Myths and Legends

This is a trail for people with enquiring minds

 On it you will find out about all the stories, anecdotes and best kept secrets of Elorrio.

To start with, the Giralda bell tower in Seville

is not as unique as you might think.

What does “ELORRIO” mean?

Mansions with surprises in store

Curiosities concerning the Basilica

Iturrizoro, the “Crazy Well”

The legend

of the Errebonbillo

The guardians of Bizkaia

Multi-purpose marker crosses

Origins of trade marks and logos



What does “ELORRIO” mean?

Old defensive wall in  Elorrio

San Pio Kalea

To start this trail of curiosities, consider the origin of the name “Elorrio”: in Basque elorria means “hawthorn bush” or “hawthorn berry”.


The name of the town thus derives from the fact that hawthorn bushes were plentiful in the area. That is why a hawthorn leaf appears together with the outline of a castle on its coat of arms.

These two symbols can be taken as representing the cultural and natural heritage of the municipality.

If you walk to the Puerta del Campo gate on San Pío Kalea you will see hawthorn leaves there. This is the only one of the gates in the old town wall that is still standing as such.

Arabio mansion

Mansions with surprises in store

Be sure to visit some of the great mansions in Elorrio: they have more than one surprise in store for you.


The Urkizu mansion is now home to the Laboral Kutxa bank.  You can find it at Berrio-Otxoa Kalea 5, opposite the Errebonbillo statue. If you walk around to the rear of the building you will see a bridge with a building over the river. This bridge formerly linked the mansion to its gardens. The site where the gardens stood is now a car park, and the building on the bridge is an English language school.


The Arabio mansion at San Pío Kalea nº 1 also houses a bank (Kutxabank).

The Altzerreka Mendiola mansion at Berrio-Otxoa Kalea nº 27 is home to the Alkartu Gastronomic Society. In the Basque country these popular societies are called "txokos".

If you are interested in seeing what a Basque txoko looks like on the inside, your chance comes at the Buzkantza Jaia (“Black Pudding Festival”), staged during the long holiday weekend in early December. On that day these private societies open their doors and let the public in to taste the four finalists selected for the year’s black pudding contest and vote for their favourite.

Urkizu mansion: Berrio-Otxoa, 5.

Arabio mansion: San Pío, 1.

Altzerreka mansion: Berrio-Otxoa, 27.

Elorrio Basilica

Curiosities concerning the Basilica


Herriko Plaza (town square)

Walk around to the rear of the Basilica to start to learn about it from the outside in.


The Giralda of Elorrio.

The bell tower.

The final part of the funding required to build the bell tower was sent from Seville with a note requesting that it be “built like La Giralda".


The bell tower of the Basilica is indeed a copy of the La Giralda tower in Seville. Originally it even had its own version of the Giraldillo weathervane on top, which was almost 5 metres tall. One of the arms of this weathervane still survives.

The arm of the weathervane is in the keeping of the nuns of the convent of Santa Ana

He was caught hiding on the road to Durango, arrested and hanged in the town square of Elorrio on April 30. The sentence specified that his body should be quartered and his limbs set on display in public places, but a group of priests collected his body and took it to the church for burial.


When the mayor, who was charged with quartering the body, discovered this and found the church door locked, he ordered it to be demolished with axes. At this the priests decided to let him in, but he was unable to find the body.

When the townspeople found out that the thief had been given burial in consecrated ground in the cemetery they dug up his corpse in protest and reburied him on the outskirts of the town. They then carved a skull on the facade of the church as a warning to anyone else who might dare to commit such a crime.

Construction of the bell tower

The bell tower was built with donations from local people. Those who could not afford to give money helped to haul building materials, even on public holidays. 40 day indulgences were granted for participation in this work.

Indulgences do not entail forgiveness for the sin itself, but rather the condoning of the temporal punishment in purgatory that sinners would otherwise have to serve.

The Skull

There is a curious story behind the skull carved on the outside of the building.


At around midnight on April 2, 1647 Domingo de Trotiaga, a resident of Durango, stole a large silver lamp that was burning on the shrine of San Agustín de Etxebarria. The noise that he made on battering down the door set dogs barking and alerted local residents, who raised the alarm.


The skull is on the outside wall of the church’s apse, opposite the statue known as the Errebonbillo.

The story of the Basilica’s choir

Work on the choir area of the Basilica was begun by Juan de Barasibar in 1627 and completed by master stonemason Rafael de Garaizabal in 1632. The great central segmental arch is more than 13 m wide, and there were doubts as to whether it would be stable.

Garaizabal did not hesitate to risk his own life to dispel those doubts: he stood under the keystone at the middle of the arch when the frames used to build it were removed.


It is said that many wagers were placed on whether or not he would survive, and that he won himself a little money.

