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Santa Isabel Castle

Santa Isabel Castle, in Pasai Donibane, is a fortress built in 1621 to protect the port of Pasaia.

The land on which construction of Santa Isabel fort was started was formerly occupied by a windmill (Churrutella-errota) built in 1450 on land allotted by Hondarribia. Instructions to build what are now the ruins of Santa Isabel Castle, were given by Emperor Charles I in the endeavour to protect the port against potential attacks by foreign warships or by the pirates roaming the area. The same Emperor had ordered construction of the tower standing until only a short time ago in Pasai San Pedro. The tower was built first, while Santa Isabel Castle in Donibane was completed under Philip IV. The castle had cannons aimed at the mouth of the port to warn off invaders crossing the port limit.

Although the fire from these cannons defended and was very well focussed on the port entrance, it couldn't offer any sort of protection whatsoever to the ships taking shelter there because they could be pursued right up until the rocks at the entrance, Arando Grande (belonging to Pasai Donibane) and Arando Pequeño (in San Pedro), started affording them protection against an artillery attack.

Santa Isabel Fort, almost impregnable from the sea, was therefore unable to defend itself against even the slightest overland attack. Thus, in 1638, Prince Conde made his way down from Jaizkibel to conquer Santa Isabel Castle with tremendous ease.

The fort stopped lending its services in 1867. The artillery platform was destroyed during the work carried out in the mid-20th Century to improve the entrance channel to the port, thus depriving the construction of its principal element.

The well-preserved remains of the ancient Santa Isabel Castle or Fort are silhouetted against the hillside in which its foundations are buried. It no longer looks like a fortress and today has no more than solid sandstone ashlar walls a few metres deep and the odd isolated tower. These walls have absolutely no openings whatsoever and are very high at some points. A private house has been built inside the fort.

Cristo de Bonanza Basilica

The 14th Century Santo Cristo de Bonanza Basilica, the first parish church to exist in Pasai Donibane, was dedicated to San Juan de la Ribera. The new parish church dedicated to Saint Isabel was destroyed by fire leaving absolutely no remains. At that time the main religious services were held at the garrison of Santa Isabel Castle. The currently standing Santo Cristo de Bonanza Basilica, built to replace it in 1738, was paid for by donations by the locals, even those living abroad (Peru, Manila, Venezuela, etc.). One curious detail is that the sea bream fishing boats donated part of their catches to this endeavour.

Skippers and crew all collected money for its upkeep. Mass was given on the departure and arrival of ships, either in gratitude for the men's luck at sea or invoking the protection of the Holy Christ for their voyage.

The church has a single rectangular nave and two lovely terraced choirs. Over the second of the two, a spacious circular window lets light flow into the temple along with the four side windows and the one in the vestry. A sumptuous grille, the work of Matías Lozano from Hondarribia, covers the length and breadth of the arch supporting the first choir, reminiscent of the Santo Cristo Basilica in Lezo. The church is split into four stretches separated by box-shaped pilasters standing on a larger pilaster and column section, supporting the transversal arches, main arches and transepts of the vaults. These produce curves softening the arris.

Lengthwise, the longest part is that of the Choir and transept, closed off by a squinch arch vault decorated with a fine moulding and keystone bearing the coat of arms of Pasai Donibane. The vaults are arris vaults, with stone nerves and a keystone brought to the church by sea.
The main door is only slightly underlined by a small appendix or stone bell tower which, with a square ground plan, stands on one side, with stone balustrades on its openings and ledges, topped by a graceful spire with an acroter and ball. The interior stairs, similarly in stone, are spiral and lead to the choir; five small loophole windows provide the lighting. The entire outside of the building with its stonework on the corners and cornice, stands on a little plinth in the same material; it has a hip roof. We should underline the projection and casting work on the bases and capitals, the excellent construction of the vaults and the delicacy of the moulding work, all details underlining qualified workmanship, although the passing of time, the fact that it is no longer used for worship but as a fishing boat storeroom has partly detracted from its dignity.

On the western facade of the temple is a door known as "Lintxua". This was used as a place of shelter in bad weather while waiting for the arrival of fishing or merchant ships. It has a series of incisions or carvings representing different kinds of vessel mainly dating from the 18th Century, although there are some from the 19th Century.

The high altarpiece is discreetly Baroque in design, with, in the centre, Santo Cristo de Bonanza, whose English origins are obvious from his blond hair. This was probably the work of Jerónimo Larrea (17th Century). The images on either side represent the Nazarene and the Flagellation. Two polychromed flying angels stand out on either side of the presbytery arch.

