HERALDRY IN ELORRIO
Elorrio has 69 coats of arms emblazoned on its buildings,
more than any other municipality in Bizkaia. 38 of them can be found
within the town itself and the other 31 in the outlying hamlets.
Most of the coats of arms on display in the town belong to family names that can also be found on coats of arms in rural areas of the municipality, where they maintained their original, ancestral family homes.
This notion of the ancestral home or “family seat” is important, because in those days it meant that the owners could prove that their ancestors came from Bizkaia and were therefore “untainted” (i.e. they had no Moorish, Jewish or convert blood). This may be seen today as undoubtedly racist, but it was once a prerequisite for recognition as being of noble blood. And noble blood entailed tax exemptions and the right to a coat of arms, though not all of the minor nobility had one.
Family coats of arms provide a great deal of information about the identities, history and social status of their bearers.
Their pride and desire to show off their noble past led them to place their coats of arms in the most important, most easily seen locations, which usually meant the centre of the main facades of their homes.
The 69 coats of arms on show in Elorrio can be grouped into three different styles: Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.
Gothic coats of arms
These are dated up to the late 16th century, and are very simple in design. They are normally low-reliefs with a single field. The three examples of this type to be seen in Elorrio are not associated with family lineages: one stands on the Puerta de Kanpokale gate (one of the gates in the old town wall), and shows a territorial coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs. The other two are at Goiko-errota, and are actually the trade marks of a merchant.
Renaissance coats of arms
These are also austere, but tend to have more decoration. Their structures show signs of greater complexity, incorporating various fields or quarters. They also tend to have more elaborate surroundings or perimeter patterns.
Coats of arms of this type include that of the Esteibar family, on the facade giving onto the garden of the Esteibar Arauna mansion on Urarka Kalea (which currently houses the Maria Bitartekoa school) and the one on the side wall of the Torre Urkizu mansion on Berrio-Otxoa Kalea.
Baroque coats of arms
These began to appear in the 17th century, which was a golden age for heraldry in Elorrio. They are the most numerous and the most representative in style of the mansions in the town, and most of them are to be found on large, imposing buildings, further evidencing the prosperity of their owners.
They stand out above all for the richness and variety of their surrounding frames, which feature fine relief work that gives them a monumental appearance: plumed helmets, ornamental acanthus leaves, hangings, mottos, masks and supporters in the form of lions, children, angels, mermaids and tritons.
Some have a single field which replicates the coat of arms of the original family seat (Arespakotxaga) while others are quartered (Arespakotxaga-Andueza and Arespakotxaga-Azkarraga) to include the names of the lineages with which the different branches of the family had intermarried.