Learn more details about the BASILICA OF LA PURÍSIMA CONCEPCIÓN

Iturrizoro, the “Crazy Well” IN Elorrio

Iturrizoro, the “Crazy Well”


Herriko Plaza (town square)

The well located in the square is known as "Iturrizoro", which is Basque for “crazy well”. It has been there for over 250 years and was the source of water for five generations of townspeople until the building of the water main. It was also a meeting place and a source of gossip.


It was known as Iturrizoro because people said that those who drank its waters went mad.

Not even the brave hunters of Eibar dared to drink from it: they would even restrain their dogs to stop them drinking. Are you brave enough to try the waters of Iturrizoro?

In the square opposite the statue of the Errebonbillo and in front of the Basilica.

Errebonbillo Elorrio

For more information follow this link

The legend of the Errebonbillo

This bronze statue is known as the Errebonbillo. The name comes from the order to open fire given in Basque: “Erre bonbilloa!” (literally “Light the cartridge”). On the first Sunday in October the town celebrates a festivity associated with the statue in which 15 men and women march through the town to the sound of Basque flutes and drums, stopping at preset points to fire guns into the air. In the afternoon the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary is taken on procession through the streets and there is a dance in the square. Legend has it that the origin of these parades can be traced back to the Battle of Lepanto.


Long ago, six brothers from the Amandarro farmstead are said to have marched off under the orders of John of Austria to the battle in the Gulf of Lepanto, at which three of them were killed. Their bravery and heroism was summed up by the townspeople in the following rhyme:



"There may be no men left in Amandarro, but thanks to them there are no TAXES in Bizkaia”


The three surviving brothers from Amandarro subsequently returned to Elorrio.


It is said that when they came through the mountain pass at Kanpazar and saw their home town they shot their guns into the air in joy to announce their return.


They are also said to have entered the town just when the procession of Our Lady of the Rosary was taking place, firing into the air in thanks at being back in Elorrio.


All that we know for certain is that firing guns into the air became an annual event and was incorporated into the Our Lady of the Rosary procession in the town.

Berrio-Otxoa Kalea (entrance to the square)

Otsabarrena Shield
Otsa Mansion

The guardians of Bizkaia

Ossa mansion. Berrio-Otxoa Kalea

The Otsa or Ossa mansion was built in the late 17th century. The Ossa family were charged with keeping an eye on the people of Gipuzkoa, which led to their being known as the “guardians of Bizkaia”.

This is evidenced by the motto on their coat of arms, which translates as “As the voice and sentinel of Bizkaia, a worthy task, was the house of Ossa founded, to be always watchful".

The family coat of arms can still be seen on the mansion on Berrio-Otxoa Kalea

However the motto only appears on the coat of arms on the Otsabarrena farmhouse in the outlying hamlet of Aldape, on the border with Gipuzkoa.

Kurutziaga Cross

Multi-purpose marker crosses

Elorrio has 9 marker crosses: more than any other town in Bizkaia. The Kurutziaga Cross is one of the finest. There are several theories and legends as to why these crosses were erected. Which do you find most convincing?


  • As town planning markers to indicate the point beyond which a district or neighbourhood was not allowed to expand, and to mark the limits of the town’s jurisdiction.

  • As markers for how close the infected were allowed to come to the town in times of contagious epidemics.

  • To prevent witches from entering.

  • As the last spot where travellers would make the sign of the cross in blessing before they left the town on a journey.

  • As markers for the points where funeral processions from outlying hamlets would wait for the cortege from the town before continuing on their way to the Basilica.

Crosses in Elorrio:

  • Santa Ana: between San Pío Kalea and Elizburu Kalea, in Santa Ana square.

  • San Juan: on San Juan Kalea.

  • Kurutziaga: on Kurutziaga Kalea.

  • Iguria: at the start of the old road to Iguria.

  • Santa Elena: on San José Kalea.

  • Kurutzebarri: on the road to the hamlet of San Agustín.

  • Kurutzondo: on Kurutzondo Kalea.

  • Ganondo: on Montorra Kalea.

  • Chamberí/Txanberi: at the start of the road to Elgeta.

Marca comercial. Otsa Goikoa

Origins of trade marks and logos

San Juan kalea

The building known as Goiko-Errota (Otsa goikoa), which once belonged to the Otsa family, bears merchant’s trade marks. One depicts two lions holding a shield on which a sign is engraved, and the other a chimera holding a similar, though smaller, sign.


These figures are the precursors of modern trade marks and logos. The present-day shop was once a mill, whose owner used the marks on the shields as trade marks to distinguish his products from those of his competitors.

There is another merchant’s trade mark carved in stone on the side wall of the Urkizu mansion in the square. It dates from the 16th century.

Mapa de Elorrio

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Berrio Otxoa Kalea, 1 

48320 Elorrio (Bizkaia) 

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