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Pipes and Pipers

We believe it is important to dedicate a section to the pipes, since they have developed into the most important local instrument in Rioja Alavésa. In the documental archives of Elciego the pipes are, with the exception of the organ in religious acts, the instrument which accounted for most payments during the 17th and 18th centuries. The presence of the pipes was obligatory in all religious and festive acts in the town.

In the 19th century, and particularly at the beginning of the 20th century, pipes often had to take second place to musical bands, which were more colourful and fashionable. However, the pipes did not abandon this leading musical role in the festive traditions of the town. As our grandparents often say: "there is no party without pipes". And, naturally, no resident of Elciego would dream of performing the old dances without the presence of the pipes.
With this brief introduction we are going to describe this relationship: Pipes-Pipers-Elciego.

Pipers in the 17th and 18th centuries

Given the absence of documentation from previous centuries in the municipal archives, we shall offer a brief analysis of the centuries for which documentation does exist. We do not believe it is necessary to reproduce all the listed payments to pipers, but rather we shall briefly describe the conclusions we have reached from the documentation obtained.
It appears that the pipers were not locals, since payments were assigned for a day's work and food. Moreover, some payments specify "the visiting piper" (years 1679-1680), without any variation from the amounts assigned in other years.
The performer was a single person, since the piper duo was after the mid-18th century.
The presence of the drummer is detailed for the first time in the 18th century.
A piper is named in the year 1707: Juan Jiménez (we are considering the possibility that he may be an Elciego local, something which the parish archive birth and death records will clarify).
The term Dulzaina, which would then be used to refer to the pipes, appears in payments for the first time well into the second half of the 18th century.
The piper appeared every year in the festivities of Santa Isabel and of the Virgin in the month of September, and occasionally as a result of novenas or rogations in the procession and dances.

Pipers in the 20th century

Throughout the first half of the current century the pipers were present mainly in the September festivities (Dianas, Pasacalles, Bailables and the execution of the Danzas). The pipers came from the neighbouring towns of Villabuena and Laguardia two places where the pipes acquired significant development, extending and maintaining our music and dances throughout the area. Until the 1940s the pipers from Villabuena were entrusted with this task, whilst Laguardia pipers took over later on.
It is precisely at this time, when these pipers had started to fade away (Perfecto Gil had stopped playing in Villabuena and Jesús Martínez endured a lengthy illness which finally took his life),and the continuity of the instrument in the area was in jeopardy, that the Pipers of Elciego appeared.

We could say that they came about to support the Danzas of Elciego and as a result of their concern for local music. In 1977 Jesús Fernández Ibañez and Juan Carlos Gómez Palacios formed the first pair of pipers, accompanied by the drum of Juantxu Gómez Palacios. Their beginnings, as always, were particularly difficult.
Jesús had to leave Elciego for work reasons, whilst Juan Carlos found the musical accompaniment of his brother, who began to play the pipes. José Luis Gallego took charge of the drum, replaced occasionally by Víctor de Marcos. Their performances were ever more numerous, and they collaborated with other dance groups of the area as well as being called on to take part in festivities throughout Euskalerria (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Azpeitia, Azkoitia, Baiona, Bilbao, Pamplona, Tudela, San Juan de Luz...); moreover, they have performed in Barcelona, Villafranca del Penedés, Madrid, Seville, Tenerife, and in the ancient music festivals of Najera and Brussels.
They have taken part in concerts along with the Municipal Bands of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Elgoibar, Laguardia, Elciego, Azpeitia... in addition to collaborating on different recordings.
In 1987 they recorded their first record, ARABAKO DANTZAK, which brought together Danzas from Laguardia, Villabuena, Páganos and Yécora. This work culminated in 1993 with the recording of their second record, ARABAKO DANTZAK-II, which included Danzas from Elciego, Kuartango, Oion and Pipaón. With this record they had now recorded all the Danzas of Álava for pipes, as played today in each of their respective towns.
In 1997 they recorded their third record. Whilst the previous two records were compilations of Álava Danzas, this new work was dedicated to former pipers of the neighbouring locality of Laguardia NICOLÁS GARCÍA and JESÚS MARTÍNEZ. To this end, they made a selection from among the 760 musical scores of the repertoire of Nicolás García, which Jesús Martínez inherited and broadened, the result being 22 tracks of the most widely used rhythms of the time, along with two innovative arrangements: one for Pipes and Band, and another for Pipes and a Latin music group. It was then that the idea of collaborating with the group "The Latin Gasteiz Band" came about.
The two collaborated on the record dedicated to Nicolas Garcia, combining the sound of the pipes with metal wind instruments, bass guitar, piano and a wide range of Latin percussion instruments, leading to a series of concerts throughout Euskaherria. In 1999 they were reunited to take part on the record TRIBUTE TO JULIAN ROMANO.
They are currently working on a record to commemorate their 25th anniversary in 2003. They also envisage publishing a book of musical scores of their repertoire which will include a review of their 25 years as Pipers of Elciego and an exhibition which will bring together photography, anecdotes, newspaper articles, instruments, etc. Further information will be available at this website.
Check them out on the YouTube channel Gaiteros de Elciego.

