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Heritage Route

Meet Markina-Xemein with this short and interesting journey. Your phone will be your best guide.

You’ll find here an interesting route of 20 points. With this Heritage Route, we will show you a small part of the history of Markina-Xemein while you visit monuments, historical and religious buildings.

Goiko Portala
Orients its main facade to Goikoportala. A baroque building (formerly a tower house) topped with wide eaves. On the first floor, there is the Barroeta coat of arms – somewhat deteriorated – comprising a lion, the cross of Saint Andrew with an eight-pointed star, a tree with an eagle devouring a piglet and three poplar leaves. In the center of the shield there is a crown and on the border the following legend: Justitia et Charitas Dilecti principis arces (justice and charity are strengths of the beloved prince).
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The Goikoportala fountain built in 1787 is a civil work that represents the culmination of the bringing of drinking water to Markina. A project “promoted in unison by the municipal authorities by a group of local intellectuals and by the main owners of churches, farmhouses , mountains and forges headed by the count of Peñaflorida, Mr. Xavier Maria de Munibe, the founder and perpetual director of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country” following the ideas of the Enlightenment. This work places Markina at the forefront of illustrated Basque urban planning. Francisco de Echanove’s project consists of a limestone column topped by garlands and crowned by a replica of the original pointed dome. At the bottom of the column there are four white stone ovals, one of which shows the town’s coat of arms and the other three, some quatrains that refer to the construction of the fountain and that are attributed to Juan Antonio Moguel (1745 -1804), a religious who practiced in the parish of Xemein and author of the literary work Peru Abarka written at the beginning of the 19th century in Biscayan Basque.
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The conventual complex of great proportions is made up of the residence, the garden on the north side, the cloister and the church. The convent was founded in 1691 by the abbot of the Collegiate Church of Zenarruza, Ignacio de Munibe y Axpe, son of the counts of Peñaflorida. The church built under the Baroque style was inaugurated in 1724. The architect is unknown although the construction is attributed to the Carmelite Fray Marcos. In 1808, the convent was suppressed and it became a barracks for French troops. Likewise, in 1839, due to the exclaustration, the religious were expelled until 1869. The facade made of sandstone arranged in ashlar masonry has three bodies: one central and two laterals. The central one, higher than the sides, houses a niche with the sculpture of the Virgen of Carmen and is topped by a triangular pediment that includes the coat of arms of the Order. The lateral bodies, lower and narrower, are topped by gables. The interior of the temple has a Latin cross shape, a straight apse and three halls. The two lateral halls, in the same way as the Carmel churches, are arranged as a processional cloister. Its covering is done by means of domes, while the central hall and the arms of the transept are made with lunettes and with a cupola. The main altar, in baroque style, is presided over by the Virgen of Carmen; to the right is saint Cyril of Alexandria and to the left, saint Elias. The altarpiece Christ on the Cross is finished off with saint Angelo on the right and saint John of the Cross on the left. The lateral altars, also baroque, are dedicated to saint Joseph (Gospel) and saint Teresa (Epistle). Next to this altar, there is another one dedicated to san Joaquín and santa Ana. Each side hall contains four altars. Those on the right are dedicated to the Sacred Heart, saint Michael, saint Teresa of Lisieux and to Calvary or Crucifixion of Christ. Those on the left are for the Flagellation, saint John of the Cross, saint Anthony of Padua and the Souls of Purgatory. Currently, a part of the premises of this convent is enabled as a hostel for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
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The historic center has a medieval planning structured in three longitudinal streets and a corner block that unites them (Guenkalea, Erdikokalea and Kaleokerra- and a transverse street –Zeharkalea). The town was surrounded by a wall in which three gates were opened: those of Orueta, Irureta and Suso/Goiko. The wall was the element that marked the difference between the town and the parish church: the town of an urban nature with a concentrated population and the parish of a rural nature with a scattered population. The wall gradually disappeared due to demographic pressure, so the town grew in the direction of its extreme neighborhoods – the suburbs. At each door a suburb would appear: Abesua’s at the door of Irureta; Artibai’s in that of Orueta; and Arriba/Goiko’s (Suso), today Karmengo Kalea, which began at the door of the same name. The plots that make up the town have undergone transformations in their dimensions and in their internal distribution so that most of the buildings have lost their medieval image. However, the town preserves very well, despite the changes made in the modern and contemporary periods, the layout of its streets. The Historic Center was classified in 1996 as a Cultural Asset with the category of Monumental Complex and its protection regime was established. In 2000, the Camino de Santiago was also classified as a Cultural Asset with the category of Monumental Complex and it included the Historic Center of Markina-Xemein. Let us remember that the coastal route of the Camino de Santiago goes up to Mendaro (Gipuzkoa) and enters Markina through the Arnoate peak. Going down Arnoate, the Camino enters the Lea-Artibai region through Markina and following the banks of Artibai River, the pilgrims reach Ziortza-Bolibar.
