Puente la Reina – The Roman Bridge
On the Camino there’s some examples of architecture so full of history and character that you can’t miss. The 11th Century Romanesque bridge Puente la Reina is one these. Built by a medieval queen for pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela, this beautiful bridge whispers its own legends!
The small town of Puente la Reina lies just as the routes of the Aragonese way and French way come together – between Pamplona and Estella. In the 11th Century the Queen and wife of King Sancho the Great decided to build the huge 110m, 6 arch bridge to help pilgrims pass over the river Arga. Puente la Riena literally means ‘Bridge of the Queen’.
The Legend of the Txori (bird)
An image of the Virgin Mary of Puy used to adorn the bridge in a small shrine. It was difficult to clean, and over time cobwebs began to cover it. It is said that a bird came and, taking water from the river, cleaned it and removed the cobwebs with its beak. Whenever the people of the town saw this, they would hold a celebration and ring out all the bells. Unfortunately, since 1843 the image has been housed in a local Church – San Pedro – so you won’t get a chance to witness the devoted bird first hand!
Following in the Footsteps of History
It is remarkable that a bridge constructed 1000 years ago is still in use today. What is even more remarkable is to think of all the pilgrims that you are following. It is believed by some that even Saint Francis of Assisi would have passed over this bridge when making the pilgrimage in 1214! You can read more about famous pilgrims who may have passed over this bridge in this article.
The town of around 2500 people, which came to become known as Puente la Reina after its famous bridge, is well worth exploring. There are a couple of occasions each year which are particularly interesting. It holds a festival every year between the 24th and 30th of July for its patron saints. Also, on the last weekend in September there are markets and ‘pitchfork races’.
If you spend some time in town the must see places are the Church of the Crucifix, the Church of Santiago, Plaza Mena and finally the Church of Saint Peter (San Pedro). In the Church of Saint Peter (San Pedro) you can find the same image of the Virgin Mary of Puy from the legend we mentioned earlier.