Tower of Murga
The imposing Tower of Murga was built on the right bank of the river Izoria between 1270 and 1272 by order of Juan Sánchez de Murga “Chicubín”, eighth Lord of Ayala and first of the Murga bloodline.
The original tower had a rectangular floor plan, 8.50 m long by 12.15 m wide. Nowadays it is preserved up to a height of 11.8 m (the upper cut-off of the building is placed at floor level of the third storey). The tactical, military defence element of the tower lay in the watchtower; everything is arranged around this, including the manor house. The tower is placed precisely from where its economic resources are obtained, such as the bridge that crossed the river and certain water mills, which documentation states where placed up against the building. Also in the vicinity, in the town of Murga, is the church of San Juan whose patronage fell under the lineage of the tower. The tower was never intended to strategically control a given territory, nor even a stretch of a route. The tower was merely designed to provide effective, immediate and indisputable control over certain economic resources that were fundamental to the ruling family.
The transformation from military building to palatial residence appears to have occurred during the period when Sancho García de Murga acted as guardian to the young heirs of Murga and the family’s goods and chattels. By its very nature, the construction of a palace reflects a totally different socio-political context from that found in the last decades of the 15th century. The conceptual differences between the tower and the palace are commensurate with those between the society of the mid 14th century and the mid 16th century. Within a political context, the tower began to play a central role as a palatial residence, as well as symbolizing the family seat of the bloodline.
It was not too long before the Murga palace tower underwent new and extensive restructuring. The building, with its transformations, shows how the family evolved, and how ways of life and spatial concepts also changed. Visually, this is the building that exists today. The everyday needs that dictated its functionalism gave way to those of residential life and it acquired a greater symbolic significance. It was not enough to live comfortably within an enclosure that adequately satisfied the basic needs of a noble family: the palace had to become a blunt expression of status.
Outwardly the appearance of the building changed very little over three centuries, even today. Bar a few details, everything remained the same following the last enlargement of the palace, the inside of which, however, did undergo some refurbishments.
Definitively, the structure lost its status as a social landmark within the valley, at least as a centre of power. The family who had given the tower its name abandoned it at this stage as it no longer met their needs. The entailed Murga estate remained intact, but would represent a smaller part of the patrimony belonging to the heads of the family, given that successive matrimonial ties resulted in increased accumulation in the hands of a few successors and possessions from much further afield. This process would be the basis on which certain personalities within Castilian nobility ascended.
Neither the tower or the palace had any reason to be such. No longer a defensive structure or a symbol of an ancient lineage, its usefulness within the entailed estate passed into the hands of new lords, basically well-off peasants who, as tenants, gave new life to the building.
As from the mid 17th century, the lords abandoned the tower, and it was leased out to labourers and farmers, undergoing some minor modifications.
Today, the descendants of Juan Sánchez de Murga have embarked upon a process of restoring of the surroundings and the building, and the result is apparent. As this is a private building, it is not open to the public.
It also worth mentioning that it is included in General Inventory of Basque Cultural Heritage, under the category of Monument.
This emblematic building is located in outstanding setting of the Ayala Valley, 50 minutes from Vitoria-Gasteiz via the N-622 and A-624. The property has a convenient car park located a short distance away.