Medina de Pomar

The feudal grant of the Velasco family

The ancient Capital of the Merindades from Castille was the place where the Emperor and other Kings went for a walk on the way to Laredo and the European North; even though it is not a capital anymore, this place maintains its old charm thanks to the Alcázar from the Velasco and the high towers created by Rafael Alberti.

Plan your journey to Medina de Pomar

This area has a beautiful ancient center with numerous mansions, a Jewish quarter and buildings such as the Alcázar de los Velasco; in order to understand the importance of this place in the history of Castille, you should start by visitng the Historical Museum from the Merindades. In just half of a day you should be able to walk around the whole town. But the urban center is not the place where the best part of the village is, as the Convent and Museum of Santa Clara is the most incredible spot here. The visit can continue in the North, in the also medieval Espinosa de los Monteros, a place that has another interesting historical museum. For the haking lovers and those who like other touristic activities, you can spend a day in the Natural Park of the Hoces del Alto Ebro and the Natural Park of the Montes Obarenses. There are many places where you can enjoy the local gastronomy; to make a reservation in the place where you want to sleep at we have selected hotels that are available in our eating and sleeping sections.

Getting to know this place

This place belonged to Cantabria before the arrival of the Romans, and there is some evidence that it also belonged to the Law Convent of Clunia. Because it was founded twice, the second time is thought to have been by the hands of the Mozarab that migrated to the North; due to the Arab culture and the commerce with the previous inhabitants, the Mozarabs gave the city the name of Medina, which means “city” in Arab. The previous name of Medina de Castella Veteris was changes by Medina de Pumar so it could be differenciated from the other “medinas” that were in Castille La Vieja. After getting its first regional code of laws thanks to the king Alfonso the 7th, Alfonso the 8th gave the city a new one during the year 1181. This last one reinforced its condition of royal city, appearing in the famous book from Becerro de Behetrias as if it was a property of the king. This stayed like that until the year 1369, when the king Enrique the Second of Trastámara gave it to his major waiter, D. Pedro Fernández de Velasco. This family had had the title of Condestables of Castille since 1474. The presence of this family in the village turned it into the capital of the Merinadades until 1650, and gave it the architectonic development that remains until today. During the Revolt of the Comuneros the inhabitants rised up against the Velascos, being reduced after a siege. Carlos the 5th also passed by Medina on his way to Yuste, and it seems that his daughter Juana left him some provisions there, so many that the old man got ill for eating too much.

Antigua fotografía del Alcázar de los Velasco, un lugar que ver en Medina de Pomar
Fotografía antigua del Alcázar de los Velasco

In 1562 the government of the king Felipe the Second decided that the Audience and the Mayoral Service should be moved from Merindades to Villarcayo. This had a great impact on the village, as many the rich people and the bureaucrats left. Years later, the town went back to its golden days. The queen María Cristina gave this place the title of city in 1894. Its actual development is connected to a rich agriculture, a small industry and the condition of a residential center and the place where the high society from the Basque Country spent their summers at.

To visit Medina de Pomar you should start with the Plaza del Buen Conde de Haro, a nice place that has a fountain where thw statue of Juan de Salazar y Espinosa is, the founder of the capital of Paraguay. This square is the union between the ancient center and the new buildings. The Calle Mayor and the street of Laín Calvo allow walkers to reach the historical center. This is where some parts of the old walls from the 14th Century reamin, which hold the Arco de la Cadena, a northern door to the medieval area. The Arco de la Judería from the 17th Centry is located in the west. The church of Santa Cruz is stuck to the walls. This place has Neoclassical doors from the 19th Century, an angular shape and a Gothic interior from the 15th century. It holds Pre-Renaissance tombs and Barroque retables. The Plaza Mayor holds the city council (1989), raised above elegant porticos. The viewpoint located in the interior offers a beautiful panoramic above the vegetable gardens and the Truba river. The Alcázar from the Velasco family is a powerful Gothic building from the 14th Century, formed by big cubic towers that are united by a central body that is shorter, where the living room of the castle was built and that could be entered through spiral stairs. It maintains the walls in great condition and the remaining parts of the Mujedar plaster works. The southern tower conserves another baseboard with Arabe insciptions, African characters and Kufic letters where it is possible to read the sentence “Mater Dei Miserere Mei”. The arabe characters are translated as “Ala is the only winner”. This area is used as the noble living room for conferences, meetings, summer classes and the archive of the municipality.

