Civil and religious architecture

ondarea02.jpgTaking a stroll around Oñati is like walking through a catalogue of artistic styles, architectural imaginings and historical features. Styles range right the way from the gothic, represented in the carvings in the small hermitages, churches and house-towers, to the avant-garde art of Arantzazu, passing though an impressive array of renaissance buildings and altarpieces and countless civil and religious baroque constructions, without forgetting, of course, the marks left by the 19th century: fountains, town planning and the neo-gothic church of the Laterans, etc. From this myriad of possibilities, the following three are especially worth noting: the Bidaurreta monastery and the Santa Marina and Los Fueros Squares.

Juan Lopez de Lazarraga, a prominent member of the court of the Catholic Monarchs, decided, together with his wife Juana de Gamboa, to have a family vault built in their home town, and with that aim they founded the Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare in Bidaurreta. Built at the beginning of the 16th century, it mixes the best of the gothic, renaissance and mudejar styles; elements typical of this last style can be seen in the inner recess: the cloister and the magnificent coffered ceiling in the refectory. Inside the church we find the simple tomb of its founders, together with another 218 graves belonging to various families of Oñati. Two altarpieces will catch your eye inside the church: the biggest one is baroque in style and depicts a group of saints surrounding a tableau of the coronation of the Virgin, on a jutting balcony that is somewhat effectist.

ondarea04.jpgThe plateresque altarpiece by Juan de Olazaran, which dates from 1533, is often considered to be the first renaissance altarpiece carved in Gipuzkoa. The first section is devoted to the New Testament, and the second to the Old Testament, and the clumsy and somewhat naïve treatment of some of the sculptures gives it a special charm. Particularly unforgettable are the figures of Eve, taken from Adam's side; Disobedience, whose snake has a human head; and Punishment, which reminds us of the medieval adage referring to the olden days when "Eve span and Adam ploughed".

The Santa Marina square is a magnificent complex completed during the 16th and 19th centuries. Most of the characteristic elements of the illustrated and bourgeois styles are present, with the constructions being practical with a certain degree of ostentation, but solid and well-balanced nevertheless. Some of the finest examples include: the beautiful baroque palaces of Antia and Madinabeitia; the no less beautiful Baruekua palace, which marks the transition from baroque to neo-classicism and which belonged to the Baron of Areizaga, father-in-law to the Count of Peñaflorida, the house of Moyua, a typical 19th century building, nowadays used as the local Culture Centre, and, of course, the fountains and the palace gardens.

ondarea11.jpgLos Fueros Square represents the pinnacle of a town planning process set in motion after Oñati's incorporation into the Province, which was designed to impose order on the scattered town, lending a symbolic importance to the civil-political spaces, in particular the main square and Town Hall. In order to build the square, it was necessary to cover the river and the streams that flowed into it here, and two constructions with arcades were built, one of which sealed up the apse of the parish church. In keeping with the neo-classical conception of town planning, a pelota court was added, leaving open the side facing south towards the peaks of Aloña.

ondarea03.jpgThe plan was compiled by Mariano Jose de Lascurain, with the collaboration of the future author of the Plan for the Expansion of San Sebastian, Antonio Cortazar. The Town Hall, designed by Martin de Carrera, with its frenchified rococo style, is by and large, more decorated than is usual in this region. Next to it stands the Lazarraga Tower and Palace, initially built in the gothic style, but later reformed and extended during the 15th and 16th centuries. The medieval-style tower has some Castilian graffiti and a defensive door with iron studs and hoops.