June 28, 2013

0704 SPAIN (Basque Country) - Gaztelugatxe Islet

Located between the towns of Bakio and Bermeo, in the coast of Bizkaia, the tiny island Gaztelugatxe is connected to the mainland by a man made bridge. On top of the island stands a hermitage (named Gaztelugatxeko Doniene in Basque, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Spanish), dedicated to John the Baptist, that dates from the 10th century, although certain discoveries indicate that the date might be the 9th century. To reach to the hermitage, you have to climb 237 steps (or 229? or 231?), and according to legend, once gets into top, one should ring the bell three times and make a wish.

Originally, it had a strategic purpose as a defensive point protecting the power of Bizkaia’s lords. Medieval burials from the 9th and 12th centuries have been found on the esplanade and in the hermitage. The hermitage also houses various votive offerings from sailors who survived shipwrecks. In 1593 it was attacked and sacked by Francis Drake. Moreover, rumor has it, that during the inquisition, those accused of witchcraft were locked in the caves of the island. Along with another small neighboring island, Aketze, they form today a protected Biotope, that extends from the town of Bakio until Cape Machichaco, on the Bay of Biscay.

About the stamps
The first two stamps are part of the fourth definitive series with the portrait of the King Juan Carlos I, issued between 2002 and 2006 and comprising 24 values. About the third stamp, Biodiversidad y Oceanografía (Biodiversity and Oceanography), I wrote here.

Gaztelugatxe - Wikipedia
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe - Eusk Guide

sender: David Gil (direct swap)
sent from Madrid (Community of Madrid / Spain), on 27.02.2012
photo: Jose Barea

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