Roncesvalles (often listed as Orreaga, its name in Euskera) is a small village and site of the Battle of Roncesvalles (or Battle of Roncevaux Pass) when Charlemagne’s army, under the command of Roland, was attacked and overcome by Basque soldiers in AD 778. This battle became the inspiration for one of France’s most revered literary poems, Le Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland), written in the 11th century.
The village's strategic position, 23 km (14 miles) from the original starting line of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, has made it the first stop-off point for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago since the 10th century. Its Gothic Colegiata—built in the style of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris—hospital, and 12th-century chapel have provided shelter since then. This part of the camino offers up some of the best scenery, and many modern-day pilgrims start in Roncesvalles.