The town of Salvatierra, Agurain in Basque, was founded in 1256 by the king of Castile, Alfonso X ‘The Wise’, over the former village of ‘Harurahin’ and, as a border town, its first few centuries of life were marked by disputes over ownership between the Crowns of Navarre And Castile.
Exploring its streets of medieval origin, featuring buildings emblazoned with coats of arms is a real pleasure.
Salvatierra was a stronghold for several centuries and part of its primitive walls are still intact. Originally the town only had three streets: Mayor street, where the buildings of greater artistic interest are to be found; Carniceria Street, where the butchers of the town plied their trade, and Zapatari Street where the Cordwainer guild was located.
These three streets survive today and form the historic and artistic centre where you can find many monumental buildings such as the fortified churches of San Juan Bautista (C15th-16th), a late-Gothic temple with a defensive walkway and a Flemish altarpiece, and Santa Maria (C15th-16th), with the best parapet walkway in Álava.
Stately homes bearing coats of arms also occupy these streets. The Casa de las Viudas (C16th), Casa de los Begoña (C17th), Casa Azkarraga (C16th) and Casa Bustamante (C16th) are just some examples, not forgetting the Olbeas de San Juan arcades where long ago the market would be held when it rained and a meeting point for the local people.
The Town Hall and the hermitage of San Martín that is housed inside it is also worth seeing.
In 1975 the value of these civil and religious buildings, which for many years had been a place of transit for travellers, merchants and pilgrims on St. James’s Way, was finally recognised when it was declared an Historic Monument.
Visitors can walk the streets of the historic centre and see its monuments by themselves, however, the best way to learn more about the past and future of Salvatierra is to take one of the guided tours that are organized regularly. These tours also make it possible to discover other nearby treasures, such as the Gothic paintings of Alaitza and Gazeo.
The tours, called “Come in, it’s open”, are given every Sunday of the year at 10:30 from Salvatierra, and in the months of July and August a second tour is given on Thursdays at the same time. It is also possible to arrange visits or organise special visits for groups.