Category: Gipuzkoa (page 1 of 4)

June 30, 1834: Deadly floods ravage Gipuzkoa

Although a land accustomed to used periods of intense, heavy rain, there have also been infamous examples of major flooding in the Basque Country. One such example occurred on June 30, 1834 in the Deba Valley of Gipuzkoa, and came to be known as the San Martzial Urak, the “Saint Martial Waters” (coinciding with the feast day of Saint Martial).

Source of the River Deba, near the Hermitage of Saint Columba, in Dorleta, Leintz Gatzaga. Photo by Javierme. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Source of the River Deba, near the Hermitage of Saint Columba, in Dorleta, Leintz Gatzaga. Photo by Javierme. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The River Deba forms one of the river valleys so typical of the maritime zone in the Basque Country. That June day, a major summer storm hit the valley, swelling the waters of the Deba and its tributaries to breaking levels. In the town of Antzuola, one of the worst affected places, water levels rose to nearly 15 feet in the main square and one whole neighborhood was completely flooded, uprooting 1,500 trees, destroying various homes, mills, the portico of the parish church,  and the public school, among other major damage.

Alongside Antzuola, the worst-affected towns were Leintz-Gatzaga, Eskoriatza, Aretxabaleta, Arrasate, Bergara, Soraluze, and Elgoibar. In sum, throughout the valley, nineteen mills, twenty-two bridges, seventy-six buildings, and three churches were completely destroyed and major damage done to many other edifices. As regards the human cost, many people took refuge in churches, pleading for clemency, although several of these sites were among the worst hit places.

"The water of the terrible flood of the River Deba, on June 30, 1834, reached this point." Inscription on the wall of the parish church of Santa Marina in Bergara.

“The water of the terrible flood of the River Deba, on June 30, 1834, reached this point.” Inscription on the wall of the parish church of Santa Marina in Bergara.

In the aftermath of the disaster, it was calculated that eighty-nine people had been killed by the floods–seventy-six of whom had been washed downstream and whose bodies appeared on the beach in the town of Deba itself.

Source: K.O., “La inundación más catastrófica se produjo el 30 de junio de 1834,” Diario Vasco, February 23, 2014.

 

International Alert of Architectonic Heritage in Danger in Donostia

By Eneko Tuduri

This past 9th of April, the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS, a branch of the UNESCO) launched the second international alert of architectonic heritage in danger for the Bellas Artes Palace in Donostia/San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa (Basque Country).

The Palacio Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Palace), built in 1914 by the donostiarra architect Ramon Cortázar Urruzola (1867-1945), is “one of the earliest extant examples of a purpose-built movie palace left in the Basque Country and in all of Spain”[1]. Furthermore, the Bellas is a unique innovative building built before the First World War; it follows the French typology of a Palace du Cinéma (movie palace), an eclectic type of monumental buildings, ranging between the Art Noveau and Art Decó styles.

In the first years of cinema films were shown in cafes, regular theaters and street pavilions[2]. It is only after 1907 that cinema theaters were built specifically for their purpose, such as the Gaumont-Palace cinema in Paris[3]. The Bellas Artes is clearly inspired by this cinema theater, but also receives influences from the Viennese Secession architectural style, ancient Egyptian temples and eastern pagodas[4]. Structurally, it is one of the first buildings in Spain using reinforced concrete cast in place, making it a very resistant structure and a more significant building.

The architect, Ramon Cortázar, and his father Antonio Cortazar are part of the most important architect saga in Gipuzkoa´s capital.  Antonio was the designer of the city center, the so-called Ensanche Cortázar. Ramon crowned his father’s decades long work with this building, marking the end of the expansion area of the Donostia 100 years after its destruction by Anglo-Portuguese troops in 1813.

In 2015, the Bellas Artes went from the highest protection category to the destruction of the dome, the most important architectural feature of the building.

On the same day of its 100th anniversary, good news arrived to the defenders of the palace that was already threatened[5]; the building got the highest rate of protection from the Basque Government after a request by ANCORA, the citizen platform formed to defend the monument[6]. However, shortly after this, SADE, the company that owns the building, presented an appeal against this order. In a turn of the events, the government decided to dismiss the protection order. Just after the removal of this protection, SADE informed the city council of the appearance of a crack in the dome and proposed to demolish it, alleging danger of collapse.

Between October 20 and 30 of 2015, SADE demolished the dome of the Bellas Artes building and covered the building with a protective mesh – as a shroud -” to give a sense of decrepitude”[7]. Not only was the dome lost but by this time decorative elements, such as the zinc masks of fantastical creatures in the corners of the dome, were already lost. An order to rebuild the dome was given by the city council to SADE, but without any date or condition.

