davThe solidarity of the people of Zumarraga make us fortunate

We are lucky in being able to look at La Antigua and that there are people who look after it and protect it. And not only on an institutional level. Down the ages, La Antigua has received many donations, both material and economic ones. Today’s Zumarraga is the same old Zumarraga. The town has grown in the same way: benefactors have helped Zumarraga to have facilities such as a hospital, school, high school, home for the elderly, cemetery, and have helped to bring the train and to bring drinking water to the public springs.

Alterations mean transformation

La Antigua needed structural alterations in 1740. During them it was adorned with elements belonging to that period: it was given a pulpit, a confessional and pews.

In 1976, other important alterations were made; they changed the face of La Antigua and paved the way towards La Antigua as we know it today.

Although it was designated a National Historic-Artistic Monument in 1965 and Basque Historic-Artistic Monument in 1984, today it still needs to be protected. Luckily, the Association of Friends of La Antigua keeps an eye on its preservation and maintenance.

What we now find attractive was invisible at one time

Can you imagine La Antigua without its magnificent array of beams and braces? Well, in the past they could not be seen. They were covered by timber vaults. They were removed in 1976 during one of the most extensive alterations La Antigua has ever had.

The inside walls had been covered in whitewash, a good disinfectant but which also bleached the walls.

During the restoration in 1988 various paintings that had been concealed by the grime were discovered: a dragon, a wolf, a hunter and a boar. You can spot them if you look among the beams.

Some curiosities that we can no longer see

The old pulpit of 1740 was demolished during the restoration works of 1976.

Many of the pews were decorated.

A section of the altarpiece that had been located in the high altar since 1607 is preserved in the Diocesan Museum in San Sebastian.

During the 1976 alterations the house of the lady verger was demolished. That was where the woman who maintained La Antigua on a day-to-day basis used to live. It had been built in 1604.

The timber of La Antigua was about to disappear

In 1988, the xylophagous insect infection of La Antigua was found to become too serious and a decision was made to intervene. The treatment and restoration process that continued until 1990 was very painstaking and costly. La Antigua as we know it was on the point of disappearing. For 10,000 Spanish pesetas it was possible to symbolically purchase a tile to be able to collaborate in the restoration.

"Operation tile" is just one more example of the solidarity of the people of Zumarraga.

On screen:

The process to dismantle, restore and re-assemble the parts both original, restored ones and new ones was led by the architect Jesús Muñoz-Baroja.

  • The whole timber frame was dismantled with the exception of the excessively large parts, which were disinfected by means of injections of anti-xylophage treatment and restored in situ.
  • Some of the posts were wedged because they were not properly supported.
  • Moulds were made and filled with resin to reinforce the beams.
  • An interior metal reinforcement was fitted to some of the beams.
  • The remainder of the parts were assembled in individual crates and taken away to be treated.
  • On the roof, the original timber and the pine timber used in the restoration of 1976 had been totally moth-eaten so it had to be dismantled completely and rebuilt using old beams, new timber in some places, a layer of insulating material and tiles.
  • The chapel was fumigated completely and kept closed for two months to exterminate anything that might be left.

davZumarraga is nothing without its ezpatadantza (sword dance)

The festivals of Zumarraga revolve around the ezpatadantza, a sword dance of medieval origin, which in the 18th century was prohibited by the Bishop and later by a decree issued by the King.

Today, one still does not know what is special about the ezpatadantza of Zumarraga. It has been said to be slower that the Gipuzkoan versions, to be a variation on the zortziko time, and that what is special is to dance before the image of Our Lady. But what is clear is that it enchants everyone.

The ezpatadantza is known to have been danced at La Antigua before 1539. Its tradition is so deeply rooted that many inhabitants of Gipuzkoa visit La Antigua year after year on 2 July. When you get to know the people of Zumarraga you realise that it is impossible to separate Zumarraga from the ezpatadantza and 2 July.

There is evidence from 1576 onwards that it also began to be danced in the parish church of Our Lady of the Assumption. This performance can be enjoyed on 15 August every year.

The ezpatadantza would not exist were it not for the dantzaris (dancers)

The ezpatadantza is made up of a captain, three atzendaris or azkendaris and between eight and ten rope dantzaris.

