Back to Spain, the Álava province of the Basque Country and Elciego, the place where I recently took you on a tour at the distinguished Marqués de Riscal winery here.
The origin of the name of the village – el ciego, the blind man – is not known. According to one legend a blind man once had a tavern or inn on the location of the current village. The first written records on Elciego date back to the 11th century but the existing historical buildings are from the 16th and 18th centuries.
The present Álava province was once a region where Christians, Jews and Moors coexisted for centuries. It was also once a border area between the Kingdom of Castile and that of Navarre thus burdened with a constant risk of conflicts. Villages such as Elciego were therefore given privileges leading to an increase in population of both noblemen and commoners in the region, and to reinforcing the defense of the villages. In the late 16th century, King Felipe II granted Elciego the status of a town. However, these days a municipality with a population only just exceeding 1,000 is probably considered a village.
Elciego demonstrates all the characteristics of the medieval communities in the region. The main attributes are location on a hilltop and buildings of stone. Furthermore, every village has at least a couple of sanctuaries.
The parish church Iglesia de San Andrés:
They have a nice main square, in this case a most lovely, rather large one also called Plaza Major and surrounded by buildings from the 16th and 18th centuries.
They have a number of historical buildings with exquisite details in stone, wrought iron and carved wood.
Ajuntamiento or ‘town hall’ with the coat of arms donated by King Felipe II:
Following two photos: ‘Casa de los Hierros’, ‘ the iron house’, officially Palacio Navarrete Ladrón de Guevara. The coat of arms is that of a bishop who was born there.
Coats of arms most skillfully carved in stone are a common feature of old palaces and mansion in this area and they can also be found on facades of buildings that are not that ancient.
Following two photos: Palacio Ramírez de la Piscina.
Although the Álava communities display similar characteristics they are by no means the same. Each and everyone has its individual charm, Elciego even more so thanks to the fabulous creation of Frank Gehry (I posted about here) literally only a stone’s throw away.