San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Bermeo, Bizkaia

A small, magical place in the Basque Country. The place is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a chapel in a beautiful landscape that has a long history. Is located in the Biscay coast between Bermeo and Bakio in, in the municipality of Bermeo.

The chapel is located on the top of an island that must be accessed through a stone bridge and then climb 231 steps. The name have several meanings:

1. Gaztelu-aitz (Castle Rock)

2. Gaztelu-gache (castle rough or difficult).

3. According Iturriza was founded in the tenth century by the name of San Juan Bautista (XI century appears under the name of San Juan de la Peña) and have been a Templar monastery.

4. Another popular name is Doniene sanctuary is possibly an archaic contraction Donelohanes: San Juan. The location is strategic to the domain of the coast. In fact, the story says that in 1334 Gaztelugatxe is one of the bastions of resistance against vanity and lust for plunder of Alfonso XI, King of Castile: in precinct risky Biscayans seven knights fought with their retinues who resisted more than one months the attacks of a well organized army: humiliated, forced to withdraw his army leaving the Monarch on a war footing, given the boldness and serenity of the besieged forced the withdrawal of a legend tropes. According to legend, San Juan landed at the port of Bermeo and taking three steps came to the shrine leaving footprints engraved in four places in the road.


The first track is under the arch of San Juan, in the town of Bermeo own, San Juan Portalie. Being broken the original stone has been restored in 1982. The second trace the Arene situated in the neighborhood, near the hamlet Itsasalde, just before you get to the source. It has placed a new stone in 1982. The third track was at the height of Burgoa. But having become obsolete the traditional path leading to the shrine, this print was lost has been rediscovered in 1981 and placed the following year when the last step access to the shrine. This track is also the most interesting, because besides the footprint clearly seen, we can read the inscription “SAN JUAN”, someone wrote with a chisel.

A tradition said that one must  go up and touch the bell  3 times to make a wish or drive away evil spirits. Fishing boats when they come to fish usually perform several turns to port and starboard to the holy will of fate. Women who experience a problem with fertility often go to this place in the belief that the Gods will help you solve this problem. In the stairwells, identified as the footsteps of St. John, are given different healing powers, to take advantage of them you have to put your feet in them looking to cure corns or left hats, scarves or chapels to cure headache.


All images are copyright © Margo Wiessman, 2012 and may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, stored, or altered in any way without the written consent of the photographer! © Margo Wiessman 2012 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Spain License.

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