The captains are chosen by the dance company through a vote. The dance calls for agility. It consists of eight and a half minutes of points, scissors, prances and promenades before the azkendaris take their turn by dancing on their knees before the image of Our Lady.

At one point, the ezpatadantza nearly died out for lack of dancers. But the insistence of the authorities in preserving the tradition meant that professional dancers were recruited. Some acted as "masters" of the young dancers. Today the Irrintzi dantza taldea dance company puts on the performance. They begin rehearsing during Holy Week to ensure that everything is ready.

The txistu (Basque flute) and the small drum are the heartbeat of the ezpatadantza

If we were to take the txistu and the small drum away from the ezpatadantza, it would be like a silent film.

The Bishopric, traditionally reluctant towards secular music, wanted to keep the txistu players out of the church, because the sounds invite one to dance. But it is so deeply rooted that it was seen as a lesser evil.

For many centuries, it became a municipal job although that is not the case today.

As in the case of the ezpatadantza dancers, many inhabitants of Zumarraga have encouraged knowledge of the txstu to prevent it dying out. After the last municipal Txistu players retired around 1970, the town council reached an agreement with the Banda de Txistularis Antzinako Ama.

Someone remarked, "it is difficult to believe that it is possible to get such harmonies out of that disagreeable whistle, out of a simple, primitive instrument".

davTraditions are kept alive in Zumarraga

The trikitixa (accordion) is synonymous with festival

The trikitixa (diatonic accordion) came with the train, brought by alpine and Piedmontese workers who came to Zumarraga to build the railway lines and tunnels. And once introduced in France it is also said to have expanded across Basque lands.

Juan Bautista Busca, one of the most famous names on account of the trikitixa in Zumarraga, came from the Alps to work as a miner to build tunnels.

Joxe Oria, together with the accordion player Kanpazar formed the Trikitixa band of Zumarraga. Then with his nephews he formed the Urteaga-Oria band. From that trikitixa and tambourine are inseparable.

José Miguel Ormazabal was called the magician of the accordion. He belonged to the Urteaga-Oria band.

The trikitixa continues today to liven up popular festivities.

Appreciation of music is also transmitted through the choirs

The Zumarraga March is a song for choir and orchestra that pays tribute to the people of Zumarraga. It tells of a working Zumarraga that welcomes immigrants, and which sings to Our Lady of La Antigua a song of gratitude towards Zumarraga. Secundino Esnaola was also born in Zumarraga; he was the conductor of the Orfeon Donostiarra (Choral Society of San Sebastian) and incorporated female voices.

At the end of the summer, La Antigua turns into a stage. The Music Season of La Antigua takes place every Saturday in September.

The Santa Lucía Cattle Fair shows itself off year after year

The Santa Lucia Cattle Fair and its market shows itself off every year in the towns of Zumarraga and Urretxu. Success is guaranteed. Thousands of Gipuzkoans wander through the streets and squares of these two towns full of animals, market produce and Basque sports. Every 13 December is a riot of music and colour.

davPlaza de Euskadi (Euskadi Square)

Built between 1862 and 1866 the square known as Plaza de Euskadi was part of the first urban expansion. It was also known as the Plaza de Artiz, Plaza de Alfonso XIII, Plaza de la República, Plaza de España and Plaza de Euskadi.

Industry and demography go hand in hand

Considerable socioeconomic growth took place in the 1950s. Metal industries related to iron processing were opened and expanded in the town of Zumarraga and in the Goierri district. Population growth occurred alongside industry. This development was helped by the Nacional 1 highway and the Madrid-Irun railway line.

Among the companies in Zumarraga stands out one of the biggest in Gipuzkoa, Esteban Orbegozo S.A. (today Arcelor Mittal) which had as many as 3,000 workers. The companies Badiola Hermanos and Forjas de Zumarraga were also important.

davWickerwork lights up Zumarraga

Zumarraga worked, cultivated and stored wicker. The first wickerwork furniture factory was established by Justo de Artiz, who made use of the advantages of the railway. His furniture reached half of Europe and received awards at the International Exhibition in Barcelona in 1888.

Although archive documents do not point to an activity of tremendous economic importance, wicker is prominent in the collective memory.

