On Saturday, November 12, the emblematic Cross of Gorbeia, one of the most distinct features in the Basque Country, will be 115-years-old. Mount Gorbeia, straddling the border between Bizkaia and Araba, is 1,482 meters (4,862 feet) high. It remains an important symbol, especially for Bizkaians, for whom it is their highest mountain. It is equally known for the imposing metal cross that stands at the summit, measuring around 17 meters (56 feet) high.

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The third cross of Gorbeia, erected some time around 1910. Photo of Indalecio Ojanguren by Ojanguren himself, c. early-20th century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1899 Pope Leo XIII ordered that crosses be erected on the highest Christian mountains to herald the coming of a new century. As a consequence, a work commission was established in Zeanuri, Bizkaia, organized by the town priest, Juan Bartolomé de Alcibar, and presided over by the archpriest of Zigoitia, Araba, José María de Urratxa, to implement the pope’s orders by erecting a cross on the peak of Gorbeia. The construction project was headed by the architect Casto de Zavala y Ellacuriaga and had a budget of 50,000 pesetas. The original cross was 33 meters (108 feet) high. Delays to the project, however, mean that the cross was not installed in 1900, as originally planned, but a year later, on November 12, 1901. What’s more, the original cross only lasted a month and half, before collapsing as a result of the notoriously strong winds that are common on Gorbeia (local shepherds are reputed to have warned of this possibility from the outset). A second cross was then put up in 1903, although it, too, succumbed to gale-force winds in 1906. A third and final cross, which took much of its inspiration from the Eiffel Tower and was designed by Serapio de Goikoetxea and Alberto de Palacio y Elissague, was erected some time around 1910, this time measuring much less than the first two attempts.

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Mount Gorbeia, as seen from Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly afterward, on October 13, 1912, following the recent creation of the Sporting Club of Bilbao, it organized a hiking excursion to the top of Gorbeia attended by 145 hardy individuals. This set in motion a tradition, that lasts to this day, for Bizkaians of all ages to make at least one visit to the emblematic summit of Gorbeia. This excursion is especially popular on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Information sourced from: http://www.deia.com/2016/11/05/bizkaia/costa/la-cruz-de-gorbea-115-anos-guiando-a-los-montaneros