Salvatierra – Agurain


Salvatierra in Spanish and Agurain in Basque is a town and municipality located in the province of Álava in the Basque Autonomous Community, northern Spain. The municipality, numbering 4,407 inhabitants (2007), is in turn the head town of the district or Cuadrilla of Salvatierra. 

The town of Salvatierra was founded in 1256 by the Castilian king Alfonso X on the former settlement of the village Hagurahin on top of a hill, a highly defensible position.[4] Castile was intent on strengthening the territories bordering on the Kingdom of Navarre seized some decades ago. As a result, the king founded various strongholds or free towns (salvas terras, seguras and villas francas) over the lands of Gipuzkoa and Álava en route to Gascony through the northern Way of St. James, with a view at the same time to fostering Castilian trade.

Salvatierra was in the ensuing decades and centuries home to various scuffles, battles and sieges on the grounds of its bordering location with Navarre and its strategic position in the King's Highway to France. In the 13th century, the definitive layout of the town was established, with encircling walls and two big fortified churches sealing Salvatierra at the north and south ends (Santa Maria and San Juan churches respectively). The so-called olbeas were erected at this time too. These consisted of arcades, made originally of wood, next to both parishes in the one-time bustling marketplaces, and they have endured up to the present, although reconstructed in the 16th century.

The town thrived on its good location and trade in the Way of St. James, and it even had a Jewish quarter, located in today's 'Arramel' st. In 1521 the town had to fend off the attack of its own lord, the Count of Salvatierra, a rebellious leader that revolted against emperor Charles V in the Revolt of the Comuneros. Yet he failed to win the town, the Count was arrested and executed by the imperial forces, much to the joy of the inhabitants. The joy didn't last long though, since shortly afterwards the plague swept through the town, which eventually resulted in the burning of Salvatierra (1564), a disaster that some blame on a desperate attempt to put an end to the grim epidemic. Only the walls (and both main churches) were spared, almost the whole town was destroyed, a fact reflected in poems by the writerJuan Perez de Lazarraga.