The town of Artziniega has plenty of reasons to visit: it has preserved its medieval structure intact, with towers and palaces; it has a first-class range of museums; and it is set in a spectacular natural environment. This year it is also celebrating the 750th anniversary of its foundation with an attractive programme of cultural and festive events. Are you coming?
The town of Artziniega was founded in 1272 by King Alfonso X, the Wise, and its urban area was soon protected by walls and defensive towers. Today, travellers can still see some remains of these walls and walk through one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval quarters in northern Spain.
Artziniega has, in fact, kept its medieval layout almost intact, located on a promontory with the characteristic layout of parallel streets: La de Arriba, La del Medio and La de Abajo, connected to each other by cantons. The preservation of this structure and the quality of its heritage explain its declaration as a Historic-Artistic Monument.
Located in the north of Álava, it was an important commercial centre during the Middle Ages and this circumstance led noble families to take up residence in the town. A total of 47 coats of arms of different lineages and town houses, residential towers, palaces, the forge and other public buildings bear witness to Artziniega's mercantile past.
Nuestra Señora de la Encina is a majestic Gothic sanctuary that can be reached on foot from the centre of the town in just ten minutes. It houses a Hispano-Flemish altarpiece from the 16th century recognised as a historic-artistic monument and a Museum of Sacred Art with pieces of great ecclesiastical value.
Next to the church is a holm oak tree that is more than 500 years old and has special protection as a 'Singular Tree'.
The Museum of Sacred Art of the Sanctuary of La Encina is only the first pillar of a first class museum offer.
The Ethnographic Museum is the second and offers a magnificent exhibition that recreates in its more than 3,700 m2 the way of life of the inhabitants of Artziniega and the region of Ayala. Walking through its rooms allows young and old alike to travel back in time to remember and discover what a shop or a school was like in the mid-20th century.
The museum hosts activities throughout the year, which can be consulted at www.artziniegamuseoa.org. A very special event for the Ethnographic Museum and the whole town of Artziniega is the Market of the Past (Mercado de Antaño), which will take place on the weekend of 17 and 18 September. All the inhabitants of the place will be involved in the representation of a medieval market and will show the traditional trades in a unique atmosphere to those who come along.
The Forge of Pablo Respaldiza is an extension of the museum in the centre of the village. Various documents testify that the blacksmith's trade has been present in Artziniega since the Middle Ages and the Forge of Pablo Respaldiza shows how iron was worked by hand to make domestic tools, farm implements, horseshoes, nails and railings.
The Santxotena Workshop-Museum closes the circle of Artziniega museums with a different proposal. Can you imagine getting to know the work of a sculptor by the hand of its author? Would you like to exchange thoughts on inspiration, sculptural technique or life with an artist who is a disciple of Jorge Oteiza? Inspiration, sculptural technique or life with an artist who was a disciple of Jorge Oteiza? If your answer is yes, this is the place for you.
The tour begins with the screening of a 15-minute video that explains the genesis of Xabier Santxotena's artistic, cultural, natural and ethnographic project. This project was born more than 20 years ago in Arizkun (Navarre) and has been extended since 2010 in the Santxotena Museum Workshop in Artziniega.
Visitors can then see the sculptor's sketches and then go through the different families of sculptures, most of which are large format and use wood as a base material: The forest, a tribute to Basque rural sports, the denunciation of war, the women of the country, planetarium, religiosity and death.
The workshop is the last stop on the itinerary. There, visitors have the opportunity to meet Xabier Santxotena in person and talk to him about a wide range of subjects such as materials, tools, techniques and inspiration. This is the time to ask questions and resolve all doubts and curiosities. All the information about the Santxotena Museum Workshop at www.santxotena.org.
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