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Old Town Hall. Until the construction of the town hall, the council that governed the town held its meetings in the corner end of Erdikokalea, in Xemein, and in the church of San Pedro de Elizabarria. The biography of this building, which today is the headquarters of the Justice of Peace, dates back to the 16th century. It is a property that has undergone different phases in its construction. Since the 18th century it was agreed to expand the first existing building so that in the 19th century it could proceed with new reforms and distributions in which the architect Rafael Zavala intervened. On the ground floor there is a wide open portico supported by eight baroque sandstone columns from Mount Oiz made by Juan de Basaybar and Sebastián de Leixardi between the years 1636 and 1646. The first floor overlooks Guenkalea, Erdikokalea and Zeharkalea streets with wrought iron balconies. The portico, next to the main door, houses a canvas of the Immaculate Conception and a sign with the following text: Don Francisco Aguriano Bishop of Calahorra y la Calzada grants 40 days of indulgence to anyone who prays a Hail Mary or Hail to this Holy Image. The image and the text evoke the one who was the Patroness of the town from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. The tower, from the 19th century, is included within the set of the old town hall; its construction, as well as the machinery of the clock, has undergone several reforms. The clock continues to provide the time and the tower is in excellent condition.
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In the 1630 population census of Markina, this late medieval tower transformed into a palace belongs to Doña María de Ugarte. Thanks to Andrés de Ansotegui, his successor, the tower went through repairs since he made it a residential building. It is the example of a tower built within the walls so that its inhabitants could have closer the municipal power. The main facade, in limestone ashlar masonry, consists of three floors and an attic. The two arches on the ground floor, the twin pointed windows of the first floor, the large continuous balcony of the second floor and the row of small beams stand out. On the ground floor there are iron rings that were used to tie the horses. On the contrary, the facade that faces Abesua Street shows a more military aspect.
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Next to the old southern portal of the wall (called the Irureta portal) is the Arkupe house. It is a neoclassical building from 1854 with an arcaded facade facing the meadow, demonstrating its appreciation for the immemorial recreation place of the town.
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Sports facility known worldwide as University of Pelota because it is a learning center for the great figures of Jai Alai. The first fronton built dates from the 18th century, although previously and taking advantage of a piece of wall, it was played in the fronton known as El Siete.
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It is a baroque palace that hides a medieval tower, the Bidarte tower. On the ground floor, an access with large voussoirs presents in the main voussoir the shield of Bidarte – a tower with merlon – and on the shield an image of the Virgin. The ground and first floors are made of limestone ashlar masonry and the second is painted with floral decorations among which is – today illegible – the coat of arms of Murga, Montoya, Fernández de Ugarte y Aguirre. This palace is also known as the house of the Moro Vizcaíno (Biscayan Moor), José María Murga (1827-1876), a character who explored Morocco between 1862 and 1865 and author of the book Moroccan Memories of the Moro Vizcaíno. His memories and documents are stored there. With baroque spirit, it has a forest with various tree species and a little house that constitutes the natural complement of the palace.
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The Uhagón house, from the end of the 19th century and headquarters of the cultural center, offers an exhibition space, conference rooms and a cafeteria. In its extensive landscaped space, you can find the sculpture Poesia Bi by Lertxundi. On the other side of the bridge, at nº 5, Torre Barria (new tower) demonstrates the desire of the aristocracy to be close to the town. The size, although altered, keeps two arched entrances.
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It has two clearly differentiated pieces: one neoclassical from the end of the 18th century and another historicist, from the beginning of the 20th century, inspired by Baroque constructions, and the work of Emiliano Amann, commissioned by the Gaytán de Ayala family. The two bodies have three heights and the connection between the two is made by means of a loggia or open solarium in three semicircular arches. The historicist block preserves a chestnut wood library and also has a small building attached to it. Now it is the headquarters of the Lea-Artibai Commonwealth.
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In the gardens that surround this palace and that are part of the Lea-Artibai ikastetxea teaching center, there is the monument dedicated to Juan Antonio Moguel made by the sculptor Xiri Andonegi. Typographic forms in limestone reproduce a fragment of the work Peru Abarka written by Moguel that says: “The wolf prefers the wild life and the difficult search for the food to the pampering and the soft bread of the chained domestic dog.”