Many spas or hotel services were supplied with furniture from Zumarraga.

Artiz gifted King Alfonso XIII furniture for his office.

Wicker manufacture soon spread across Zumarraga.

About 500 people, mostly women, at home or in the factory, turned wicker into crates, baskets, sewing boxes, chairs, umbrella stands, rocking chairs, tables, chaises longues, trunks, beach huts, etc.

The wickerwork activities declined from 1950 onwards and died out. But their existence left such an imprint that Calle Piedad is popularly known as the "basket-makers' hill".

After Artiz introduced the osier plantation in the Goierri area, factories and some private individuals cultivated osiers. The production supplied local needs and the surplus wicker was exported.

Of the basket-making workshops, in 1959 the only ones left were those of Hijos de J.B. Busca (with 4 workers), Justa Ormazabal Beristain and Juan Urreta Lizarralde.

In 1958 only three wicker warehouse owners remained: Justa Ormazabal Beristain, Hijos de J.B. Busca and Rufino Mendizabal Elgarresta.

davThe Ferrocarril del Norte (Northern Railway) puts Zumarraga in a strategic position

The Madrid-Irun line was officially opened in 1864. To do this the river Urola had to be diverted. There were expropriations, the Zubi-berria bridge, the medicinal water spring at Loidi, a popular Basque pelota court and the Jauregi mill were demolished. Despite this, Zumarraga contributed money to it through municipal and popular fundraising.

The broad-gauge Northern railway reached Zumarraga with an activity basically devoted to farming and livestock.

The first Spanish international railway was inaugurated on 15 August 1864 attended by Queen Isabel II.

Zumarraga acts as a bridge between Bilbao and France

The Durango-Zumarraga railway, previously known as the Deba Railway, linked Bilbao with San Sebastian and France and connected with the Northern Railway. People changed trains in Zumarraga.

In 1906 it merged with the railway lines of other companies and the Compañía de los Ferrocarriles Vascongados, known as Los Vascos (The Basques), was formed.

It was officially opened on 26 August 1889. It was the first “metre gauge line” in Gipuzkoa because its rails were a metre wide.

The Vascongados was originally steam-driven until it was electrified in 1929.

The station of Los Vascos was demolished in 1988.

Roads overtake the train

The roads led to a fall in the number of passengers, so in 1972 they began to close stretches of the Ferrocarriles Vascongados.

Since 1982, these metre-gauge lines of Gipuzkoa have been accountable to the Basque Government under the name of Sociedad Pública Eusko Trenbideak.

The Urola Train, "our" train, linked the Goierri district with the coast

Set up on the initiative of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa after various attempts with private companies, it was the last railway to be built and the last to be closed down.

Officially opened by King Alfonso XIII on 22 February, 1926, it was welcomed by Basque dancers, Basque flute players and the Municipal Brass Band.

It was an electric railway from the moment it was opened.

The stations were all designed by the same architect: Ramón Cortazar.

On sweltering summer days Zumarraga town council launched a rocket. It was the way of announcing that "our" train was departing for Zumaia, the beach destination. For the price of a return fare one could go and have a dip in the sea.

The agreement between the Town Council and "our" train meant that many inhabitants of Zumarraga learnt to swim.

It ran five return train services a day.

It ran for the last time on 16 July 1986.

Now it is possible to travel along a short stretch as it has been rehabilitated as a tourist train.

The Zumarraga-Zumaia train was called the Urola Railway because it wove along the valley of the river bearing the same name.

The first tickets were bilingual ones. On one side the ticket was written in Spanish and on the back in Basque. This was done because the area crossed was one where the most Basque was spoken, so much so that there were many farmers who did not speak Spanish because of the topographical conditions of the country, which meant that they lived isolated in the mountains. In 1938 during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) these tickets were substituted for ones printed in Spanish only.

davZumarraga, clad in iron, preserves its traditions

The train and industrialisation were key elements in the historical, economic and social evolution of the town. Zumarraga opened itself up to development but maintained its traditions.

Zumarraga has a before and an afterwards in terms of the arrival of the train

The train changed the appearance of Zumarraga: the municipal district expanded, a new building for the Town Hall, a hospital and a school were built. Inns and hotels sprang up with the train, and modern industry reasserted itself.

