|LAREDO, ARTISTIC AND MONUMENTAL.||The Medieval
The Renaissance Village
The Contemporary Village
|The Medieval Village.|
|Church of San Martín and Santa Catalina||Few facts are
known about the Prehistoric and Roman times of the
village of Laredo. In the 11th century, there was already
a primitive settlement around the monastery of Saint
Martín. However, later, after the granting of the fuero
of Logroño (1200) by Alfonso VIII, population growth and
economic development took place in the village and the
first urban structure, known as the Puebla Vieja, was
formed. This first nucleus, surrounded by a defensive
rampart with parapets in battlement shape, had three
vertical streets (Ruamayor, San Marcial and Santa María)
and three horizontal ones (San Martín, Ruayusera and
Enmedio), arranged in reticulum, intersecting each other
producing quadrangular areas.
Since the 14th century, maritime expansion and the trade relations of the port of Laredo with France and Flanders contributed to the development of the village forming El Arrabal with its two main streets, San Francisco and the Espíritu Santo. The rampart also was extended so as to enclose this new space, with the opening of new gates on it.
The two ancient nuclei of Laredo (the Puebla and the Arrabal), declared historic and artistic set in 1970, have outstanding medieval and modern buildings in them. In both La Puebla Vieja and El Arrabal, there are remains of the rampart panes and some of its gates such as Santa María la Blanca, which keeps in its passage a Gothic image of the Virgin and Child, San Marcial Gate, San Lorenzo Gate and Bilbao Gate, with the shape of a large fortified tower and the body of a guard.
In the old part of the village is the church of Santa Catalina and the Hermitage of the Espíritu Santo, two simple buildings which are important for having witnessed the Romanesque period of Laredo. However, the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, located in the upper part of La Puebla Vieja, is the most relevant medieval religious building. This Gothic church was started in the 13th century and underwent important renovations throughout subsequent ages. In the 16th century, and thanks to the economic expansion of Laredo, a portico and many Renaissance chapels were added, such as the chapel of the Concepción, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios and Escalante. The chapel of Escalante has an important triptych of the Virgen de los Desconsolados and portraits of two members of this family from Laredo. The tower was built in the 17th century and, the vestry was attached to the apses in the 18th century and has become at present a small museum with carving and metalwork pieces as well as liturgical clothes. Inside the church, there is a pair of eagle-shaped ambons, which were traditionally presented by Charles V when he passed by Laredo, and the altarpiece of Nuestra Señora del Belén, undoubtedly the most valuable Gothic sculpture in Cantabria.
Onto the streets of La Puebla and El Arrabal face the fronts of the medieval houses which belonged to the most noble family in Laredo, being important examples of lay Gothic architecture such as the house-tower of Gutiérrez-Rada, the house of Clergyman Pelegrín and the house of Hernando Alvarado.