Capilla de Sancti Spiritus de Roncesvalles

Point of interest en Roncesvalles

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Capilla de Sancti Spiritus de Roncesvalles

Sancti Spiritus Chapel, image from Wikimedia Commons

Sancti Spiritus Chapel, image from Wikimedia Commons

The Camino of Santiago could not begin in an arbitrary place without history, and Roncesvalles has witnessed many centuries of history. One of the architectural testimonies of the past of Roncesvalles can be found in the Chapel of Sancti Spiritus, also called Silo of Carlomagno.

The origin of the chapel

According to the legend, this building was created by Charlemagne to bury Roland and other French combatants who fell with him at the battle of Roncesvalles, in the year 778. Another legend testifies that it was there where Charlemagne stuck his sword when he was defeated by the Vascones. in that battle. Hence the alternative name of the chapel.

The building that stands on this site dates back to the 12th century, making it the oldest building in Roncesvalles. There is a record of a pilgrim hospital next to the chapel, which opened in 1132, but it is not currently preserved. There were masses dedicated to the pilgrims who died in the hospital officiated in the chapel, and their remains were deposited in an ossuary under the chapel, which is still preserved.

The architecture of the Chapel of Sancti Spiritus

This chapel stands out for its pyramidal dome in two levels, and for its portico with semicircular arches. Its entire style is Romanesque, the style of the time in which it was built. It has a square floor plan and is completely covered by a simple ribbed vault. Its interior is surprising, since it is a dome that we did not expect having seen the hipped roof.

It is the oldest construction that is preserved in Roncesvalles, and we already see that its history goes back way before its construction. The well on which it sits had the function of an osario, and is from the same period. This can be identified by its masonry barrel vault. Next to it is the church of Santiago, but it is later, as its Gothic style reveals.

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