Ermita de Santa Ana
Ships from the port of Castro were engaged in fishing, trade and cultural events, although they would go on to replace their primitive orientation towards trade with Europe with more open trade towards the Atlantic following the discovery of America.
The village suffered many calamities during the 16th century, and it lost quite of bit of the population, which could have influenced the move of the governor of the four villas to Laredo. Between 1739 and 1763, Castro Urdiales was separated from this district, instead joining the Señorío de Vizcaya.
During the war of independence, its residents were positioned against the French, supporting the troops and English vessels that harassed to the nearby Bilbao until May 11, 1813 when it was raided and destroyed by the former.
The village began to recover during the 19th century, when it became an important port for the shipping of iron extracted in the mines of the neighboring Encartaciones Bizkaia. Towards the end of the same century, the bourgeoisie Bilbao began to use it as a place for holidays, which began an architectural renovation of the area.
As in the majority of Spain, in 1918 the Spanish Flu caused a terrible mortality in the area, but in the case of Castro Urdiales, the help of the provincial Council did not arrive, causing a major problem. The relief came from neighboring Diputación de Vizcaya, which led to the City Council in 1924 voting in favor of annexation to the Basque country, a decision which would prove to have no practical effect.
The village of Castro Urdiales has the charm and tradition of an illustrious sailing and fishing center. The area of the town extends facing the port and the maritime walkway, which continues and the city expands onward.
In the area of Santander and Ardigales streets and two meters deep the remains of Flaviobriga were found, and many artifact from this zone have been taken to the Prehistoric and Archeological Regional Museum of Cantabria, Santander (which is currently awaiting new headquarters). You can find more information about the area of Castro in this museum between the Paleolithic and Middle Ages, in an archeological room.
The old town of Castro Urdiales, or “Puebla Vieja,” preserved from the medieval period, was declared a historically and artistically significant site in 1978. The center is concentrated around the rocky promontory which dominates the port, visible from any point of the bay. Here stands the Church of Santa Maria de la Asunción, which was recognized as a national monument in 1931 and regarded as one of the most important Gothic churches in the North of Spain. It was initiated in the 13th century and built under the protection of King Alfonso VIII of Castile. It’s basilica temple floor plan with three naves. In the courtyard there is a Roman military figure (a stone indicating the distance of 1000 steps) which points to the where the roads that joins the old Flaviobrioga with Herrera de Pisuerga, in Palencia. The interior of the church houses many paintings and sculptures, including the White Virgin, a gothic statue in polychrome stone; three gothic images of kings and other three interesting Baroque representations of Christ, the Cristo de la Agonía, a canvas attributed to the painter Francisco de Zurbarán, in the altarpiece of the same name; a Christ lying, and an Ecce Homo, the last two last of which were sculpted in the workshop of Gregorio Fernández. Facing the facade South of the temple the remains of the Hermitage Romanesque of San Pedro (12th century) can be found, which is where (until the 16th century) the local council gathered to meet.
Next to the Church is the castle, which is either from the late 12th century or early 13th, and is perched on the primitive Roman fort that gave rise to the town. With a pentagonal floor-plan and strong outside bases, it was the main defensive place of the village. Before the French invasion, in 1841, many inhabitants came to the castle to flee on English ships embarking from the port. Inside, some events and exhibitions are held in a half-barrel vaulted room. In 1853 a light was added to the Tower so that it would fulfill the functions of the port’s Lighthouse.
Alongside the breakwater, on the other side of the Medieval bridge, is the chapel of Santa Ana, rectangular and with a porch supported by square pillars. It currently hosts the Centre of Interpretation of Flavióbriga. From this point one can enjoy a nice view of the Bay and the port.
Church of Santa María de la Asunción
On the seafront you will find the Town Hall, designed by Antonio Vega and built in the 18th century entirely out of stone. It is a three story building framed by two towers finished off with eaves of Baroque imprint that, at the end of the 19th century, were renovated by Eladio Laredo, who crowned the central body of the church with a crenellated tower that altered its original form.
Closer to the main street and Ardigales, one can still observe remains of the old wall with a certain medieval flavor.
At the end of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, some powerful Basque families built their summer residences in Castro Urdiales. To see the most spectacular facade of all, it is worth approaching the pier of Don Luis Ocharán, from where you can see complex Ocharán, an eclectic building reminiscent of the Palladian villas by his arcaded facade, with ten classical ionic columns in double row and side staircase of paired columns. This main facade is decorated with panels of ceramic by Daniel Zuloaga.
Castro Urdiales also has important modernist and other eclectic buildings. One of them is the Chalet Sotileza (1914), the work of Cantabrian architect Leonardo Rucabado, creator of the Mountain school of Architecture. The property is decorated with a tower, balconies and portalada reminiscent of historical Cantabrian houses.
Another building of interest is the Hotel Royal, also designed by Eladio Laredo, of eclectic style, located in the center of town. It is decorated with elements reminiscent of gothic architecture, and with others elements referencing the shields of Catholic kings and the Emperor Carlos V, such as the arrows, the harness, and the imperial eagle. Currently it is the site of the Cultural Center of Eladio Laredo and the Ataulfo Argenta School of Music.
Castro Urdiales has been cradle of master musicians since the 16th century. It boasts an important Orchestra of parish principles from the 19th century, and of different corals. Among the village natives, musicians include pianist and conductor Ataúlfo Argenta, to whom the town has dedicated a garden at the port area. In the square, next to the statue erected in his honor, you can hear his music, which sounds all the time through a speaker system.
Along the maritime walkway extends Brazomar beach, which has gold sand and is 400 meters in length. Next to it is Ostend beach, which has artificial sand and fewer people.
On the first Friday of July, Castro Urdiales is full of floats for their traditional parade of “El Coso Blanco.” Other festivals remind us of the town’s maritime past, such as August 15, the day of the assumption of the Virgin, when a cooking competition is held in the dock area. Some 300 groups mount their tables and chairs in the Park of Amestoy and cook stews from Nice in their kettles. There is also a Cockaigne contest, that consists of balancing on wooden planks to reach a prize and, after, the music and dance celebration.