The historic village of Ujué gives a great impression from a distance: a hill crowned by a monumental stone construction, and the houses grouped around the massive building. You need to get a little closer to discover that this building is both a church and a fortress and also that the key to the legendary origin of this town is kept inside.
According to tradition, a shepherd was looking after his sheep when he saw a dove coming in and out of a hole with persistence as if to draw attention to something inside. The shepherd moved closer and discovered an image of Saint Mary in the gap, and soon word spread through the area, so all the inhabitants wanted to move to the place where it was found to honour the Virgin.
That is as far as the legend goes. History adds that around the year 800 there was already a fortification here, built to fight the Muslims and that later, in the eleventh century, the Church of Santa María de Ujué was built by order of King Sancho Ramírez.
And of course, years later, another monarch arrived to make changes in the temple, he was French, and his name was Carlos II, "The Bad," and he was more into the Gothic style, although he left some original Romanesque elements. He also ordered the construction of crenellated towers and the walkways that surround the temple giving it the terrific appearance of a fortress which it still maintains today.
But despite its evil and well-deserved nickname, Carlos had devotion to the image of the Virgin of Ujué, a magnificent Romanesque carving that the king ordered to be covered in silver. A faith that, by the way, did not prevent him from dying in a rather silly way, when the rags soaked in alcohol with which he covered his body, to treat his health problems, caught fire by accident …
After all, and fulfilling his wishes, the heart of "The Bad" rests today in a chest at the foot of the Marian image in this village, his body lies in Pamplona and his organs in Roncesvalles. Desires quite hard to understand today, to be honest, but it was something very common among the French monarchs of that time.
We will also tell you that the temple-fortress of Ujué was saved by Cardinal Cisneros from being demolished. So we ought to him that it continues dominating the surrounding of the mountain range and giving shelter to the old houses that scatter around it and make up a beautiful village.
Ujué has gone through periods of splendour and decadence and has been pampered by several kings. Less than a hundred years ago, there was around fifteen hundred inhabitants. Today, however, there is one-tenth of that, but all its wonders are waiting for you intact.