Discover the heritage and history of the Basque Country with Ospitalea

Visite du bâtiment

Discover Ospitalea, the best way to immerse yourself in Basque heritage!

Ospitalea? This evocative name refers to the Centre Départemental d’Éducation au Patrimoine in Irissary. It is located in the heart of Basse-Navarre, at the foot of Mount Baigura. Managed by the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département, it is a former 17th-century commandery founded by the knights of the Order of Malta.

Today, this educational tourist site organizes art exhibitions, exciting events, numerous fun workshops and a variety of shows. The aim? To introduce visitors to the Basque region’s fabulous heritage and its centuries-old history… while bringing the region into the present and future.

Generation Voyage invites you to discover a place that is both mysterious and open to the world… We look forward to seeing you there!

Introducing Ospitalea

History of the site

Histoire du lieu

Photo credit: Pierre Carton

Ospitalea (« hospital » in Basque) is an ancient commandery founded by the Knights of the Order of Malta. They are also known as the Knights Hospitallers, hence the name! Built from 1603 onwards, its purpose, like that of the other commanderies, was to ensure the territorial organization of the Order. They collected tithes, taxes and donations to finance their activities.

Despite its name, Ospitalea was never used as a home or care facility: it was in fact a remarkably large agricultural farm. The architecture is entirely inspired by Bas-Navarro models of the time. We owe this space to the commander of the time, Martin de Larrea. He entrusted the construction of Ospitalea to Juanes de Landagaray, a mason from Irissarry. We can still be surprised by the great care he took in his work.

Under the French Revolution, Ospitalea became private property, and was offered to private individuals. Thanks be to them, it was preserved for several centuries in a state close to that of the early 17th century. 200 years later, in 1980, the building was listed as a Historic Monument.

The Département des Pyrénées-Atlantiques acquired the building in 1981, with a view to preserving and promoting the local heritage. Opened to the public in September 2002 after two years of restoration, it now houses the Centre Départemental d’Education au Patrimoine (C.D.E.P.). Its aim? To make the heritage and history of the Basque Country accessible to as many people as possible. Find out now why we recommend you join us!

Building tour

Visite du bâtiment

Photo credit: Ospitalea

Upon arrival, visitors are immediately struck by the building’s colossal appearance. Above the main entrance door is a lapidary inscription in Spanish. It justifies the building’s construction and frames a coat of arms surrounded by two angels. The south door features an inscription mentioning the year in which construction began, as well as a Maltese cross. Entrance to the building is via a room known as the  » ezkaratz « .

It’s through this space, which is both a place of farm work and daily life, that you enter the other rooms. The tour begins in Ospitalea’s former kitchen, which opens onto an ancient stable facing west. This layout protected the inhabitants from the weather coming in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Histoire du lieu

Photo credit: Pierre Carton

Today, it serves as a media library. The first-floor landing features elements of the former commander’s apartment, which today houses the workshops. Walls and beams are covered with lime. The apartment in question consisted of a bedroom (the back room) and a large workroom. But the Commander of Ospitalea lived mainly in Pamplona, visiting Ospitalea only a few times a year. The stonework around the fireplaces is impressive. The same care was taken with the entrance doors.

Further on, a former hayloft is now used for conferences, seminars, shows and other events. Also noteworthy are the superb framework and the pulleys which, hanging on the wall, were used to haul up bales of hay until the 20th century. The rooms are dedicated to school groups.

Temporary exhibitions

Heritage, street-art & patrimony

Héritage, street-art & patrimoine

Photo credit: Ospitalea

Old-fashioned Basque heritage? Is the culture of Lower Navarre medieval? Not at all! The Centre Départemental d’Éducation au Patrimoine Ospitalea will dust off your preconceived ideas. It welcomes you from August 4 to November 6, 2021 for  » Heritage, Street-art & Patrimoine « . In partnership with Bayonne’s Spacejunk art center, Ospitalea offers itself to the artist duo Sismikazot. The duo was formed some ten years ago by Rémi Tournier and Paul Soquet-Moreau. Here, these graphic poets will present their vision of the region, the sublime village of Irissary and its inhabitants. The performance takes the form of a series of temporary frescoes nibbling away at the public space. An original exhibition not to be missed!

Our two partners were largely inspired by the local population: the human being is at the heart of their vocation as artists. Sismikazot celebrates customs and traditions, age-old traditions and ancestral lifestyles… and connects them to our modern world, which, though very different, is obviously derived from them. The people of Irissary were actively involved in the creation of this unique show, sharing their daily lives and culture. Basque heritage is skilfully blended with figurative, abstract and written art. Want to find out more? You know where to go!

A place of culture open to all

Un lieu de culture ouvert à tous

Photo credit: Pierre Carton

To discover the wonders of Basque heritage, Ospitalea also organizes guided tours and fun workshops. Temporary events and shows throughout the year complete the educational offer. The building itself is well worth a visit.

Don’t be surprised if you come across flocks of schoolchildren during the school holidays. Classes on heritage trips are welcome here, to the great (and curious) delight of students of all ages. This cultural center welcomes a wide variety of visitors to immerse themselves in Basque heritage. The luckiest among them even sleep on site after a day’s treasure hunt (Terra Aventura) to discover the history of the village of Irissarry and the Commandery of the Knights Hospitallers.

Un lieu de culture ouvert à tous

Photo credit: Ospitalea

Guided tours of the surrounding area, writing workshops and shows also attract large numbers of visitors. Ospitalea even organizes trekking tours, including a package that allows you to follow the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela. Today’s pilgrims will discover the charm of Basse-Navarre as far as Ostabat. This village, which has welcomed pilgrims since the Middle Ages, is an enchantment! The highlight of the route is the Haranbeltz chapel, listed as a Historic Monument.

Opening hours and prices

The Centre Départemental d’Education au Patrimoine Ospitalea is open every day from Easter to All Saints’ Day, from 10am to 12:30pm and from 1:30pm to 5:30pm (except Sundays and public holidays). The rest of the year, the site is open from Monday to Friday. An annual closure is also planned for the Christmas vacations: rest assured, it only lasts two weeks!

Prices are more than reasonable, so you can discover Basque heritage whatever your budget. For a simple visit to the Commandery and temporary exhibitions, it’s simply… free!

For a guided tour of the commandery or temporary exhibitions, the cost is just €3. And only 5€ for a half-day heritage walk! There’s no charge for children under 8.

Please note, however, that these two packages must be booked in advance. Paid events must be paid for directly on site. Please note that the ticket office only accepts cheques and cash. Enjoy your visit!