Castle of the Week 6 – Javier Castle

Javier Castle is in the province of Navarre in the Basque region of Spain about 30km from Pamplona. It was originally constructed on a rocky hill in the 10th century as an Arab Fortress. However, there is virtually none of the original Arab buildings left. It had the double mission of being a bastion to protect the frontier and also a home for noblemen and knights. In later years it became a place of pilgrimage as it is possibly most famous as the birthplace on 7th April 1506 of St Francis Xavier (one of the founders of the Society of Jesus or Jesuits) who is the patron saint of Navarre and the missionary church.

The keep is the oldest known fortification in Navarre and was built at the end of the 10th century. The rest of the castle evolved around it in a semi-circular shape with 2 side towers in the 11th century and completed by the early 16th century with trenches and walls. It was restored in the 1950s and converted into a museum in 1986.

You enter through the main gate with the Javier family’s coat of arms on the wall. In the courtyard are the jail and well. In the Santo Cristo Chapel is a 14th Century carved wooden figure of Christ which, as legend has it, is said to have sweated blood on the day St Francis Xavier died. A medieval ‘dance of death’ is painted on the walls of the chapel – the only remaining example in Spain. It also contains a 16th century multi-coloured alabaster altar-piece of the Adoration of the Magi.

In the Chaplain’s Room there’s a permanent exhibition of religious art, historical documents & objects from the castle’s history including a collection of 14th century Japanese kimonos. The castle is now maintained by Jesuit priests.

Written by GillB. Photos courtesy of Sanda Kaufman.

For those of you that want to know more about Saint Francis Xavier, here’s a link to his life’s story as told by the Catholic Encyclopedia.