted to show their thanks for the kind treatment they had received in the pilgrims' hospital in Puente la Reina by donating to the church the cross they had carried on their shoulders during their pilgrimage.