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The temple of Santa María de la Asunción de Xemein was created in the 10th century. In this century, Christianity was propagating and small monasteries were founded. Until the founding of the town of Markina (1355), the patrons of this monastery were the houses of Barroeta and Ugarte both from Xemein. These families occupied the main seats in the church and collected part of their tithes. In the 14th century (1355), when the town of Markina was founded, in its puebla letter or founding charter it is said that the Xemeingan monastery would be common to the town of Markina and the Xemein parish. With the entry of the town into the board of trustees, controversies began, as the houses of Barroeta and Ugarte claimed their entirety. These disputes forced the town to build the church of San Pedro de Elizabarria. The conflicts over the patronage happened later. In the seventeenth century, half of the patronage was benefitted from by the town of Markina and the other half by the houses of Ugarte and Barroeta. These patronages later would pass to the house of Peñaflorida. The Xemein church was developed in the 16th century and the masters Martín Albisua, Rodrigo Albiz, Miguel Elorriaga, Juan Emasabel and the carpenter Pedro Andrino participated in it. In the seventeenth century the complements of the temple were built: the choir, the sacristy and the tower. The choir has an organ (1910), work of the Amezua house. Below the choir there are images of the Sacred Heart and the Virgin of the Rosary. The Xemein church also has the stone tombs of the Mugartegui and Peñaflorida families and the Gaytán de Ayala chapel with a Virgen of Pilar and the family’s emblem on the grate. The primitive sacristy was behind the main altar but in the 17th century, due to space and humidity problems, the sacristy that we know today was built. The masters Gaspar Balzola, Martín Ibarluzea and Lucas Longa took part in its execution. As for the tower, Juan de Urizar Zabala began to build it in 1625. However, his project having failed to please, Urizar himself carried out the design presented by Juan de Aguirre. It has two bodies made of sandstone, topped by a spire and a cross. Declared a National Monument of the Basque Country, it belongs to the model of the hall church or hallenkirche as it is called in Germany. It has a rectangular floor with three halls separated by six limestone columns. The walls on the outside are made of limestone ashlar, while the inside ones appear to be plastered. The vault is starred ribbed with warps. It has two entrances: one with a semicircular voussoir arch on the west facade and the main entrance with a double arch preceded by a small atrium on the south. As far as furniture content is concerned, the main altarpiece stands out in the Renaissance style. It was made in the first half of the 16th century and is structured with a predella, four horizontal sections, three divisions and four quirks. Several authors must have intervened in its execution.
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Attached to the church of Santa María de Xemein, we find the cemetery. Built under the neoclassical label and following the renovating ideas of the Enlightenment, it was built on the outskirts of the town ensuring hygienic and sanitary precautions. In the place occupied by the current cemetery, at the beginning of the 19th century there were graves. However, the cemetery that we know today is from the mid-19th century. It was laid out by the architect Mariano Lascurain and built by José Sodupe and Pedro José Loyola. In 1849 the land was purchased and in the years 1850-1851 construction proceeded. It is rectangular in shape with a gallery of columns and a chapel at the end with a Romanesque Christ. The main access traces the dividing line of the cemetery in two equal parts. Likewise, the cemetery can be accessed from the church and from the municipal parking lot. The burial place, which must have been at first within the arcaded space, was later moved to the uncovered area in which the mausoleum of José María de Munibe, XI count of Peñaflorida stands out. The neoclassical expressions can be seen in the main entrance, in the Munibe mausoleum and in the hall that precedes the chapel. In them we can see Neo-Greek elements (triangular pediment, columns and ornamental edge tiles) and Neo-Egyptian (shapes that recall the facades of Egyptian temples, pylons). Likewise, the gallery of columns recalls the Roman dwelling model. It has been declared a National Monument of the Basque Country.
