The extensive municipality of Orduña is located in a broad area within a closed valley formed by the Sálvada/Gorobel and the Gibijo Mountain Ranges. The city of Orduña is in the valley (at 300 metres), while rural villages of the municipality (Lendoño de Arriba, Lendoño de Abajo, Mendeika and Belandia) are located in the skirts and the continuation towards the valley of the Sálvada Mountain Range. The highest peaks can be found in this mountain barrier (Txarlazo, 927 m; Ungino, 1,099 m; Tologorri, 1,066 m; Bedarbide, 1,041 m; Atezabal 1,027 m).
From an administrative point of view, the municipality of Orduña has the peculiarity of being part of Biscayan territory while surrounded by municipalities belonging to Alava and Burgos.
However, this is not the only singularity; it is the only town of Biscay with the official title of city. Don Lope Díaz de Haro II —the 6th Lord of the Lordship of Biscay— founded this exclave and provided it jurisdiction. Later, in 1256, the Castellan king Alfonso X founds a second enclosure, which comes under royal jurisdiction.
Paths from Orduña to the sea date back to the Roman period, making this territory, thanks to its location, a strategic enclave both for the defence of the Lordship of Biscay and the development and consolidation of commerce, which is the real catalyst in its economic development.
The 18th century is a century of progress and wealth thanks to the opening of the new royal Path passing through San Bartolomé (the current port) and the construction of the new Customs building. This progress and wealth comes as the result of commercial growth, especially after Orduña consolidates itself as a strategic enclave in the “ruta de la lana” —commercial route formerly used in the wool (lana) trade— from Castile to the ports.
Most of the services in the area can be found in what nowadays is the historic quarter of the city and its surroundings (restaurants, accommodation, train station, tourism office, shops, medical centre, sport centre, etc.), although some facilities and services distributed around the rest of the municipality are also worth mentioning (country houses, txakolinerías, hostels, swimming pools, recreational areas, etc...).
From Orduña, on the road towards Burgos, we can climb to the top of the Sálvada Mountain Range, where we can access magnificent natural viewpoints and enjoy incredible panoramic views of the entire valley of Ayala, as well as the natural reservoir of Mount Santiago, where we encounter an observation point looking towards the source of river Nervion when it rains.
The historical past of Orduña has left us a valuable Historical and Artistic Environment. The current architecture dates back to the fire that took place in 1535, which basically swept the entire city except for the architecture located in the first founding area of population on the east.
Historic quarter of Orduña: Historical and Artistic Environment
The square is in the centre of the historic quarter. Due to its dimensions, it is a unique and surprising element, unusual in Basque medieval cities, visually stunning and surrounded by arcades. The role of Orduña was mainly to ensure roads from Vitoria or Miranda de Ebro to Encartaciones, Castro Urdiales, Bermeo and Bilbao.
The Mimenza Palace (1555), a reference of the period's Renaissance in Orduña, is one of the buildings that stand out in the square. A brick construction featuring forge balconies, it is an example of architecture and urbanism stemming from the Castellan relationship with the Court of Austria.
The Diaz-Pimienta Palace is a large building and a great example of elementary Baroque style. It has been designed featuring an open ground floor with arches and two extra floors flanked by two towers.
The City Hall is a building that was built in 1600 and restored around 1770, and is attached to the wall and Tower that was part of the former city hall. The ground, first and second floors have been carried out in ashlar and the last floor in red brick, where an enormous central stone shield of Baroque style stands out.
However, the most impressive building without a doubt is the Customs building, which occupies an entire side of the square. An archetype of the most radical French Neoclassical style, its construction began in 1787 and was not finished until 1792. It has a rectangular floor plan with an interior patio and crossing paths. The royal shield on the façade is a result of it being defrayed by the Crown when Carlos III and Carlos IV reigned.
Despite being conceived for tax control purposes and a registry of goods, it did not fulfil this purpose for too long, as in 1841 customs moved to the coasts. Nowadays, it has been restored and is a hotel-spa.