As on so many other occasions, the holy image has a legend. It has been general belief for many a long year that fishermen found this Christ floating in the sea. With the faith characterising our people at that time, they fished it out of the sea and installed it in this church. Since then it has been worshipped not only by the people of Pasai Donibane (San Juan), but by the crews of merchant, war and privateer ships who offered their donations and masses to this Christ.

Santiago Square in Pasai Donibane

Leaning or sitting on the bench bordering the sea front, we can observe the entire square, noting its typical fishing flavour and rectangular layout open on one side to the sea.

This square looks out over the sea, with a long row of tall, narrow houses and the old Town Hall in the centre. The two sides of the square are limited by the facades of the houses in the street ending here. One of these, in fine ashlar work, also serves as a pelota court, while the other one, looking towards the square, has several little windows.

The real facade of this square consists of the kind of architecture popularly found in fishing villages. These houses, with their three, four or five floors, have long balconies occupying the whole facade, normally with wooden railings, painted, like the rest of the woodwork, in different colours. One of the most remarkable features is the difference in the kinds of house. A very steep stairway makes its way up the different floors to the hillside behind the houses. The rear facades of the lower floors are almost incrusted in the hillside. Another particular characteristic is the gable roofs with their ridges running perpendicular to the facade, when construction habits tend to be quite the opposite. This square is the only opening to be found after having followed the old street.

This is a truly picturesque and colourful square built in popular style. The rays of the sun shining from high above reverberate against the walls and ground without creating shadows, filling every corner with light. At night, the local seafaring spirit rests in this square. During the festivities in celebration of Saint John's and Saint James' Days, the hustle and bustle, noise, music and young dancers fill the square with tremendous merriment bouncing off the windows and balconies before fading into the sea.

Old Town Hall of Pasaia

The Royal Agreement of 1770 permitted Pasaia to build its own Town Hall with all of the rights still existing today, therefore allowing it to rid itself of the long administrative tutelage exercised by Hondarribia, while losing the name of "de la banda de Fuenterrabía" or "de Francia", as it had been called for centuries, to become the town of Pasaia.

Later, on 1 June 1805, Pasai San Pedro became a part of Pasai Donibane, as did Pasai Antxo, in the early 20th Century. Thus, the three parts of Pasaia, plus the district of Trintxerpe, have one single Town Council split into four districts, the administrative offices and headquarters of which are located in Pasai Donibane.

At the centre of the row of houses standing in the Plaza de Santiago, in Pasai Donibane, we will find the Baroque old Town Hall, dating from 1735. This terraced building has a rectangular ground plan and a gable roof with its ridge parallel to the facade. This building does not fully correspond to the typical Basque Town Halls with their large arches.

José de Lizardi and Juan Bautista de Inchaurrandiaga collaborated in valuating the quarry destined to the new Town Hall in Pasai Donibane, the design of which is similarly attributed to José de Lizardi. We don't know if the building marks out a new ground plan or if it was built over one that already existed. It stands between two houses looking onto the square and its facade is a narrow, elevated triangle of four floors, standing out from those on either side for its ashlar work. Its large windows and balconies (the one on the third floor runs from side to side of the facade) are typical of this kind of Town Hall, unlike others designed by Lizardi.

The facade is ashlar. On the ground floor is a central door with a barred window on either side. The second floor has unusual openings. On the main floor we can see the typical projecting balcony with forged iron railings supported by stone brackets. The top floor is presided over by the town coat of arms, on either side of which are long balconies.

Santa Ana Hermitage

Santa Ana Hermitage, in Pasai Donibane, watches over the entrance to the port and the bay from its location on the hillside. Although little is known of its origin, we do know that it was built in 1758.

This is a simple religious building with a rectangular ground plan, single nave and elevated choir at the rear of the building typical of churches in Gipuzkoa. The vestry is a small room backing on to the left-hand side of the altar area. The main entrance beneath the choir has a semicircular archway, while there is another access on the south facade with its three rectangular windows through which light streams into the church.

The image of Saint Ann with the Virgin Mary is a real gem thanks to its manufacture, age and polychrome work. This image was acquired in Flanders in 1573 and brought by ship to Pasaia.

The building, of simple layout and austere surface, is in an acceptable state of preservation. Its main feature is the fact that it looks so pretty on the hillside, standing on a large terrace from which we can see what's happening in the port and even in the sea.

The little tower topping the Hermitage is currently used for practice manoeuvres by pilots and seamen learning how to direct ships through the mouth of the channel. Every year, a celebration is held on Saint Ann's Day, 26 July, with a mass in the hermitage followed by the distribution of soup to all of those present.

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