It is located at the mouth of the narrow gorge carved by the river Oroncillo, to which it gives its name. Pancorbo, one of the few natural passes between La Bureba and the plain of Miranda de Ebro, between the País Vasco and the Castilian plateau, has been, for centuries, and continues to be, a real crossroads. If we want to know the origins of Pancorbo, we have to go back to prehistoric times, as settlements have been documented in the area from a long period between the Chalcolithic and the Iron Age. From Roman times it is known that the Via Aquitana, which linked Astorga with Bordeaux, passed through here. Moreover, on the walls of the hermitage of Barrio you can still see tombstones from the Roman period. This rich history has brought to our times a number of places to visit in Pancorbo.
In the Middle Ages, Pancorbo became an important milestone in the history of Castilla. The town and its castle were disputed by Castilians and Navarrese, and after the death of King García Sánchez, Pancorbo became part of the kingdom of Pamplona, becoming one of its main political and military centres. In fact, in the mid-11th century, King Sancho IV of Pamplona was entitled in some documents as king "in Pamplona, in Nájera and in Pancorbo". Under the reign of Alfonso VI it definitively became part of Castilla. King Alfonso VII granted it privileges and it became a royal town. The Modern Age was a time of decline and depopulation for Pancorbo, caused when, in the 14th century, Henry II named Briviesca the capital of La Bureba and then Pancorbo was donated to the city of Burgos. When the French entered Spain at the end of the 18th century, the government of the time decided to build a fortress in Pancorbo, the fort of Santa Engracia, which became a strategic war point, passing from Spanish to French hands and vice versa until 1823, when the French returned with the Duke of Angoulême and his 100000 sons of Saint Louis and razed the fortress of Pancorbo to the ground. The town was also the scene of the Carlist and Civil Wars. Today Pancorbo is still an important communications hub in the north of Spain.
The town preserves a marked medieval character in its streets and buildings, making it easier for visitors to immerse themselves in its history and culture. It is easy to answer the question of what to visit in Pancorbo, as there are many buildings and corners that will surprise you as you walk through its narrow streets. A good starting point is the tourist office and interpretation centre on the history of Pancorbo, the Losino horse and the fort of Santa Engracia, which is located in the Tower of the Jail. The church of Santiago, Gothic from the 16th century, which shares the function of worship with a museum exhibiting works by different artists from the area. The castle of Santa Marta, La Sala as it is known to the locals, whose ruins together with those of the fortress of Santa Engracia, also known as "the caves of the Moors", watch over the town from the rocky outcrops. The walls and gateway of Santa Marta, the emblazoned houses in Royal Street with its arcades, Santiago Street and San Nicolás Street. The 18th century Town Hall building, which boasts a coat of arms of the Austrian family, the current parish church of San Nicolás and the curious Main Fountain or Fountain of Los Carneros also date from the 18th century.
Nature has always been part of the history of the town of Pancorbo and of the culture and experiences of its people, and today it still plays an important role, offering us a wonderful setting in which to enjoy impressive landscapes, as it is one of the gateways to the Natural Park Mountains Obarenes-San Zadornil. If we are looking for things to do in Pancorbo we find hiking routes such as the Pancorbo PRC BU89 trail, which takes us to visit the Peña el Mazo viewpoint and the Santa Engracia fortress, or the GR 291 Water and Rock, which links the Obarenes Mountains with the river Ebro or, in other words, Pancorbo with Miranda de Ebro. We can also discover the Romanesque hermitage of Santo Cristo del Barrio in the middle of the Via Bayona or Way of Saint James, whose route crosses the gorge. These are some of the options that hikers will not miss, while from the air they are observed by the large number of birds that fly over and nest on these crags. But the surroundings of Pancorbo and its cliffs and vertical rock faces also delight climbers who come to the Pancorbo Climbing School. It should be borne in mind that during the bird nesting season, from 15 February to 30 July, climbing is not permitted above a line of red dots on the wall above a certain height, which is where the vultures place their nests. A good ride on the back of a Losino horse raised in semi-freedom in the mountains range of Pancorbo can complete the activity of a pleasant day in this beautiful village.
Pancorbo celebrates the feast of Cristo de Barrio around 11 July. The Thanksgiving celebration is usually held at the end of August. In October, the Pancorbo Horse Fair takes place, during which the Horse of Iron trophy is awarded to the champions of the morphological competitions, there is a public auction of young horses, 3 and 4 years old, and there is also the chance to enjoy jumping exhibitions, harness rides, rides for children in carriages and children's horse riding.
A chronicle from the early Middle Ages refers to an attack by the Moors against the Christian castle of Pancorbo (Ponte Curbum) in which, after a three-day battle, the Christians won. Everything seems to indicate that next to the castle there was a bridge with a strange curved outline that ended up giving its name to the town. "In extremis Castellae venis ad castrum cui Pontecorbum nomen est, ...". In the remote parts of Castilla you come to the castle which is called Pontecorbo. The name of the town appears in a document from the year 957 from the Riojan monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla. As a curious fact, it was not until 2004 when the town council agreed in a plenary session that the name of the municipality should be Pancorbo with a B, as until then both the B and the V were used at will.
In the town of Pancorbo grew an important Jewish settlement called Villanueva de los Judíos, which according to documents was very close in importance to that of Briviesca. And it is in this environment where the legend arises, which could well be one of the tales that used to be told to naughty children, the legend of the School of jesters. It was not an ordinary school, there was no other like it. The children who had been kidnapped by the "rocachicos", the "bogeyman" or the "sacamantecas" came to this school. Here they were prepared physically and mentally to become the jesters who, in the palaces of kings, nobles and powerful lords, would be in charge of entertaining and amusing, both with their deformed bodies and with their quick, agile and foul language and mind, the palace banquets and meetings. For this purpose, as soon as the children arrived at school, they were put naked in small jars for a long time so that their bodies would grow deformed as they grew. Hunchbacks, deformities in the limbs, in the head... it was the best profile for a good aspiring jester. Then came the second part of the apprenticeship, which for these children consisted of being skilful and quick both in their sleight of hand and in their poetic repertoires, songbooks, jokes and dialogues, all of them full of swearing, insults and foul language. Then, taking advantage of the local fairs, they were exhibited and sold inside the jars themselves. This incredible school was so much talked about that even Victor Hugo in his work "L'homme qui rit" speaks of Pancorbo as a meeting place for the "robaniños" to turn them into jesters or to ask for charity.
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The town of Pancorbo is located in the middle of the N-1 road, colloquially known as the road to Irún, in the section between Miranda de Ebro and Briviesca. The N-232 Logroño-Santander road and the AP-1 motorway also pass through Pancorbo.
There is a bus service from Monday to Friday, working days, with different timetables linking Pancorbo with Miranda de Ebro and Burgos. The information telephone number for this service is 947 472 830.
Pancorbo has a train station with stops on the Madrid-Irún line. It also has a regional and medium-distance train service, which from Monday to Saturday, at different times, connects it with Miranda de Ebro, Briviesca and Burgos. For further information, the R.E.N.F.E. telephone number is 912 320 320.
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