The Alcázar was built by Pedro Fernández de Velasco betweem 1370 and 1433. In the year 1896 the dukes of Frias gave it to the city hall. In 1933 it was declared a Cultural Interest Property. The Historical Museum of the Merindades, located in the Fortress of the Velasco, explains the history, archeology and patrimony of the region. In the terrace of the last floor you will get a beautiful view of all of the villages and the merindades. You will need a guide to be able to get into the northern tower.

Outside the urban center and on the way to the south, close to the Trueba river, the Santuray of the Virgen del Rosario, a Gothic temple of the 13th and 14th Centuries, is located, with Romanic ellements and three naves. Nowadays, this place is under restoration. Not too far away from that, the main monument of Medina de Pomar is located: the Convent and Museum of Santa Clara. It was founded in 1313 by Sancho Sánchez de Velasco and his wife Sancha García, The Major Waitress of Leonor from Aragon, to become the cemetery of the Condestables family. This Cultural Interest Property is nowadays inhabited by a community of Clarisas. The church of one only nave is formed by three spaces of different times and styles, as it can be seen of the domes located in different heights. The Major Chapel has three retables covered in gold leaf; in the central one (Baroque from 1774) we can find the remarkable tabernacle known as the “Manifestador de la Paloma”. The Chapel of the Concepción has a beautiful octogenarian domes with stars that reminds us of the Chapel of the Condestables from the Burgos Cathedral. The bars that work as the entrance where made in 1545 by the master Cristóbal de Andino. There is a region with glass cabinets where many objects of monastic use are exhibited, such as bowls, jars, a communion window Rococo style and vases.

Iglesia de Santa Cruz

The room stuck to the temple is where the Museum of the Condestables is located. Between its treasures we find the Flemish board of La Adoración de los Magos from the 15th Century and a Dying Christ from Gregorio Fernández, from the 17th Century. In the Chapel of San Millán, a Romanic temple from the 13th Century, we can find the Center of Romanic Interpretation from the Merindades, which gives information about more than 100 churches and monasteries of this style that can be visited in the region. 8 kilometers away from Medina de Pomar, Villarcayo, close to the Nela river, is found. They have a beautiful city hall form the 19th Century, the amazing Tower of Merino, many Santa Maria houses such as the Díez Isla and the Danvila from the 17th and 18th Century and the Parrochial Church. The landscape from El Soto is one of its best attractions. On the east side of Medina de Pomar you will be able to go for a little adventure to the valley de la Losa, with Romanic churches in every village.

Must see


Practical data


42º 55’ 40’’N, 3º 29’ 12’’W


Burgos 80 km, Bilbao 66 km, Madrid 336 km


Sin dificultad. Además hay una explanada “El Ferial” junto a la Plaza de Toros donde siempre hay espacio.


583 m


6050 (2013)

The celebration of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (during the first and second weekend of October) and the Fiesta San Isidro Labrador (on a Saturday close to May the 15th).

The Ruta de Carlos V (during the third weekend of October, when a parade with the emperor and its entourage, knights, dancers and a Renaissance market take place); the Feria Agroalimentaria Industrial de las Merindades (the last weekend of July), the Feria de Santa Marina (June the 19th) with its garlic market, the Feria de Artesanía (Artisan Fair, during the lask weekend of August) and the Feria de San Miguel (on September the 30th), that includes a pepper sale.

Craftwork markets in many moments of the year, ANTICO Feria de Anticuarios y Artesanos (Antiques dealers and Artisans Fair – during the last weekend of October, organized by the museum and the ACEYAM Asociación de Anticuarios y Artesanos de las Merinadades de Medina de Pomar / Asociation of the Antique dealers and Artisans of the Merindades from Medina de Pomar).

Other places to visit

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