Castillo de Villamayor de Monjardin

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Sierra Urbasa to the north of the Camino

the castle of San Esteban de Deyo watches over the town of Villamayor du Monjardin, which was likely established by Sancho el Fuerte at the end of the 12th century. the base of the castle is likely Roman, though it’s been reconstructed many times over the centuries — and was host to some kind of construction work when we saw it — and was one of the last strongholds of the Banu Qasi Muslims in the region, who were ultimately defeated in the 10th century. one version of events contends that Sancho Garces (of whom there was a statue near where we stopped for our mid-morning snack) captured the castle and town from the Moors in 914; another (a propaganda vehicle for French interests in Iberia, apparently) holds that Charlemagne defeated a Navarran prince who was holed up in the castle before going on to Najera to fight Ferragut.

the area was under Moorish control towards the end of the first millennium and there’s a fountain and/or cistern just outside the town to whom the Moors are said to have constructed. it’s been rebuilt and is rather picturesque, if not entirely enticing as a source to refill one’s water pack.

Fuente de Moros outside Villamayor

there are a surprising number of “Villamayors” in Spain (we stayed in another 20 days after this segment) and so, to mitigate the understandable confusion, in 1908 the Spanish government amended the names of all the Villamayors — often with the name of a nearby geographical feature, such as the hill upon which the castillo sits here.

interestingly, after a steady decline throughout the twentieth century, in the last thirty years the town’s population has grown. granted, that growth took it from 113 inhabitants in 1981 to 139 inhabitants in 2011.

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.