Text and photo: Antonio Colmenar
8 kilometres away from the locality of Sangüesa, in which is called Navarra media, there is an imposing medieval fortress, the Castle of Xavier, birthplace of saint Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Society of Jesus, patron of Navarra, of the missionary life and tourism in Spain for his great adventure in the 16th century in exotic and dangerous land of the Far East, from India to Japan, among Malay pirates and Japanese samurais.
The silhouette drawn by the crenelated towers of the Castle of Xavier cuts the horizon. It is built in the living rock and, every year, at the beginning of March, it gathers thousands of Navarre people in the popular pilgrimage known as ‘Javierada’.
A drawbridge takes tourists into a world of towers, dungeons, machicolations, embrasures and loopholes, and it will allow them to know the place where Saint Francis Xavier was born in 1506. This castle was created as a tower of signs and surveillance between the 10th and 11th centuries. Due to the existence of fresh water in its tank, different spaces were added to the keep or tower of Saint Michael.
The front area included majestic rooms and the back part was prepared for storerooms, granaries and other services. In 1516, cardinal Cisneros ordered to demolish the outer walls surrounding the fortress after the annexation of the Kingdom of Navarre to Castile and Aragón, as well as to cut the towers, to block up moats with stones from the crenels, to disable machicolations and loopholes, and to destroy drawbridges.
The enclave was unusable until in 1892 and 1952, when restoration works took place, which gave it back the appearance it has today. The visit to the chapel allows admiring the beautiful walnut image of the Saint Christ, of the 14th century, which, according to tradition, sweated blood during the difficult times of Saint Francis Xavier’s life, being the last time the day of his death.