Like many pilgrims who start at Roncesvalles, in 2002 we took the 6pm bus from Pamplona. On arrival we were bundled into the office to complete forms and buy a credential, then hustled up the stairs of the monastery to find a bed, hurried off to dinner and mass - by which time it was dark - and set off early the next morning to start walking el camino. We didn’t get to see anything of Roncesvalles and small though it is, it has a wonderful history and is worth a closer look. In 2004 we walked to Roncesvalles from Val Carlos and spent a lovely day there, visiting the museum and the cloisters, exploring the archaeological ruins of the old hospital and also some of the surrounding countryside. If you can't spend any time in Roncesvalles, visit the official website at http://www.roncesvalles.es. History tells us that the original hospice was at Ibaneta but was rendered unusable due to the violent weather of the pass and was moved to Roncesvalles in 1132. Surviving poems tell that the monks washed pilgrim's feet, cut their hair and trimmed beards while women volunteers tended to the sick. Roncesvalles' most holy relics are a Gothic reliquary that contains bones of more than 30 saints and a gold reliquary with 2 thorns from Jesus' crown of thorns. (There used to be eight). The 13thC Capilla de Santiago bell used to be rung at night to guide pilgrims coming down from the pass. And, it is said, you can still hear Roland's horn - Oliphant - calling mournfully at night!