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The Camino de Santiago Vasco interior and its influence on the monumental complex of Igartza

By Aldabe – Igartzako Monumentu Multzoa | 11/02/2020

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The Igartza monument complex is known for being composed of seven different buildings belonging to the Middle Ages and Modern Ages. Each and every one of these buildings has a unique value, but this ends up being highlighted when they are grouped together. Yet we forget one of the most important elements in our whole set, namely the road. This route determines much of the evolution of our complex as it is part of the road from Santiago of the interior as it passes through the Basque Country. Our whole is therefore part of one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage routes.

Through the Basque Country there are two important routes of the Camino de Santiago. On the one hand, we have the Camino de Santiago de la Costa and, on the other hand, the Ruta Jacobea Vasca or Camino de Santiago Vasco del Interior. The coastal road is the most popular and the most elapsed, coming from the western part of France and crossing the border through Irun. Still, this popularity has not been constant throughout history, because between the 10th and 13th centuries this route was interrupted by the assaults of the Vikings. In addition, the Camino de Santiago de Interior, also known as the Camino de Santiago Francés (another of the most popular routes to realize the Camino de Santiago) had ceased to be safe by the Arab presence. It is for all this that the Camino de Santiago Vasco del Interior became a very late route in that period.

Our route consists of an average of 10 to 11 stages, which varies depending on the physical capacities of the pilgrims. In some cases this route is known as El Camino del Tunnel of San Adrián that passes through Guipúzcoa and Álava. Throughout 249.70 km is amazing the landscape so varied that it can be seen due to the geographical and natural diversity that abounds in the area, finding coastal areas, forests, saws, plains, rural areas and strongly industrialized spaces that live in harmony with the environment. This route begins at the same point as the Camino de Santiago that heads towards the coast, that is, in Irún, and will pass through Hernani, Tolosa, Beasain and Zegama. Once we reach Zegama we will cross the Aizkorri Mountains and thanks to the famous San Adrián tunnel we will enter the Alavesas lands, passing through Salvatierra, Agurain, Vitoria-Gasteiz, La puebla de Arganzón and Briñas.

Beyond the environmental and geographical environment of this road, we cannot forget about our rich historical and cultural heritage, and it is in the third stage that we come to the set of monuments in Igartza. The origin of our ensemble dates back to the 14th century, when Mr. de Lazcano decided to buy the land and build a tower house and a wooden bridge where our ensemble is today. Since its inception, it has been linked to the road of Santiago, as the wooden bridge was part of the route and used it to collect a tax called portazgo (which serves the same purpose as a current toll).

Apart from the route inside the Camino de Santiago, the route passing through Igartza was also a key point because it was one of the official roads that united the kingdoms of Castile and France. From the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century, the Igartza environment underwent a series of reforms, thus creating the context we currently have. Among these reforms we can find some that are related to the Camino de Santiago. First, we go back to the year 1599 when the stone cruise found in the whole was created with the intention of guiding the pilgrims and for God to protect them. This cruise shows Jesus crucified and on the back shows a woman and a child, making clear reference to the virgin. Secondly, we have the current bridge, built at the end of the sixteenth century and beginning of the seventeenth century, and it is the only sloping road bridge built of stone that is preserved in the valley of the Oria River. Thirdly, we find the Dolarea Hotel, which dates back to 1611, when the owner of the Isabel de Lobiano Palace decides to reform the building known as “Las casillas del Lagar de Igartza” (old lagar para realizcidra) and create Dolarea, which would fulfill the function of old sale to host those who went through that strategic area. Then, in the 17th century, the chapel of our lady of Belen was built. This hermitage belonged to the family of the palace, that is, it was a space of private cult and you can see the clear reference to the Camino de Santiago when we found a shell next to the hermitage door. Finally, we cannot forget the rest of the buildings of the complex such as the mill and the ferreria, both of which are essential infrastructures for understanding technology, production methods and pre-industrial work throughout the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The ingenuity that you can see in both buildings is amazing, because both the mill and the ferreria worked by hydraulic energy, and instead of getting the water from the river, they directly built a wood dam in the 16th century to divert part of the river's flow into a water channel. In this way, they could control the amount of water they used to work in the mill and in the ferreria. Although in the first place both buildings seem to remain in a third plane regarding the theme of the Camino de Santiago, it is important to mention that today the upper part of the mill functions as Hospital de Peregrinos.

We can therefore infer that four of our monuments are totally influenced by this millenary route of pilgrimage that runs throughout Europe until its arrival in Santiago de Compostela.

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