Roman times in Hondarribia
Hondarribia means in Basque “the sand ford”. This is a very appropriate name, as the village is located in a passage of the Bidasoa River. The Romans colonised the Bidasoa region, settling in neighbouring Irún and founding Hondarribia. The remains found and the existence of the Asturiaga anchorage under the lighthouse are proof of this. However, tradition has it that the town was started by the Visigoth Recaredo in the 6th century AD.
In 1180, Fuenterrabía was already mentioned in the charter that Sancho the Wise of Navarre granted to San Sebastián. It was the only way out of the kingdom of Navarre to the sea south of the Pyrenees. Its location as a strategic enclave and its proximity to France would mark the history of Hondarribia.
During 1200, Alfonso VIII of Castile occupied all of Gipuzkoa. Three years later he officially founded the town of Fuenterrabía by granting it a Town Charter. Its privileges were the same as those granted by the San Sebastian Charter. At 1280, it first repelled a French attack.
Again, in 1476, a huge French army besieged Fuenterrabia. To prevent the towers from collapsing under French artillery and causing injuries, the defenders dismantled the highest ones. They also dug trenches and reinforced the thickness of the bastions. After two months the Gauls withdrew.
Around 1521, troops from Navarre under the command of Henry II of Albret, supported by the French, conquered the town. They stayed there for two years, until they gave up through negotiation. Charles I then ordered the construction of the fortifications that can be seen today. The Emperor came in person, in 1539, to see the result of the works. The town witnessed the exchange of King Francis I of France for his two sons.
Hondarribia in ruins
In 1638, it was severely attacked for two months, remaining undefeated but in ruins. Among its defenders were a hundred Navarrese people. It is said that on September 7, when the fighting reached its zenith, the Virgin of Puy appeared to them. Such intercession made it possible for all of them to survive. This site is remembered every year by a spectacular Parade on September 8.
From the middle of the 18th century it began to suffer a slow and progressive decline due to the preponderance of Irún and San Sebastián. However, its ruin occurred in July 1794, during the Convention War. After a short siege, the French revolutionaries sacked it. With regard to the defence, there were official accusations of incompetence and treason.
It would know again the battle thunder in the First Carlist War. It was initially taken by the rebels. Later it suffered a siege and assault by the government army, commanded by General Espartero.
Beginning to prosper
During the 19th century, it survived thanks to cattle raising and fishing. At the end of the century, however, it was revived thanks to the buoyant prospects of the new tourism. A wave that was beginning to develop then and that continues more alive than ever today.
In 1900 the Fort of Guadalupe was inaugurated on the summit of Mount Jaizkibel. At the beginning of the civil war in 1936, dozens of right-wing vacationers were imprisoned and killed there. Among them were writers and politicians like Victor Pradera and Honorio Maura.
It should be noted that in 1973 its streets served as a location for the film Papillon, with Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen. Finally, in 1980 the town council added the name Hondarribia to the Spanish of Fuenterrabía. The latter was to be removed in 1989.