because it is so close to the Castillian frontier, as well as along the Camino, Los Arcos became a toll-collecting station and place to change money. in the 12th century, the king authorized weekly markets and equalized rights between locals and immigrant Francos in an effort to encourage growth of the town. the proximity to Castilla also made it a frequent military target.
the town’s location — on a river with a hill overlooking and farmland spreading out — means it has likely been inhabited since Roman times. a castle protected the city on a hill to the northeast of the city beginning in the 12th century, but that didn’t stop Castilla and Navarra from periodically annexing and/or taking the town by force over the course of the next three hundred years. as elsewhere in the region, the Napoleonic and Carlist wars took their toll on the town, which played host to two battles during the first Carlist War (the one launched from Estella, some 20 kilometers away).
Los Arcos had a tidy, compact plaza in front of the Iglesia de Santa Maria where we enjoyed our afternoon restorative cervezas and, once the kitchen reopened, dinner. construction of the church occurred over six centuries, beginning around 1175. consequently the interior offers an array of decorative and architectural styles including Flamboyant and Flemish Gothic, Baroque, Mannerism, Churrigueresque, and Rococo. beyond the far end of the plaza is the Arco de Felipe V, the last remnant of the defensive system that protected Los Arcos from the 18th onwards.
our hike from Puente la Reina to Estella was rough. hot, sunny, sunburny and rough. and to add to all that, it turned out our hotel (with reasonably comfortable beds, I’ll admit) was an additional 1.5km off the Camino route — a 1.5km that I did not have any interest in traversing at the end of this day. the old center fit the examples set by previous villages with narrow, cobblestone streets and a steep, narrow footbridge over the rio Ega, which the town straddles. the town was founded in 1090 with a charter granted by the king of Pamplona to the fortified settlement of Lizarra (the Basque name for the town), with an eye to develop a merchant center and encourage Francos to settle down and provide services for peregrinos.
farming around the town thrived in the subsequent centuries; olives, grapes and orchards were chief producers directly outside of town, while wheat and grazing fields spread beyond. the biggest industry, however, was leather, and the ruins of tanneries were visible up into the 1970s. additional defensive castles joined the original fortifications to protect the city, which lasted until the late 16th century, when the castles of Navarra were destroyed to allow conquering armies to focus attention on defeating Pamplona to bring it under a unified Spanish crown.
during the 19th century, Estella was the center of the Carlist movement, which backed an alternate line of succession to the Spanish throne. the unpopular and otherwise childless Fernando II had a daughter with his fourth wife in 1830 and (because the Spanish crown allows for women to inherit the crown) bumped his popular brother Carlos out of the line of succession. his followers established the Partido Apostolico and took up arms against the Queen regent and the supporters of Isabella II.
the first war lasted seven years and ranged over most of Spain; don Carlos led an unsuccessful bid to take Madrid in 1837 that departed from Estella. the First Carlist War ended with the Treaty of Vergara in 1839; the Second lasted from 1846-1849; the Third from 1871-1876 following violence against Carlist electoral candidates. some argue that the Civil War stemmed from Carlist tensions and as a rejection of governmental secularism; there are areas of northern Spain where even today the red berets of the Carlists are worn as a symbol against secularism and in support of Catholic conservativism and regional autonomy.