During the Middle Ages a church, whether a parish church or not, could belong to the ecclesiastical institution itself, to the monarch, or to any other kind of community, but also to private individuals. It was a privilege known as patronage and the group or person enjoying it was the patron.
The Lord of Lazcano was a man with privileges
Santa María had its patron, Francisco López de Lazcano, a member of the lineage that was later to become hugely important in Gipuzkoa.
Francisco López held the title of Lord of Lazcano, a designation that gave him a certain social importance at that time.
The Lord of Lazcano was the patron not only of Santa María of Zumarraga, but also of the churches of Idiazabal, Lazkao, Mutiloa, Olaberria, Segura, Legazpi and Zaldibia.
The Lord of Lazcano was the person who, for a fixed period of time (four months following a vacancy), used to present to the Bishop the priest appointed to celebrate the masses. He would always choose someone in line with his own interests.
Inside the church the Lord of Lazkano's seat was always in the best place. That is how he displayed his privileged position over the rest of society.
It is not known how many inhabitants there were in Zumarraga at the end of the Middle Ages. According to documentary sources, the population could have been in the region of 1,700 people. But according to some historians, the inhabitants would not in fact have exceeded 700.
Irrespective of the actual size of the population, all the people living in Zumarraga who obtained harvests or who had flocks were obliged to give a tenth part of their produce (the tithe) to the church.
The produce and rents were used to maintain the priests, attend to the liturgy and to look after the building itself.
The document signed by the king was proof of his privileges
In 1366 the Lord of Lazcano obtained the privilege of patron for having served the monarch Henry II during the civil war that ravaged the Kingdom of Castile during that period.
Thanks to the patronage, the Lord of Lazcano secured a number of rights over the church, but also some obligations.
He was entitled to receive the tithes that the parishioners handed over to the church. He was thus assured of a source of income.
Whoever inherited the title of Lord of Lazcano also inherited the patronage of Santa María. This right was passed down from one generation to the next.