Zumarraga became a privileged locality

The geographical location turned the town of Zumarraga into a privileged locality in Spain as it had three railway stations: the Ferrocarril del Norte (Northern Railway) station, the Ferrocarriles Vascongados (Basque Railways) station, and the Urola Railway Station. They all converged on the Plaza de las Estaciones (Station Square).

Furthermore, in the 1940s Patricio Echeverría built an industrial branch line between Zumarraga and Legazpia with three railway lines.

In the 1950s Zumarraga was a hub for the coming and going of goods and passengers: over a million passengers a year.

davSanta Maria moves

The urban centre, that had begun to form at the end of the 15th century and which a century later had grown considerably, needed a parish church that would address the ecclesiastical needs of its population. So in 1576 a new church began to be built right in the town centre. That way the prominence which the parish church of Santa Maria (today’s Antigua) had enjoyed during the Middle Ages was gradually handed over to the new place of worship: the Church of the Assumption.

A new church was built in the town centre

Several plots of land in the area needed to be purchased to be able to build the new church.

San Juan de Altuna and Santuru de Arizti were the master quarrymen who commenced the works.

The inside of the church was planned as a great hall: the three naves are of equal height. A large space that could hold a large number of churchgoers. Churches of this type are known as hall churches.

Not everyone agreed with the move

The plan to move the location of the parish church led to much controversy among the inhabitants of Zumarraga.

Even though La Antigua was no longer the parish church, its religious function continued, this time turned into a chapel.

Audio Desk

Audio 1: Amador de Arriarán (widower of Francisca de Legazpi) and Juan de Zavalo. Inhabitants of the Zufiaur and Barrencale neighbourhoods, 1565.

"the said parish church of Our Lady of Zumarraga was founded on a high, rugged mountain range separate from the whole town and from the houses where the said gentlemen and many other parishioners lived so neither they nor their families, particularly old, infirm and very old people and pregnant women, could not go to the said parish church and receive the holy sacraments… in winter owing to the many snowfalls and ice and falling water and the mud produced, and in summer owing to the great heat and great distance and difficulties of the road"

Audio 2: Martín García de Urrutia; Domingo de Aizpuru and Joan de Igarza, on behalf of the inhabitants of the Soriaiz neighbourhood, 1560, (lawsuit against the inhabitants of Barrencale).

"what had prompted and was prompting the party requesting the move were interests and private passion, because what they wanted was to have the church by the front doors of their houses"

Audio 3: Bárbara de Leturia and María Saez de Barrenechea, 1571 (March).

"against the moving of the said parish church and against the building of another one"

Audio 4: Bishop Diego Ramirez de Fuenteal, 1574.

"if the said Church were to be moved and built again, it would be better governed and attended and the parishioners would go to their parish church"

Audio 5: The decision: 14 October, 1576 (text from the Bishopric of Pamplona).

"I hereby declare that the said lower Church of Santa Maria thus moved, shall henceforth be the Parish Church of the said Universe of Zumarraga and in it shall be vested all the parish rights and ceremonies and it shall come with all the tithes and rights that until now have come to the other one and to this one shall come all the parishioners to listen to the divine offices and receive the Sacraments and to bury the dead and all the rest, as a parish church".

davLegazpi, an adventurer who crossed the Pacific

The 16th century signified great progress in the geographical knowledge of the world. Expeditions promoted by the monarchs expanded knowledge about the shape and dimensions of the earth. The aim pursued was to find new sea routes providing access between Asia and America. Many Basques were part of these discoveries including the Zumarraga-born Miguel López de Legazpi.

The expedition

21-11-1564 - Legazpi and his crew set sail from the port of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco. Mexico.

They sailed through the Mariana Archipelago.

22-01-1565 – They disembarked on the Island of Guam.

03-02-1565 – They set sail in the direction of the Islas de Poniente (Islands to the West).

13-02-1565 – They landed on the shores on the Island of Samar.

21-02-1565 – They reached Leite.

05-03-1565 – They reached the port of Cabalian.

They spread across the islands, except for Mindanao and the Sulu Islands.

16-03-1565 - They arrived in Bohol via Tagbilaran. There on that very day LEGAZPI made the first blood covenant with Chief SIKATUNA.

