San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain | Stepping Stone

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is an islet on the coast of Biscay belonging to the municipality of Bermeo, in Basque Country, Spain. It is connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge.On the top of the island stand a hermitage the named called Gaztellugatexek Doniene ins Basque, dedicated to John the Baptist, that date from the 10th century, although discoveries indicates that the date might be the 9th century.
The hermitage is accessed by a narrow path, crossing the solid stone bridge, and going up 237 steps, nobody really knows how many exactly According to legend, after the slightly strenuous climb to the top of the crag one should ring the bell three times and make a wish.   The best season to visit are spring and autumn, to enjoy the peace of the setting, as summer s are typically crowded. Etymologically the word Gaztelugatxe comes from the Baxque gaztelu = " castel" and aitz = "rock" or "crag", forming "crag of the castle". Another possible translation of gatxe is bad this would means "bad castle".

The small church, which is usually closed, dates from the 10th century and seems to have come from the Knights Templar. In the year 1053 it was donated, by don Inigo Lopez Lord of Biscay, to the monastery of San Juan de la Pena Near Jaca in Huesca. Medieval burials from the night and twelfth centuries have been found on the esplanade and in the hermitage. In 1593 it was attacked and sacked by Francis Drake. Among other incidents, it has caught fire several times. On November 10. 1978, it was destroyed in one such fire. Tow years later, on June 24, 1980 it was re-inaugurated. The hermitage belongs to the parish of San Pelayo in Bakio. the hermitage also houses votive offerings from sailors who survived shipwrecks.

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