The Romanesque chapel of Our Lady of Muskilda stands four kilometres from the picturesque Pyrenean village of Ochagavía
, in the Salazar valley in the north-east of Navarre. The church, built during the 12th century, stands at the summit of Mount Muskilda at an altitude of 1,025 metres. Its sobriety and elegance, imbued with the characteristic touches of the region's architecture, contrast with the lavish scenery that surrounds it, from which the mountains of the Sierra de Abodi emerge.
You can reach this delightful spot either on foot or by road. If you decide to go by car, take the road from Ochagavía to Izalzu. Just before you get to Izalzu, take the left-hand turn. If you would prefer a pleasant, peaceful stroll, take the path that leaves from the upper part of Ochagavía. Behind the church there is a steep cobbled street at the end of which you will find a track that runs for 6 kilometres, including the return, which starts the left-hand side and is signposted with white and green markings. Another option is to take the path of the Romerías (popular pilgrimages) on the right, which is steep but shorter.
According to tradition, the chapel was built on the spot where a young shepherd from the village, guided by one of his animals, found an image of the Virgin Mary. The story goes that one day the shepherd discovered a bull scrabbling at the ground next to an oak tree. When he approached, he found an image of the Virgin Mary there. After picking it up, he then had to leave it in the middle of the field because all his livestock had scattered. When he came back for it, the image had disappeared. The bull escaped once again, and found the image next to the oak once more. At that point, a walker passed by who suspected the young shepherd of having stolen the Marian carving, and took him and the image off to Ochagavía. The following morning, they had disappeared. Given the evidence, a basilica was built in the place where the carving was found; it now houses Our Lady of Muskilda, the patron saint of the Salazar Valley
The church was built in the 12th century
, but restored in the middle of the 17th century. The exterior will delight you with its rustic appearance. The tower, with its conical roof and wooden tiles, follows the traditional building style in this region. It has two entrance doors; the main one being notable for its marked Romanesque style.
Inside the rectangular church there are three naves presided over by the high altar. In the centre is the image of Our Lady of Muskilda, a 60-centimetre-high Gothic carving from the 15th century in gilded and coloured wood. It represents a happy, smiling Virgin Mary. The high altar is separated from the nave by a 15th-century wrought iron grille. Pilgrimage to the chapel of Muskilda
The devotion that the local people feel for this image is closely connected with popular folklore. On 8th September
, coinciding with the festivities in honour of the patron saint of Ochagavía, a pilgrimage to the chapel takes place. The local authorities, dressed in regional costume, depart for the sanctuary accompanied by the Mayor and the village's group of dancers. If your visit to the area coincides with these dates, don't miss out on the opportunity to see the event. You will be struck by the originality of the dances and the colourful costumes worn by the eight dancers, led by the 'bobo', an outlandish character dressed like a harlequin.