The history of Balmaseda
Walking Through History
The privileged location between the mountains and the river is a natural passage from the plateau to the coast, a factor that favoured the creation of a fortified Historic Town and the commercial routes between Castile and Biscay.
Being in a good emplacement was a determining factor from very early times, since the Romans built one of the most important roadways (Pisoraca-Flaviobriga) along which they transported cereals from Tierra de Campos to the Cantabrian ports, via Balmaseda.
Balmaseda was the first Historic Town in Bizkaia since Sir. Lope Sánchez de Mena, Lord of Bortedo, granted it its jurisdiction on 24th January 1999. The concession of the Logroño Jurisdiction granted its neighbours legal, fiscal and commercial privileges, making the Historic Town a place of exchange and participation in the commercial activity of the area.
The oldest testimony of that walled Balmaseda is, precisely, the Old Bridge that worked as a customs house.
In the cantons, stores, inns, cottage industries, smithies, etc., were created in guilds, as well as an important Jewish community that prospered until its expulsion in 1483 (the year in which the Inquisition was established in Balmaseda).
Afterwards, relevant warlike events have had an impact on the history of Balmaseda: the War of the Convention left the Historic Town bankrupt; the War of Independence plunged it into an enormous chaos (Napoleonic troops scorged Balmaseda on 8th November 1808); then came the Carlist Wars, which crumbled its socio-economic structure and more recently, in the Civil War, the battle of Kolitza took place, in which more than two hundred people lost their lives.
At the beginning of the last century, the arrival of the railroad boosted the economic revival of the Historic Town, starting the industrialization process that has been consolidating Balmaseda as one of the main Historic Towns of the province and the capital of Enkarterri.
Nowadays, the Historic Town of Balmaseda preserves its medieval structure, with four main longitudinal streets running parallel to the river and thus making it unique. These streets speak to us of a distant past. Wander around the cantons and squares of the Old Historic Town, which will let you discover our most important monuments.