In the geographical centre of Guipúzcoa-Gipuzkoa, in the valley of the river Urola and irrigated by it, Azpeitia is located in the foothills of Mount Izarraitz, also surrounded by the massifs of Izazpi and Irumugarrieta. It is known from the archaeological remains found in the area that these places had population settlements since antiquity, the cave of Ekain with its magnificent cave paintings or the funerary monuments found in the mountains are mute witnesses of this. The town of Azpeitia was founded in 1310 by King Ferdinand IV of Castilla, on land donated by the families of Ozaka and Iribarrena, and although at first it received the name of Garmendia de Iraurgui, very soon the same king ordered it to be called Salvatierra de Iraurgui. In 1397, in documents of the General Assemblies of Guetaria there is evidence of this name but also appears the name of Azpeitia, referring to the town. Both names were used indistinctly to name the locality during the following centuries.
The whole territory was an important nucleus where the feudal lords exercised their power. Azpeitia, during the 13th and 14th centuries, became the ruined scene of the flag fights. It was in the fifteenth century when King Henry IV, XXIII Lord of Biscay, temporarily put an end to these battles between lords. It was the 16th century and the commercial activity with the American ports that ended the flag wars turning the Elderly Relatives into the new Basque bourgeoisie. In Azpeitia an important economic activity began to be experienced. Commercial activity was complemented by a strong iron industry. The 18th century was a time of revolutions and changes for the area. In the 19th century Azpeitia was declared head of the judicial district. Today, Azpeitia still has a patent on the inheritance of the numerous forges that fostered the current iron and steel and metal industry which, together with the wood sector, are the basis of Azpeitia's industry.
Azpeitia, in addition to the town centre, is made up of different neighbourhoods, each with its own particular characteristics that give it a beautiful diversity. Aratz Erreka, a small quiet and charming corner where you can see its 19th century neoclassical church and a blacksmith's shop, Nuarbe, where the Santísima Trinidad church and the Errasti blacksmith's shop stand out and where a beautiful hiking route around the reservoir invites you to enjoy nature, Oñatz, in an incomparable natural environment, Urrestrilla, a neighbourhood located five kilometres away, between its hamlet, the church, the Txikuri pelota court, the mentidero, the Olajaun house and the bridge area, Elosiaga, Landeta, Matximbenta, Lasao, Izaguirre with a group of buildings that have 15th century coats of arms.... and the incomparable district of Loyola, a place of universal fame that houses the Sanctuary of Loyola, with the medieval tower-house of the Loyola family, birthplace of San Ignacio de Loyola. Between Loyola and Azpeitia itself is the 13th century hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Olatz on a hill. Already immersed in the town centre of Azpeitia, the buildings and monuments that stand out in the urban framework are remarkable.
The church of San Sebastián de Soreasu, of ancient origin and associated with the Templars and which was donated to Azpeitia in its foundation at the beginning of the 14th century, was reformed in the 16th century and again in the 18th century, inside it houses the font in which Saint Ignatius of Loyola was baptised. The Enparan tower-house, next to the Enparan bridge, dates from the beginning of the 14th century, originally in Gothic style, reformed in different centuries in 1970 was restored and now houses the municipal library. The town hall in the Town square dates from the 18th century. The 16th century palace Antxieta, the Lavadero, was built in 1842 on the site of the wall attached to the church of San Sebastián. The house of the Madrazo family, which has a beautiful coat of arms on the façade. The hospital and hermitage of La Magdalena, the latter built in the 14th century. The Basozábal palace, Etxe Zar, Old House is the oldest building conserved in Azpeitia, dating from the 14th-15th centuries. Curious to visit is undoubtedly the Basque Railway Museum, located in the old railway station of Urola, the first electric railway in Spain, where in addition to locomotives, wagons ... you can also admire a beautiful collection of station clocks. Azpeitia offers incredible hiking and mountaineering routes that run through the massif of Izarraitz and that going through magical corners leads them to tread its beautiful peaks such as Erlo and Xoxote.
Azpeitia celebrates the festivity of San Sebastián de Soreasu, to whom the parish church is dedicated, on 20 January. The day of the Baserritarra is the 25th of July. The big festivity of Azpeitia is the 31st of July, San Ignacio de Loyola, born in the town and venerated patron saint of Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya. And Santo Tomás Azpeitia is honoured on 21 December.
Since 1956 in Azpeitia the celebration of the festivity of San Sebastián de Soreasu, to whom the parish church is dedicated, begins on 19 January with the Tamborrada in which many people participate. The following day, the feast day of San Sebastian, more than 400 schoolchildren take part in the Children's Tamborrada.
The narrow-gauge Urola railway was the first electric railway in Spain and ran through the Urola valley, and in Zumárraga it was connected to the Madrid-París line of RENFE, with which it ran through the Deva valley, as well as to the line of the San Sebastián-Bilbao Basque Railways. This service was operative until the decade of 1980, then it was dismantled and its workshops started to house the Basque Railway Museum and its route was converted into a gratifying greenway, the Greenway of the Urola, where cyclists, walkers and hikers enjoy a privileged natural environment.
According to ancient documents the name Azpeitia comes from the Basque words aitz which means "peña" or "rock" and beitia, which means "from below". Curiously, the rock or mountain to which it refers is the Izarraitz which is located between Azpeitia and Azcoitia, the latter locality whose name etymologically means "above the rock". Father Larramendi, in his work Corografía, in 1759, said: Izoarriz, a very high mountain in the jurisdiction of Azpeitia and Azcoitia, from which both villages took their names and mean mountain up and mountain down
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Azpeitia can be reached from Elgóibar on the AP-8, from Vergara on the AP-1 and from Zumárraga via Azcoitia. We can also do it from Tolosa, or from Beasain both in the A-1, another option is to do it from the coast, more specifically from the town of Zumaia.
Azpeitia has a bus service that connects it with Zumaia, Zestoa-Cestona, Azkoitia, Urretxu and Zumárraga, as well as the line that covers the Azkoitia-Donostia service, which also stops in Azpeitia.
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