The square is completed by a beautiful religious building: the Church of the Holy Family. Of Baroque style from the 17th century, its construction was financed by the military man from Orduña Don Juan de Urdanegui, who was residing in Lima. It is the first element of Baroque style in Biscay. Its façade is divided in three vertical sections with Jesuit and Marian anagrams.
It has a Latin cross plan with a barrel vault in the main nave and transept. The presbytery is covered with a lunette vault, as so are the lateral naves. All altarpieces are also of Baroque style.
Urban surroundings of the square
Ortes de Velasco Palace
Located in Harategi street, its architecture includes military elements, combining residential and defensive features. Of Renaissance style and from the 16th century, its enlargement reaches the garden and is of greater architectural value.
This building has been carried out entirely in ashlar, and its walls framed using attached Doric style columns stand out.
The Parish of Santa María de la Asunción
Located on one of the city limits, the Parish of Santa María de la Asunción was part of the defensive walls (church-fortress), to such an extent that the buttresses surrounding its apse feature semi-circular arches opening towards its spectacular parapet walk. This is what precisely makes this Gothic style building one of the most unique constructions of the Biscayan territory.
It has a Latin cross plan with three naves and six side chapels, three on each side. The Chapel of Virgen de la Guadalupe stands out, with its magnificent Renaissance style grille, as well as the Chapel of San Pedro, with a beautiful Hispanic-Flemish altarpiece, a central altarpiece (of Baroque style from the 17th century) and Renaissance style paintings on its vault.
Medieval urban area: the wall
Surrounding the square is the urban area, comprised of narrow cobble paved streets preserving their medieval structure.
From Plaza de los Fueros towards the Church of Santa María (Burdin or Artekale streets), we reach one of the most impressive parts of this medieval area: the remains of the original wall, which from the church of Santa María lead to the medieval tower attached to the current city hall; a solid stone construction that was 8 metres high and whose walls had a thickness of over a meter.
Houses from the 19th century, most of them, complete this area, which has been re-urbanized in the early past century.
Out of the historic quarter, we find more modern and interesting buildings, such as Casa Llaguno, which is a country house that exemplifies the power of a local buoyant middle class that adopted the Romantic influences in their lifestyle and eclecticism in architecture. The large building used by the La Compañía de María order, which is in the avenue that leads to the Sanctuary of La Antigua, also stands out.
A medieval portal, which provided access to a previous temple, can be found in the entrance to the Convent of the Discalced Carmelites (arcade to the right of the La Antigua Sanctuary). The current Sanctuary dates back to the 18th century. The result is a Latin cross plan church with a cupola on the transept and a Baroque style façade. The main altarpiece is of the most pure neoclassical style.
There are many trips that can be made from Orduña, but the one that takes us to the Txarlazo peak is mandatory. Here we encounter the monument erected in honour of the patron saint of Orduña: Nuestra Señora de la Antigua, a reinforced concrete structure from which we can see the entire valley from its spectacular viewpoint.
The newborn Nervión drops on the valley by means of a spectacular 300 m waterfall, a spectacle that cannot be missed in raining periods or from the observation point located in Mount Santiago or Délica, at the back of the valley.
On the skirts of the mountain range, towards the north-northeast, there is a wide area where large forest lands (beech forests) mix with pastures and small rural villages. This is the administrative government of Ruzabal (community of mountains and pastures): Lendoño de Arriba, Lendoño de Abajo, Belandia and Mendeika. The entire area has magnificent hiking routes where you can enjoy the beauty of ancient country houses, the remains of some tower houses, prehistoric remains (Choza dolmen), rural hermitages and churches, mills and bridges... in short, a historical, ethnographic and natural heritage worth visiting.
From this area, we can also access some of the emblematic peaks of the Sálvada Mountain Range: Txarlazo, Tologorri, Bedarbide, Ungino...