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History

The Vascons and General Gnaeus Pompey Magnus

Surrounded by mountains, the plain of the basin of Pamplona has always favoured human settlement. Stone tools have been found on the terraces of the River Arga dating from some 75,000 years ago. In approximately the first millennium BC, there already existed a Vascon settlement beneath the modern-day city. This settlement gave rise to the name Iruña, Basque for "the city". 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.

A kingdom in the hands of the clergy

Pamplona fell into the hands of the Visigoths and the Moors between the IV and IX centuries. In the X century, the noble clans gained sufficient autonomy as to form the Kingdom of Pamplona, the name of which was a tribute to the symbolic importance of the city, then considered the “soul of the land of the Vascons”, in political and religious terms. For more than three hundred years, the head of the capital was not the king, but rather the bishop. This was the result of a donation by Sancho Garcés II Abarca as a sign of his gratitude to God for the help received against the Moors and was then ratified by successive monarchs.

Three walled boroughs

At the end of the XI century, the monarchs from the Aragonese dynasty (Sancho Ramírez, Pedro I, Alfonso I) made great efforts to reconquer and repopulate the land. The arrival of the Franks or “burgueses” (emigrants devoted to trade and craftsmanship) meant that Pamplona was no longer just a large village with a cathedral. Meanwhile, internal tensions started. Before 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 so, the Borough of San Cernin was born. These inhabitants kept themselves apart from the older Navarrese inhabitants and the privileges they received from the king in 1129 widened still further the distance between them.

The Privilege of the Union

The XII century saw the arrival of the Settlement of San Nicolás, based around a new parish church, populated by new immigrants. Navarrería, where the "navarros" lived, received its privilege of Franks and the annex of San Miguel in 1189. The nobility, living in Navarrería and supported by the bishop, backed the alliance with Castile, while those living in San Cernin and San Nicolás preferred the French solution. The three centres of population fought until 1423, when King Carlos III the Noble transformed the three boroughs into a single body. Jurería and a new Town Hall were built, a new coat of arms for the city was designed and the construction of fortifications within the city was forbidden.

Fortified enclave

After the conquest of Navarre and its inclusion within Castile in 1512-1515, Pamplona became one of the Spanish Crown’s outposts on the French border. The constant objective of the next three centuries was to hold the border against possible invasion. Fortifications and walls were a vital system of defence which, at the same time, prevented the city from spreading. The Citadel and the new walled city (XVI- XVIII century) lent Pamplona, more than ever, the mark of a city-fort.

The neoclassical reforms

At the beginning of the XVIII century, society was still highly traditional. A good part of the citizens belonged to the aristocracy and the clergy, almost a quarter worked the land and a third of the population were small artisans. From an industrial viewpoint, only the existence of a cloth factory, a paper mill and a gunpowder mill were worthy of mention. As of 1750, Pamplona sought modernisation. A new Town Hall, sewers, a running water system, fountains, a Neo-classical façade for the cathedral, an urban explosion which was not interrupted by the Napoleonic invasion of 1808 and only ended with the 1813 War of Independence. Napoleon’s troops were the only ones ever to take the Citadel.

Liberals and Carlists at war

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, however, supported the liberals, although part of the population sympathised with the Carlist cause. Pamplona’s active bourgeoisie and civil servant bureaucracy managed to find room for their ideas in the reform of the ancient privileges (Ley Paccionada of 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 (literally, ”widening”). 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

The XX century was the century of expansion. Cultural, social, economic, technological and urban growth. Today, Pamplona is a city with effective social services, good education and health systems, areas given over to leisure, high industrial activity and a consolidated communications network. In brief, a modern city with a high quality of life.

©Pamplona City Council. Consistorial square s/n 31001 - Pamplona (Navarra) - 948 420 100 - pamplona@pamplona.es

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