27-04-1565 – They reached Cebu Island.

1567 – The new possessions were organised under the name of the Philippine Islands.

Expansion continued across the Panay, Masbate, Mindoro and Luzon islands.

24-06-1571 - Legazpi founded Manila, The Distinguished and Ever Loyal city of Spain in the East.

A native of Zumarraga in the Philippines

Miguel López de Legazpi, born in Zumarraga, was the protagonist of the conquest of the Philippines.

His exact date of birth is not known, although it is known that he was born in Zumarraga at the start of the 16th century. He was born into a powerful family that owned the Legazpi tower house that can be visited today.

The tower house, also identified in documents as Jauregui Handia, is currently located in the Artiz neighbourhood (Artiz Auzategia), a stone’s throw away from the railway station.

Miguel López de Legazpi settled in New Spain (Mexico) in 1528. There he got married and served in various positions in the administration and became mayor of the capital.

In 1564 together with the Ordizia-born the cosmographer and navigator Andrés de Urdaneta, he led the expedition that culminated in the conquest of The Philippines.

Despite the dangers it was a risk worth taking

An expedition of five ships sailed from the port of Navidad in Jalisco, Mexico on 21 November, 1564. They were heading for The Philippines: 200 men-at-arms, 150 sailors, 5 priests and various other individuals, who were not registered, were part of the crew. Miguel López de Legazpi was appointed commander, while Andrés de Urdaneta was in charge of nautical and religious matters.

It was no easy undertaking. A voyage taking over three months exposed to the sea conditions, illnesses, pirate attacks and shortage of food.

But the rewards were huge. The yearning to discover, the possibility of becoming rich and the entrepreneurial spirit were sufficient stimulus to embark on the adventure.

In April 1565, the expedition reached the Island of Cebu and there the San Pedro Fortress was built and served as the base for the conquest of the Philippine archipelago.

Years later, in 1571, Miguel López de Legazpi founded Manila and turned it into the headquarters of the government of the archipelago. Not long afterwards, in August 1572, he passed away on the island.

At the end of the 19th century, the town of Zumarraga wanted to pay tribute to him by erecting a sculpture in his honour. The monument was built in 1897 in the centre of Euskadi Plaza, in the same spot where it can be seen today.

Zumarraga has a street called Islas Filipinas. The island of Samar in the Philippines has a municipality called Zumarraga.

Audio Desk:

Letters sent by Diego de Legazpi, nephew of Miguel López de Legazpi.

Manila, January 1574.

"… On occasions, my dear sister Ana, the sea is mad. The most recent voyage we made was absolute panic. The tempest howled and whistled; the waves reached everywhere; the sea became confused and frightening… It all passed. We survived, but not without remembering that little image of Our Lady we venerated so much on the slopes of Beloqui, at whose feet we buried our dear ancestors.

At one point, it seemed to me that she opened up her blanket to cover us beneath it. On the first visit you make to her, please convey the gratitude of this most ungrateful son".

Manila, May 1571,

"... At last my dear uncle Miguel has agreed to what I had been yearning for so long; and I bless the day that he allowed me to embark to see more of the world in this way, this hope that I had set myself when leaving that incomparable land in the absence of which I am remembering more and more. I have been appointed quartermaster or administrator of a merchant ship which is known as the longest-serving one between Manila and Cacao".

Manila, July 1572.

"…In recent days I have noticed a great improvement in the discomfort that has afflicted me recently, so I have had the opportunity more than once to visit and spend time with my dear uncle Miguel. The appreciation and estimation that my uncle professes for the indigenous people in this place increases day by day, so much so that he has made all his subordinates learn the language and customs of this place".

In the next letter written in August 1572 from Manila, Diego tells his father about his father’s brother:

"… my uncle Miguel has passed away this month. A heart problem ended his life all of a sudden. The day after he was buried in the Church of Saint Augustine, his grandson, Juan de Salcedo, and Captain Goñi arrived at Manila after having happily completed the mission that my uncle Miguel had entrusted to them: the submission and uniting of all the archipelagos through the establishing of peaceful agreements. Since his death I have felt like an orphan on these islands, far from your blessed shadow and that of my dear uncle who is now gone from here".