||The oldest peasant houses in
Cantabria belong to the end of the medieval period, as
before that time houses were made of wood. The few
examples that remain indicate that peasant houses had
only one gable-roofed storey with the façade on the
gable end, thus affording considerable depth to the
living-space. Generally they had an additional floor in
the attic. The commonest arch-type for the windows of
these houses was the pointed arch. After the Middle Ages
such arches gave way to lintelled or round arches, though
even more significant were the structural changes: from
the late 15th century on, the attic floor evolved
gradually to become a proper first floor; at this stage,
too, the portico of this type of house came into being,
and with time this feature was to become very
In the 16th and 17th centuries this
house-type slowly evolved into the paradigm of
traditional architecture in the Cantabrian countryside,
attaining its greatest prominence at the end of the 17th
century. It is still dominant in our own time. On a
rectangular plan, there rises a gabled roof whose ridge
runs parallel to the façade; the latter faces the midday
or the rising sun, and is usually on one of the long
sides of the building . The balcony or solana, sheltered
by a projecting eave, rests on solid stone firebreaks
which, in their turn, frame the portico or estragal. The
balcony and portico were the focal points of the peasant
house, both for doing household chores and as places for
socialising with one's peers.
Nowadays this basic house-type is spread throughout
the middle and lower areas of the region, occasionally
combined with a few variations, such as houses with a
garreted roof , houses with the balcony between
firebreaks of moulded corbels, houses whose balcony rests
on side-pillars, and houses with a projecting balcony.
The estragal disappears in this last instance, such that
the space under the balcony becomes an open entrance-way.
In the 19th century a novelty was introduced to the
Cantabrian countryside that was compatible with all the
earlier features: to convert the balcony into a glassed
gallery , in imitation of the dominant urban and
semi-urban models of the day.
In the upper reaches of the region house-types differ
on account of the imprint of a different environment,
different materials, and the influence of the meseta.
Such is the case with the small-windowed houses of the
Campóo and Valderrible valleys, where adobe and wooden
beams are used, but without eschewing the solana, the
firebreak walls, or the stone façade . In Liébana for
example the whole balcony structure is a closed one ;
access to the house is often through an outside stairway
or landing, and the materials used might include brick or
The cabaña pasiega is a newer type of peasant house
with its roots in the area stretching from the Pas valley
and its mountains to the adjacent valleys of Ruesga,
Soba, Toranzo, Carriedo, and even as far as Trasmiera.
Each homestead comprises several of these cabañas, as
they are known by the locals, because of the particular
way of life they lead based on the transhumancia herding
method (livestock are herded over long distances, unlike
the current European norm). The most important of the
cabañas in any one homestead is situated in the lower
reaches of the valley, and is known as the cabaña
vividora ("living cabin"). The house has a
rectangular plan, a gabled roof, with one gable end being
the" façade: and access to it is up a stairway,
whose upper landing extends all the way round one side of
the house .
One should add, to the types of peasant house
described above, the one that is characteristic of the
eastern valleys of Cantabria, particularly the valleys of
Guriezo and Trucíos, where the deep influence of the
Basque caserío is discernible.On a rectangular plan and
with a pitched roof, the house has its façade with broad
eaves at its gable end; and it is built of brick on a
structure of wooden beams.
Everything described up to this point should be placed
in this context: the peasant house of Cantabria is
generally more or less isolated, so any homestead must
comprise a number of outbuildings for storing grain,
firewood, tools; and for sheltering some of the
livestock. Historically, the commonest type of granary in
many parts of Cantabria is the hórreo, which is still
significantly present in the valleys of Liébana .
It is common for a peasant homestead to have dependent
buildings quite far from the main house (like cabañas)
which the peasant farmer holds in the village outskirts.
There is one type of cabaña, known as the "winter
cabaña", characteristic of the upper western
valleys. This house is situated at the foot of a pass.
Its front can equally be at the gable end or on one of
the sides; the invariable features are the lower floor
that serves as a cattle-shelter, and the upper floor
being for grain storage. In the high passes of the
Cordillera ("mountain range") in west Cantabria
there is a type of building called the chozo
("hut") whose basic is as a habitable room, as
cattle stay out in the summer. These small huts might be
on a round or rectangular plan.