Ayuntamiento de Hondarribia

25 October 2014

Modern Era

Modern Era

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Hondarribia will see a true urban revolution. The old medieval town destroyed by the fire in 1498 will be completely reformed. A new look for the town, a new church, a new castle and new walls are going to completely change the town’s appearance.
Relations between Charles V and Francis I of France are going to be terrible and half of Europe is plunged into a permanent war that will last almost the entire first half of the sixteenth century. Due to its geo-strategic position, Hondarribia will be completely involved in this war atmosphere. In 1521, during the Navarre war, it will be besieged and conquered by Franco-Navarre troops who will manage to keep it under their rule for three years. In 1524, once the Castile rebel revolts have been crushed, the emperor will have his hands free to act against Hondarribia. After conquering it, he will prepare a large fortification project and will build the bastioned area that we now know today and the castle. This project will form part of a much larger one the objective of which was to fortify the Pyrenee passes in order to defend against possible aggressions from France.

After Charles V’s death, the imperial politics of Philip II will have another different enemy: England. This new situation will move away the danger of French raids, but it will not bring peace. The Gulf of Biscay will become the new war scenario. This will affect the traffic of trade with the north of Europe and will require an enormous amount of ships and sailors from the Basque coastal towns. This situation will plunge the Basque maritime sector into a serious crisis that some of the towns will not be able to overcome. Hondarribia could not make up for the loss resulting from the competition from the port of Pasaje, under San Sebastian’s jurisdiction, and was plunged into a crisis that left it lethargic almost until the end of the nineteenth century.

Its strategic worth as a fortified town will continue to give it a power that it can use both in the General Meetings and in the court to get some privileges and especially since the 1638 siege. In June of that year, French troops under the Prince of Conde will besiege the town for two months until September 7th, when it will be freed after a long, heroic siege. After this siege, a number of privileges will be obtained, and especially it will be able to keep its powers that allow it to maintain its dependence on Irun.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the town, in a serious economic crisis, will suffer the risk of the political situation. The wars against France, the Berwick siege in 1719 and the delegates’ in 1793 will confirm the loss of the town’s military worth and, therefore, the loss of influence in the powerful circles.


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