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Located next to the Camino de Santiago where the Artibai and Urko rivers converge. Next to the hermitage are the old town hall of the Xemein parish, at number 22, and the probadero (a sport ground where a traditional game is played dragging stones). Etymologically Arretxinaga means “place or site where the stones lie or are laid”. Arri, harria is “stone”. Etxi from etzin, etzan, is “to lie down, lay down” and the locative suffix -aga, “place of”. This interpretation would describe the geological phenomenon that the hermitage keeps and that attracts so much attention. This geological manifestation, called in Mineralogy hydrothermal process and which took place about 40 million years ago, welcomes the archangel saint Michael. The saint wields the spear against the demon at his feet in the form of a dragon or another fantastic animal. With a centralized floor in the shape of a hexagon and a single lintel entrance, it is topped by a belfry. The origin of this hermitage is linked to the spiritual trend that developed in the High Middle Ages. In the Late Middle Ages, when the town of Markina was founded in 1355, it was said that the Xemein church had been abandoned because its parishioners frequented another religious site, perhaps the Arretxinaga site. In 1451, in a lawsuit over jurisdiction that the Xemein parish church had with the town of Markina, the existence of the hermitage is mentioned. Likewise, in 1541, it was recorded that the foundation of the hermitage was immemorial and that it had had hermits and then, it had freilas (military nuns) who cared for it. On August 17, 1626, the altar of saint Michael was solemnly consecrated considering that the sanctuary of Arretxinaga had a great resemblance to that of Monte Gargano in Apulia (Italy) and it was dedicated to the archangel saint Michael. In 1631 there were no hermits or freilas, but the house dedicated to their habitation still existed. In 1734, the Xemein parish church decided to rebuild the hermitage because its structure threatened to get ruined. A project was presented by P. B. Villarreal de Bérriz (1669-1740), but another design was carried out and the hermitage was inaugurated in 1741. In 1893 the roof was completely retiled. In 1894, the architect Pedro José de Astarloa presented the approximate budget for the conservation and repair works. However, preference was given to image restoration. The images and altars, there were several, were painted in 1895 by a resident of the town, Ramón de Ubera, following the conditions established by the structure board. On September 29, the feast of the titular saint, at midnight the local dance group, Zerutxu Dantza Taldea, dances the traditional Mahai Ganeko (on the table). The current state of the Arretxinaga complex is due to the remodeling work carried out by the Markina-Xemein City Council and the Provincial Council of Bizkaia.
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Medieval tower modified in the 16th and 18th centuries, it was undoubtedly one of the most important in the region of Markina. Without forgetting its defensive capacity, it was at the same time the residence of the family. From there they would control the iron making, the mill, the bridge, the hermitage, the fields and the meadows, from which they extracted an economic and social return. With a cubic construction and a hipped reinforced roof, despite the additions that have spoiled its image, it maintains the embrasures, the pointed windows and the two gothic arched entrances. Like its rival, Ugarte, it had a weapons courtyard. Linked to the tower are the hermitage of San Joaquín y Santa Ana, in a baroque style with a facade of ashlar masonry, a small gantry on top of two Tuscan columns and a canvas of the titular saints. The Olazar forge, close to the Artibai River and neighboring the Oxillain farmhouse, which maintains part of its ancillary rooms, now consolidated, but does not on the contrary retain any mechanical element; and the Oxillain mill disappeared in the floods of 1983. Close to these facilities, visible from the parking lot of the soccer field is the Oxillain dam. It is a dam with two arches designed by P. B. Villareal de Bérriz (1669-1740), a pre-illustrated character and pioneer in the construction of arch dams. From the dam we see Torrezar (Atxondoa neighborhood). It stands on rock and as its name indicates (zar = old), it is one of the oldest in the municipality. The initial tower has been altered with the addition of another construction of similar dimensions.
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Former municipal jail, it is currently the headquarters of the Regional Agrarian Office. In a historically neogothic style in limestone ashlar masonry, the building is crowned by the shield of Bizkaia: a tree whose trunk is crossed over by two wolves, five rampant lions on the bordure and a lion holding the shield.
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It is a neoclassical building designed by the architect Rafael Zavala in the mid-19th century and made by the stonemason José Vicente Urreta. It is a simple building with two corner pillars and four Doric columns. It has a neoclassical fountain attached to it.
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Rival of the Barroeta tower, it was part of the patronage of the church of Xemein. It is unknown how big the first tower would have been as it underwent various modifications: one at the beginning of the 16th century, another in the 18th which mainly affected the interior and the last one in the 20th century. Under its roof, on four sides with a pinion, we can appreciate the access with a pointed arch, the modillions, embrasure windows and pointed openings. It had a weapons courtyard and an iron factory.
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On the hill above the Murga solar house, next to the current Iparraguirre water reservoir, the general meetings of the Merindad of Markina were held next to the Sagastiguren tree. The merindad was made up of Xemein, Etxebarria and the town of Markina. This tree died at the beginning of the last century. However, in 2005 on the occasion of the 650th anniversary of the founding of Villaviciosa de Markina, the Markina-Xemein City Council organized an event in which they set up stone tables and benches in memory of the old assembly.
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