Today the actual condition of the building is the same as at the end of 2015, without a dome and with the clear intention by the owner to let it deteriorate, declare it a ruin, and demolish it. For these reasons, ICOMOS launched the second international alert. As the dossier about the building declares: “The recovery of its former glory would be desirable” and the ” The Bellas Artes can be and should be protected and fully restored”[8].

 

The Bellas Artes short after the inauguration.

The monument today, after the destruction of the dome.

[1] Dossier of international alert of the ICOMOS about the building. March 30, 2019. p. 2.

[2] Ibidem. p. 2.

[3] Nowadays demolished. Ibidem. p. 5.

[4] Ibidem. p. 14.

[5] September 12, 2014. By May 2015 a first international alert was launch by the ICOMOS warning the local authorities.

[6] This group has defended this monument, but also many other historical buildings in Donostia and the surroundings. Formed by architects and art historians, Ancora received the medal of the city this year because of the task of protecting and disseminating the architectonical heritage of the city. It is not the only citizen group in San Sebastian created in the last years to protect its heritage, showing the high level of destruction of heritage perpetrated in the last decades.

[7] Ibidem. p 4.

[8] Ibidem. p. 15.

February 28, 1513: Twelve cannons added to the Gipuzkoa coat of arms

The origins of coats of arms go back to the surcoat, a garment worn by knights over their armor and emblazoned with their personal “arms” or design. In time, these arms became identified with larger entities like a whole noble family, a royal house, town, province, and so on. In effect, these coats of arms became easily identifiable emblems by which to represent such an entity, a kind of logo. On February 28, 1513, Queen Joanna of Castile, Joanna the Mad (!), conceded Gipuzkoa the right to incorporate twelve cannons on its coat of arms.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1513-1979, featuring the monarch and twelve cannons. Image by Miguillen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1513-1979, featuring the monarch and twelve cannons. Image by Miguillen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1512, Gipuzkoan troops, in the service of her father, Ferdinand, and the crown of Castile and Aragon had taken part  in its conquest of Navarre. The Gipuzkoans fought the Navarrese at the Battles of Belate and Elizondo. During the war, the Gipuzkoans took twelve French cannons that had been used by the Navarrese in the siege of Iruñea-Pamplona.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1979-present. Image by HansenBCN, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1979-present. Image by HansenBCN, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Between 1513 and 1979, then, those twelve cannons, representing Gipuzkoan service to the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon and the military defeat of the Kingdom of Navarre featured on the province’s official coat of arms. In 1979, though, by a vote of the provincial council of Gipuzkoa, it was decided to remove the cannons. The reason given was that they represented a glorification of war and that the symbol was humiliating for Navarre. At the same time, it was also decided to withdraw the figure of a monarch being crowned (thought to represent either Alfonso VIII or Henry IV of Castile).

The legend Fidelisima Bardulia, numquam superada means “Most loyal Bardulia, never overcome” (Bardulia being an ancient Roman term for a region in the north of the Iberian Peninsula that derived from the Roman term for a tribe of people, the Varduli, who inhabited present-day Gipuzkoa).  The trees are Taxus baccata, a conifer known in English as the common yew, while the figures holding clubs represent the aforementioned Varduli.

August 22, 1638: Battle of Getaria

On August 22, 1638, the Battle of Getaria–a naval encounter in the Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659)–took place off the coast of Gipuzkoa. It was won by the French fleet, and marked the first significant victory for the French navy that had been revamped under Cardinal Richelieu, in turn consolidating Richelieu’s position as chief minister under Louis XIII.

In June 1638, Richelieu ordered the invasion of the Kingdom of Spain because French territory was surrounded by hostile Habsburg territories as a result of the Thirty Years’ War. The House of Habsburg was the main rival of the French royal House of Bourbon for political power in much of Europe. French forces crossed the border and besieged the Basque border town of Hondarribia in Gipuzkoa. In turn, the army was accompanied by a fleet between 27 and 44 French warships under Henri de Sourdis, whose mission it was to prevent any aid reaching Hondarribia on the part of the Spanish navy.

The Battle of Getaria, as depicted by Andries van Eertvelt. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Battle of Getaria, as depicted by Andries van Eertvelt. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A Spanish fleet, under Admiral Lope de Hoces, was then ordered to attack the French even though it was significantly smaller in size. De Hoces’ ships sailed into the Basque port of Getaria, further along the coast, from which they took up a defensive position from which to engage the French – the shallower waters preventing the larger French ships from close engagement. However, de Sourdis employed a twofold tactic of prior bombardment followed by the sending in of fireships–vessels deliberately set on fire and allowed to drift into an enemy fleet–before cutting off any escape routes with the smaller ships in his fleet. On August 22, the winds were favorable enough to employ the fireship method and the Spanish fleet was destroyed.

