Pamplona with its 190.000 inhabitants is the capital city of the region Navarra in north Spain and is located on a natural plateau 449 metres above sea level. It covers around 24 square kilometers surrounded with mountains of around 1,000 meters such as San Cristóbal with 892 metes. There are three rivers around the city; the Arga, the Elorz and the Sadar.
Pamplona”s climate is full of contrast as temperatures can rise above 35 C degrees in July and August and fall below 0 in January. The average temperature is 12.4 C. The change from winter to spring and from summer to autumn tends to be sudden and the city can be windy and rainy during autumn and snowy in winter.
Pamplona has always favoured human settlement and stone tools and other remains have been found dating 75,000 years ago. In the first millennium BC a Basque settlement already existed which can be found beneath the modern-day city. The basque called it Iruña which means “the city” in Euskera.
The Roman General Gnaeus Pompey Magnus arrived in 75 BC and founded a Roman-model city. He gave it its name, Pompaelo, and enhanced its function as a strategic link between the peninsula and Europe. Pamplona became a prosperous Roman city where street lighting, sewage and walls were introduced as well as law and Mediterranean crops.
Pamplona was invaded by Visigoths and the Moors between the IV and IX centuries. In the X century, the noble clans gained autonomy and formed the Kingdom of Pamplona considered the “Soul of the land of the Vascons”. For over 300 years, the head of the capital was the bishop, a privilege given by Sancho Garcés II Abarca as a sign of gratitude to God for the help received against the Moors.
At the end of the XI century the monarchs Sancho Ramírez, Pedro I and Alfonso I from the Aragonese dynasty, made great efforts to reconquer and repopulate the land. With the arrival of the Franks “burgueses” devoted to trade and craftsmanship, Pamplona became an important city where boroughs started taking shape.
Internal tensions among boroughs started around 1100, Frenchmen from the Midi, devout followers of Saint Saturnine to whom they dedicated their church and the name of the new district, settled to the west of the old city and founded the Borough of San Cernin. These French inhabitants kept themselves and apart from the older Navarrese inhabitants due to the privileges they received from the king in 1129 and these unfortunately widened still further the distance with the other boroughs.
The XII century saw the arrival of the Settlement of San Nicolás, populated by new immigrants from other kingdoms around Navarra and based around a new parish church, the castle looking Church of San Nicolas. The Borough of Navarrería, the area around the Cathedral where the “navarros” lived, received its privilege of the Franks and the annex of San Miguel in 1189. The nobility, living in Navarrería supported the bishop and backed the alliance with Castile, while those living in San Cernin and San Nicolás preferred the French solution.
The three centers of population fought among them until 1423, when King Carlos III the Noble proclaimed The Priviledge of the Union and transformed the three boroughs into just one single walled city. He built the new Jurería and the New Town Hall in the middle of the three boroughs, in “no man land” and he designed a new coat of arms for the city and he outlawed the construction of fortifications within the city. Peace was finally achieved among the people of Pamplona.
After the conquest of Navarre by the Catholic Kings , Pamplona was incorporated to the Kingdom of Castile in 1512-1515, and became one of the Spanish Crown’s outposts on the French border. The idea was to support Pamplona in its primary objective which was to hold the border against possible invasions. For the following 300 years fortifications and walls built as a vital system of defense and as a way of preventing the city from spreading.
The Citadel and the new walled city (XVI- XVIII century) lent Pamplona the mark of a city-fort. At the beginning of the XVIII century, society was still highly traditional and a good part of the citizens belonged to the aristocracy and the clergy, a quarter worked the land and a third of the population were small artisans.
From an industrial viewpoint at that time, Pamplona only had few industries including a cloth factory, a paper mill and a gunpowder mill. From 1750, Pamplona sought modernization and many advances took place like new sewers, a running water system, fountains and a Neo-classical façade for the Cathedral.
The urban explosion was interrupted by the Napoleonic invasion of 1808 which finally ended with the 1813 War of Independence. Napoleon’s troops were the only ones ever to take the Citadel an exception that made of Pamplona an unconquered city for most of its history.
Following the War of Independence, liberal ideas began to take hold in Spain and Navarre in particular, suffered the consequences. A good part of the Kingdom backed the Carlists, defenders of absolutism and the regime dictated by ancient privilege. Pamplona supported the liberals, although part of the population sympathised with the Carlist. Pamplona’s active bourgeoisie and civil servant managed the reform of ancient privileges (Ley Paccionada 1841).
The Madrid Government tried to reduce Navarre’s fiscal autonomy and a huge demonstration was held in Pamplona in 1839. As a symbol of this spirit, the Monument to the Fueros (Privileges) was raised. Urban expansion began in 1888 with the construction of the I Ensanche. The best local architects of the day designed modernist projects for the area. The city remained entirely walled, however, until 1915, the year in which some of its walls were demolished.
The XX century was the century of expansion and superb cultural, social, economic, technological and urban growth. Today, Pamplona is a clean city with effective services, good autonomous education and health systems, and vast areas given over to leisure, high industrial activity and a consolidated communications network. In brief, a modern city with a high quality of life.
INFORMATION BY CITY COUNCIL @ PAMPLONA