Spain - Navarra

Navarre (Spanish: Navarra; Basque: Nafarroa), officially the Chartered Community of Navarre (Spanish: Comunidad Foral de Navarra [komuniˈðað foˈɾal de naˈβara]; Basque: Nafarroako Foru Komunitatea [nafaroako foɾu komunitatea]), is an autonomous community in northern Spain, bordering the Basque Country, La Rioja, and Aragon in Spain and Aquitaine in France. The capital city is Pamplona (or Iruña in Basque).


During the Roman Empire, the Vascones, a pre-Roman tribe who populated the southern slopes of the Pyrenees occupied the area which would ultimately become Navarre. In the mountainous north, the Vascones escaped large-scale Roman settlement, but not so in the flatter areas to the south, which were amenable to large-scale Roman farming.

Neither the Visigoths nor the Moors ever completely subjugated the area. In AD 778, the Basques defeated a Frankish army in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. Two generations later, in 824, the chieftain Iñigo Arista was elected King of Pamplona, laying a foundation for the later Kingdom of Navarre. That kingdom reached its zenith during the reign of Sancho III of Navarre and covered the area of the present-day Navarre, Basque country, and La Rioja, together with parts of modern Cantabria, Castile and León, and Aragon.

After Sancho III died, the Kingdom of Navarre was divided between his sons. It never fully recovered its political power, although its commercial importance increased as the traders and pilgrims traversed the Camino de Santiago, which crossed the kingdom. Navarre fought beside other Christian Spanish kingdoms in the decisive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, after which the Muslim conquests in the Iberian Peninsula were slowly reduced to the small territory of Granada in 1252. Because of its strategic location, Navarre often fought to maintain its integrity against the stronger kingdoms to its east (Aragon) and west (Castille). Its royal family intermarried with French nobles, but the Navarrese kept their strong town-based democratic traditions, which not only kept the roads maintained, but also limited aristocratic power. In 1469, the marriage of Queen Isabella of Castile-León and King Ferdinand of Aragon-Catalonia unified those kingdoms into what became the kingdom of Spain. While their military attentions remained focused on the remaining Muslim kingdom in the south, Navarre's days too seemed numbered. Efforts to merge the mountain kingdom into the newly formed Kingdom of Spain by marriage ultimately failed.

In 1515, after the War of the League of Cambrai, the bulk of Navarre south of the Pyrenees (Upper Navarre) was at last absorbed into Spain, but retained some autonomy. Navarre's royal family fled into the small portion of Navarre lying north of the Pyrenees (Lower Navarre), and their military attempts to regain their kingdom failed. Queen Jeanne d'Albret became a famous Huguenot and her son became King Henry IV of France, founder of the House of Bourbon dynasty, a branch of which much later came to rule Spain. With the declaration of the French Republic and execution of Louis XVI, the last King of France and Navarre, the kingdom was merged into a unitary French state.


Navarre is a mixture of its Vasconic tradition, the Trans-Pyrenean influx of people and ideas and Mediterranean influences coming from the Ebro. The Ebro valley is amenable to wheat, vegetables, wine, and even olive trees as in Aragon and La Rioja. It was a part of the Roman Empire, inhabited by the Vascones, later controlled on its southern fringes by the Muslims Banu Qasi, whose authority was taken over by the taifa kingdom of Tudela in the 11th century.

During the Reconquista, Navarre gained little ground at the expense of the Muslims, since its southern boundary had already been established by the time of the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. Starting in the 11th century, the Way of Saint James grew in importance. It brought pilgrims, traders and Christian soldiers from the North. Gascons and Occitanians from beyond the Pyrenees (called Franks received self-government and other privileges to foster settlement in Navarrese towns, and they brought their crafts, culture and Romance languages.

Jews and Muslims were persecuted both north and south of Navarre, expelled for the most part during the late 15th century to the early 16th century. The kingdom struggled to maintain its separate identity in 14th and 15th centuries, and after King Fernando forcibly annexed Navarre after the death of his wife Queen Isabella, he extended the Castilian expulsion and forcible integration orders appplicable to conversos and mudejars of 1492 to the former kingdom. Therefore, Tudela in particular could no longer serve as a refuge after the Inquisitors were allowed.


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