As a result of the victory, the Kingdom of France came to control the Bay of Biscay, although the siege of Hondarribia was ultimately unsuccessful for the French.

The Franco-Spanish War dragged on, somewhat inconclusively, until 1659. However, the end of the war marked an important date in Basque history because the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), the official agreement signed between the two countries to end the conflict, established for the first time a definitive international border bisecting Basque territory. As Cameron Watson notes in Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (p. 42).

With this treaty, not only was the international border established once and for all, but the two crowns would be unified through marriage (Louis XIV of France would marry the Spanish infanta María Teresa, daughter of the Castilian monarch Felipe IV, the following year), and the king of France, while retaining the title of king of Nafarroa, relinquished any claim to the Nafarroan [territory] within the Castilian political orbit. The treaty thus marked a definitive political partition of the ancient kingdom.

Modern Basque History is available free to download here.

Joseba Zulaika returns to Itziar to talk about his classic Basque Violence

In June 22 Joseba Zulaika gave a talk in Itziar, his home town and the place of the ethnographic work for which he is best known, Basque Violence: Metaphor and Sacrament. Almost forty years ago, having concluded his fieldwork, Zulaika was asked to give a talk in Itziar and he said that this one, now that ETA is ended, felt like a repetition of that one—when he had to face his village neighbors and explain what he had “discovered” about the place.

Zulaika repeated his argument about the Homeric plot underlying “The Tragedy of Carlos”—the two “milk brothers” and close friends Martin and Carlos who later became political antagonists in the eyes of the community and when Carlos was killed by ETA Martin didn’t approve of it. Zulaika later applied the Homeric scheme to the painful history of ETA in Itziar—the plight of the hero who falls into a tragic error. The tragic error is really an error, yet it is the sort of error a good man would make. It is thus an act both free and conditioned. It is not forced upon him, but he makes it under conditions so adverse that we watch him with compassion. There could be many readings of Itziar’s events but Zulaika emphasized that, far beyond the current “terrorist” all encompassing discourse, only an ethnographic approach could make justice to the actual histories of the pople. Zulaika said that giving his talk in Itziar was unlike giving it anywhere else—because he was in the presence of the protagonists of his ethnography and this implied a “repetition” in the deeper sense that the presence of Martin and Carlos and the former ETA activists wasn’t just a memory of past events, but an affirmation of the present and future realities of Itziar in this post-ETA era.

May 6, 1463: Jacob Gaon, king’s tax collector, killed in Tolosa

On May 6, 1463, Jacob Gaon, a tax collector for King Henry IV of Castile, was killed in Tolosa (Gipuzkoa) over a dispute involving rights relating to the foruak/fueros (the charters governing Basque fiscal and institutional relations with central political authority).

Gaon came from a prominent Jewish family in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Araba) and like several relatives worked as a tax collector for the Kings of Castile, to which the province of Gipuzkoa belonged. Indeed, since 1256, Tolosa had enjoyed its own foru/fuero regulating its independent fiscal status within the Castilian political orbit (the result of its strategically important position on the border with the rival Kingdom of Navarre); an agreement that was amended in both 1282 and 1290 to exempt inhabitants from numerous royal tributes.

Henry IV of Castile (1463). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In May 1463 Gaon went to Tolosa with the aim of demanding the so-called pedido tax, which, the locals claimed, they had never paid before on account of their foral privileges. After threatening them, several inhabitants killed Gaon, beheaded him, and put his head  on top of a pillory for all to see. On hearing the news, Henry IV, who was at the time in Hondarribia, also in Gipuzkoa, stopped at Tolosa on his way back to Castile in search of the culprits. Unable to locate them, having been informed that they had taken refuge in a nearby mountain “on the other side of the river,” he settled instead for demolishing the house in which the crime had taken place.

Subsequently, however, on receiving documents demonstrating that the inhabitants of Tolosa had never paid the pedido tax on account of foral law,  Henry acknowledged the exemption and issued a pardon.

For an excellent introduction to the Basque foral system, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): A Critical Edition, edited and annotated by Gregorio Monreal.

Flashback Friday: December 5, 1976: Basque flag displayed before historic match between rival Basque soccer teams

Sunday, December 5, 1976, remains a momentous date in contemporary Basque history on account of the remarkable events that took place in Atotxa Stadium, Donostia-San Sebastián: a key crossroads moment of social, political, and sporting history.

That day, the local soccer team in Donostia, Real Sociedad, took on its main rival, Athletic Bilbao in the classic Basque derby game. However, the moment that really defined the match took place before a ball was even kicked. As the two teams took to the field, the respective captains—Inaxio Kortabarria of Erreala and Jose Angel Iribar of Athletic—led their players into the contest while jointly carrying an ikurriña, the Basque flag, which was at the time an illegal act in Spain.

