The commune of Urdax (Urdazubi in Basque language) is located in the north west of the Navarre region, forming a border with France. On the north side of the Pyrenees, this commune with the neighbouring ones of Zugarrramurdi and Valcarlos are the last remains of the continental part of the ancient kingdom of Navarre. The village actually counts around 400 residents who are distributed between the center of the village and its 5 surrounding neighbourhoods.
Urdazubi / Urdax was established at around the XVth century under the Monastery of Saint Sauveur which was already present for a few previous centuries. In 1774, the villages becomes independent from the monastery and is declared free.
It was established in the IXth century and was originally an hospital for the Saint Jacques way Saint Augustin’s pilgrims.
At the end of the XIIth century and at the beginning of the XIIIth century it is included in the order of the praemonstratensis.
The Monastery’s abbots were lords of the villages of Zugarramurdi and Urdax and had say and right to vote in the court of the Navarre’s kingdom. The monastery underwent two big fires ; in 1526 when Navarre lost its independence (it was one of its last bastion) and in 1793 (the convention’s war). In this last fire, the library burned and more than 9000 books were destroyed.
In the monastery, we can find the cloister which can be visited at the same time as the mill (guided visit). In 2005, an hospital for pilgrims was established at the top of the cloister.
As mentioned previously, the village was established the protection of the monastery and this fact can be observed in its distribution.
There is two houses in the village’s center that confirm this fact :
The mill, was created to produce flour and is fed by the water of a bief. Its last part was built with slabs of stone cuts (little victory of “civil engineering” of this era). The mill can be visited at the same time as the cloister (guided visit).
The house Kupelategia (or barrel workshop) was the house where monks produced cider.
In the surrounds of the village, the monastery had two forges; Gaineko ola (or higher workshop) and Beitiko ola (or lower workshop).
One of the main works of the Basque literature is Gero of Aluxar, described by Villasante “long lasting work and that over successive fashion and school remains like a permanent monument that honours the language in which it was written”.
The author, pedro Aguerre Azpilikueta, born in1556 in Urdazubi / Urdax at the farm Axular which was then the property of the Monastery of Saint Sauveur. In this family there was very renowned Navarre people like the well known theologian, doctor Martin Azpilikueta Jauregizar, born in 1492 at the Barasoaïn’s castle or even Saint François Xavier, son of the families Jaso-Azpilikueta. This family’s situation will allow the young Axular to follow philosophical and theological studies in Salamanca and obtain a theological diploma.
Priest in the neighbouring commune of Sare (Labourd), his reputation through the years grew. He was a great speaker and played several times as a mediator between Bayonne and Pamplona’s bishops. Although, his most renowned work was to lead the school of Sare which was then a literature’s forum.
It is a quite a beautiful natural cave, made of numerous cavities related between each other. The caves are crossed by the Urtxume’s stream and through the years with the draughts help, a sculptural unity was formed in its rooms, made of stalagtites and stalagmites.
The 30 minutes path is well lit and its visit is guided.
It stay open to the public from Easter to the end of October, the rest of the year a booking of a visit is necessary.
The Berraberria’s caves are very closed to the Urdax’s caves and even if they present a significant pre-historical interest and are the most analysed in Navarre, are unfortunately closed to the public. They present Magdalenean’s levels of deposits with parietal’s paintings discovered in 1930 by N. Casteret and a pre-historical deposit discovered by J.M. Barandiaran in 1935. There were lived in between the years of 30 000 and 20 000 before J.C.
One of the ancient parts of the saint Jacques parts goes through Urdax and is named the Baztan’s path. It was mainly used by pilgrims who landed at the port of Bayonne to join the selling people’s caravan on there way to Pamplona. The monastery of Urdax offered bed an meals to these pilgrims.
This path goes through a very beautiful part of the Pyrenees. It is not difficult to imagine an extremely green valley where pastures, beech and oak forests form an harmonious whole, a humid valley where winter mist brings people to warm themselves up on front of the fire listening to local stories about legendary witches from Zugarramurdi and Urdax. The pilgrims enter then the Navarre’s grounds. Nowadays, there is an hostel for pilgrims at the Monastery, on the cloister’s floor.
Xaretat is a small valley, which has always been a place of livelihood between residents of the border’s villages of Aïnhoa, Sare, Urdax and Zuggaramurdi. The territory is located on the north side of the Pyrenees and at a few kilometres from the ocean. Moreover being a group of districs, Xareta has a very strong cultural identity, because of the connection of their residents, who have never paid attention to the border. A lot of their residents are related by family connections and even the secondary roads were traced without taking in count the existing customs.
In the old days, contraband was one of the main activities in the territory of Xareta.
- The descent can be done walking, following the existing tracks on the French side. We can stop at the fort of Korralhandia, where the Marechal Soult stopped Sir Wellington’s English troops after the independence war. Nowadays it plays as a shelter for goats.
- You will enjoy beautiful views on a narrow path goes around the steep slope of the stream Galardiko Eureka, and ends at the little train station. Count a good hour for the walk at a calm rhythm. People who are not used to walk can do the return by train.
- The caves: In Sare, we find the last prehistorical caves of Xareta They were lived in 45000 years ago. With the caves of Urdax and Zugarramurdi, they are part of an interesting program of visits. Furthermore, a well indicated path joins three caves through old tracks.
- The train : Between Sare and Ascain, at the Saint Ignace pass, we find the train or little train which brings us to the top of La Rhune. It was inaugurated on June 30th 1924, this fact was at the time, a real event. The carriages are still the same ones and were build in wood of pine and chestnut from the area. A local newspaper from these days announced that the train was going up at the incredible speed of 8 km / hour, nowadays it still goes at the same speed.
Here is a small list of several attractions that are reachable within an hour drive from Urdax:
- Saint Jean de Luz: very pleasant town with a very strong fishing tradition and pedestrian streets filled with shops.
- Biarritz: Holiday town for European kings and aristocrats until the beginning of the XXth century.
- Bayonne: Not like in Biarritz, Bayonne is the people’s town is humble and this characteristic shows in its architecture.
- Cambo Les Bains: Thermal town with the Arnaga’s museum which used to be the house of Edmond Rostand, author of books as “Cyrano de Bergerac”
- Espelette: Calm district were we can find the Castle of the Baron of Ezpeleta and several shops.
- Saint Jean Pied de Port: Beautiful fortified town located in the ancient kingdom of Navarre.
A valley with villages, places and landscapes which are interesting for visitors to discover at any time of the year.
Near the bidassoa river, we find the domain of Bertiz, natural area of 2040 hectares with mansions, gardens and a large vegetal mass with numerous exotic species. Its exceptional beauty has to be seen.
- Forest of Iraty
- Quinto Real
- Bera / Vera
- Fonterrabie / Fontarrabia
- Pampelune / Pamplona
- Saint Sebastien / San Sebastian
- And lots of other places to discover