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.
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.