The flag was sown by the sister of one of the Erreala players, José Antonio de la Hoz Uranga, who himself smuggled it into the stadium that day, even managing to hide the banned symbol from a police check on the way to the game. Having done so, Kortabarria went over to the Athletic locker room and suggested the idea of jointly taking the field by holding the flag, in an act aimed at calling for its legalization over a year after the death of Spanish dictator General Franco. In the end, both captains agreed that all the players competing had to agree with the idea—something, all of them local, agreed to without reservation. In the historic photo that marks that occasion, it is de la Hoz Uranga (who did not play that day) who appears covered by the flag walking between the two captains.

Erreala beat Athletic 5-0 that day, but more importantly, the act of carrying out the ikurriña did much to accelerate the legalization of the Basque flag by the Spanish authorities. Ultimately, its public display was finally legalized on January 17, 1977.

Sport in general, including a special focus on Basque sports, is addressed in the CBS publication Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 13, 1936: Fall of Donostia-San Sebastián in Spanish Civil War

On September 13, 1936, five columns of Navarrese troops marched into Donostia-San Sebastián, meeting with no resistance, to take the city in the name of the military rebels who had risen up two months earlier against the democratically elected government of the Second Spanish Republic.

Map showing the frontline in Gipuzkoa until October 1936 in one-week intervals, as of late evening every Sunday, by Dd1495, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

That previous July, the garrison of Spanish troops stationed in Donostia had actually joined in the military uprising but it was put down by socialist and anarchist militiamen loyal to the republic. In August, however, Navarrese troops (the requetés or Carlist militias who sided with the military rebels during the war), aided by some Gipuzkoan Carlists, began a campaign to seal off the border at Irun, thereby cutting off a potential arms supply from France for the pro-Republic forces. After laying siege to the town, and with aerial support, the rebels took Irun on September 5,  effectively paving the way to march on toward Donostia. With the fall of Irun, a westward drift of refugees (those that did not manage to cross the border into Iparralde) began that would define much of the civilian experience of the civil war in the Basque Country.

Rebel troops entering Donostia

Having suffered bombardment from sea, and with rebel troops advancing into the city from both the east and inland Gipuzkoa, Donostia ultimately fell without resistance.

Be sure to check out War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, a key work that among other themes examines the effects of war on ordinary people in the Basque Country. This book is available free to download here.

The Center has also recently published David Lyon’s Bitter Justice, an important study based on a wealth of primary material that examines the fate of Basque prisoners during the Spanish Civil War.

 

June 4, 1873: Basque rebel priest’s squad of soldiers execute 37 border guards

On June 4, 1873, a squad of volunteer soldiers, under the command of the rebel priest Manuel Santa Cruz Loidi (pictured above), executed 37 border guards on the Endarlatza bridge between Gipuzkoa and Navarre during the Carlist War of 1872-1876. From that moment on the civil and military authorities in Gipuzkoa held annual remembrance services for those executed until the entry of Carlist forces into the province during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, when the service was suspended (despite the fact that during the nineteenth-century war Santa Cruz himself had been condemned to death on account of his sanguinary exploits by the very Carlist forces he purported to support). During that same Carlist War Sant Cruz’s squad carried a black flag with a skull and the inscription “Battle to the Death.”

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos(Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 193.

The Carlist Wars are discussed in Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present, available free to download here.

April 18, 1815: A Daring Basque Robbery

On April 18, 1815, a convoy including the Duke of Bourbon, the cousin of the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, was making its way over the Arlaban Pass that marks the border between Araba and Gipuzkoa. On the steep climb up the hill, the carriage containing the duke, which was being pulled by two oxen, became slightly separated from the convoy. Seizing the opportunity, five armed men appeared from out of the woods and proceeded to liberate the duke of all the equipment, treasures, and documents he was carrying.

Asalto al coche (Robbery of the coach), 1786-1787, by Francisco Goya. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Arlaban Pass had, it should be noted, gained an infamous reputation for such highway robbery. Indeed, many of the so-called highwaymen gained a kind of infamous notoriety, men like the guerrillas Espoz and Mina as well as Sebastián Fernández de Leceta or “Dos Pelos” (Two Hairs). 

Witnesses to the robbery said that the thieves were Basques, as could be discerned from their accents, which also led people to believe they came from an area between Tolosa and Hernani in Gipuzkoa. The main suspect was subsequently thought to be one N. de Lazkao, who was fairly identifiable because of his green eyes and red beard. But despite the dispatch of multiple search parties and an investigation that lasted ten years, no one was ever apprehended.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 167-68.

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