Hermitage of La Antigua
The first documents that mention this hermitage are from the year 1366. It has a unique inner beauty of which its mixture of stone and wood is the highlight. The defensive outside part contains a fourteenth century Romanesque entrance and a cross installed during the extension carried out in the fifteenth century.
The Hermitage has a Gothic sculpture of the Madonna. Its rustic construction, a forest of oak attracts the viewer’s gaze to the roof, beams, braces, parapets and struts.. all decorated with geometric motifs, female heads, etc.. characteristic of early medieval decor in the Basque Country.
It is currently part of the Route of the Three Temples alongside the shrines of Loiola and Arantzazu and it is part of the Top Ignatian Land Circuit.
Silent guardian of the valley since ancient times, even today it continues to leave its visitors in wonder due to its unique beauty within. It is considered the Cathedral of the Hermits.
Leaving the town centre towards the ring road, just past the Parish and just before the petrol station, take the road on left which, after about a mile of ascent, leads to the chapel. This is the perfect place to enjoy beautiful views of Legazpi, Zumarraga, Urretxu and Irimo.
There is also a family playground with (beech) trees, tables and stone benches. From here you can take a pleasant walk to Mount Beloki.
It is very interesting to see the festivities of Santa Isabel (2nd July), when the residents of the town and region come up, from early in the morning, on a pilgrimage to this place where they hold a Mass, and the dancers of the town, after a brief procession around the temple, carry out an ancient sword dance in front of the altar, the Ezpata Dantza of Zumarraga. After the mass they repeat the same dance and also dance the Aurresku. Food is organised by associations and families enlivened with txistularis, trikitrilaris, etc. (Basque music groups), and in the afternoon they go back down to the town in a joyous procession.
It was, until 1576, the first parish of Zumarraga, and it is undoubtedly one of the oldest buildings in this area.
It is a clear example of Basque Romanesque, of which so few monuments remain today (nevertheless, we have found architectural elements from the Romanesque-Gothic transition period).
The original Romanesque building has no external buttresses, as it is formed by a construction that was originally roofed and covered with wood.
It consists of a single nave, which is divided into three parts by six thick cylindrical pillars. It also has two end trusses on the front walls of the structure, for the chancel and front gable.
The roof is pitched. The choir and side galleries, made up of a wooden floor on small beam footings, uses the traditional arrangement adopted in many churches in the region, especially in the French Basque Country.
Part of its inner woodwork (footing heads, brackets, beams, etc) features carvings that are normally seen on stelae, arks, lintels, etc.. such as wheels and swastikas, which are Celtic in origin and represent the sun and fire.
They are some very interesting reliefs completing several of these huge footings, which contain the human figure represented by female heads and busts, some of them touched with a “sapi”. Other figures are also carved, including a dragon.
On the outside of the trapezium-shaped apse, from a later period than the end walls of the presbytery, two architectural features of great interest are embedded in the facade:
a) A Gothic cross carved in sandstone in the tympanum of a small door.
b) A Gothic window now recovered after the work, with a wrought iron gate in the centre of the tympanum, with a composition that is very similar to that surrounding the cross.
Between these two architectural compositions, there is a fringe of stone with the following inscription, executed in Gothic letters: MCCCCLXXX.