San Miguel in Excelsis is a 1.000-year-old sanctuary built in the Sierra de Aralar, next to the top of Mount Artxueta. It is one of the best known sanctuaries in Navarre; a place of faith, tradition and also of legends.
Legend has it that, in the 8th century a knight named Theodosius lived in the Goñi valley. On his return to the castle after the war with the Arabs, he met a devil disguised as a hermit on the road, who made him believe his wife had cheated on him with a servant. Upon arriving home, the knight stabbed the couple lying in his bed, unaware that they were his parents. Horrified, the penance imposed by the pope was to walk through the mountains carrying a cross while being tied to chains until they broke. One day when he was in the Sierra de Aralar, a dragon appeared to him, so he invoked Saint Michael, who killed the beast and freed him from his chains. Theodosius is said to have erected the sanctuary, in which the chains are kept and the relic of the saint is venerated.
The current temple was built in the first half of the 12th century as an extension to a Romanesque building from the early 11th century. The austere and sober building houses a beautiful Romanesque altarpiece, a veritable jewel of European enamelling. In addition, inside is the titular image of San Miguel, covered with gilded silver, which is taken through hundreds of towns and parishes every year.
Access: The main access to the sanctuary is from the A-15 Pamplona – San Sebastián road. Take the Lekunberri exit – Lekunberri south 123, if reached from Pamplona, and Lekunberri north 126, if reached from San Sebastián. From the town of Lekunberri, turn south to take the NA-7510 road that leads to the sanctuary.