Villa médiévale

Convent of Saint Augustine

The church in the Middle Ages

Plaza Berria

Early 20th century

Beroitz Etxea

High society


Defensive Hernani

Saint John church

A church for the people

Town Hall

Carlist Wars

Andre kalea


The Arch

The Hernani wall


From "hermandades" to councils


From “hermandades” to councils

Martín Pérez de Alcega was one of the most important feudal lords of the late Middle Ages in Gipuzkoa. His lineage was established in Hernani and he did not hesitate to organise marriages of convenience to favour the power of his line of succession. He charged tithes and taxes for almost everything, took rents from forges, factories, fields… They ruled as tyrants or “jauntxos”, and in return, they offered supposed security and protection to their subjects.

These “houses” organised themselves into two main bands: the Oñacinos, who supported the kingdom of Castile, and the Gamboínos, who were aligned with the kingdom of Navarre. On more than one occasion, however, partisan interests served to break any alliance.

They gathered a lot of power, controlling villages and valleys. Even the figure of the king was threatened: They came to protect criminals, favouring robbery and plunder in the so-called “frontier of evildoers” – between the kingdoms of Navarre and Castile – with the aim of weakening the king’s position.

In this atmosphere of total instability, and with a population tired of abuses, the towns began to organise themselves into “hermandades”, until 1396, when the Hermandad de Gipuzkoa was created under the patronage of the kingdom of Castile.

The Castilian monarchs were able to take on the image of a benevolent patron, who defended the population against the despotic attitude of the “houses”. In this context, and always with royal support, the Hermandad de Gipuzkoa began to legislate against abuses and unjust laws, questioning the monopoly of feudal power. Of course, the “houses” tried to react, and joined forces against this new power, but it was too late.

In 1457, King Henry IV, after putting an end to these conflicts, the so-called “War of the bands”, ordered the towers, the upper parts, of the palaces or manor houses of the different families involved to be dismantled, thus losing their defensive elements (battlements, sentry boxes…). Portalondo etxea or “Tower of the Gentiles” was one of those towers that were demolished, and Martín Pérez de Alcega, who was probably its owner, was one of those lords who, together with his troops, were deported and forced to fight in Andalusia against the Nasrid kingdom of Granada. Years later, in 1460, they were pardoned and returned to Gipuzkoa, but nothing would ever be the same again. The “hermandades” and municipal and provincial institutions had created the seeds of a new form of self-legislation, which established a collective nobility. The Provinces were thus considered to be noble lands, and their inhabitants, free beings. In the following centuries, the fueros were consolidated and institutions of provincial self-government were born, giving rise to the current Historical Territories.
Portalondo nowadays is a residential house with a shop on the ground floor. Its defensive function, which – as its name suggests – was intended to guard one of the gates to the town, has been abandoned. Its sturdy walls have withstood fires, looting and wars of all kinds. The twin windows with pointed arches and three arrow slits remain as witnesses to the passage of time. Their particularly low position is surprising, indicating that the floor was originally much lower than it is today.