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 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".