Santa Isabel Festivities

This is the name given to the festivities of 2nd July. However, there is no real relation to this Saint. It is believed that the relationship between this festivity and the "independence" of Elciego can be found in a festivity or ritual regarding the flag which formerly existed in Elciego.
The festivity currently involves saluting the flag. This flag presides over all the events and summarises everything else: the declaration of the town, the Coat of Arms, independence...

In a singular act, the flag is taken down from the Town Hall balcony and the Town Council Official carries it in a procession to the parish to lay it out in front of the altar during consecration, as a sign of worship and respect.
After the Mass, there are dances with the pipers before the authorities and the general public at the Pillory, symbol of Independence of the Town.

Festivities of the patronesse Virgen de la Plaza

These are the most important festivities in the town. The town's local festivities are held on the 8th September. On the previous Sunday, the festivities are announced in the church by way of a Pregón (Opening Speech) by a leading personality. This event was first organised by the group known as "Los Ilustres" back in 1988, and continued uninterrupted until 2000, at which point it was taken over by the Town Council.

On the 7th there is a Floral Offering to Nuestra Señora de la Plaza, followed by the launch of a firework rocket (txupinazo) which announces the start of the Festivities. The Main Square is beautifully decked out and, naturally, our Barrihuelo joins in the party with the youngsters dressed in blouses, arms held high, cigar in mouth, moving along to the Town Hall and then coming down to greet us. At this moment the music band, the pipers and the big heads leave the square to start the traditional street parade.

The 8th September is the most important day, dedicated to Virgen de la Plaza. The procession, the solemn Mass and the different offerings all take place in an exquisite musical environment with Pipers, Dances and the Band, along with the different authorities who give this day a particular character, with the local residents taking the Town as their own. This ceremonial ritual has been documented as dating back to 6th September 1885. Bull runs, evening parties, competitions, performances and the burning bull, amongst other activities, keep young and old alike entertained until the 11th, when the Barrihuelo, who is equally as tired, says "Until next year" in an event enjoyed by all, when he goes over the high points and anecdotes of the festivities, known as "Barrihuelo's Burial" (Click on the attached file to enjoy the last burial).


1988Javier Cameno (Journalist and Cultural Animator)
1989Antxon Urrusolo (Journalist and Television Presenter)
1990Juan Claudio Cifuentes (Television Presenter, expert in Jazz)
1991Pedro Ruiz (Television Presenter)
1992Antonio Guerrero (Director of the daily newspaper "El Correo")
1993Miguel Durán (Director General of the O.N.C.E.)
1994Emilio Palacios (Lecturer at Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
1995Patxi Antón (Writer and Gastronome)
1996Juanjo Mena Ostériz (Orchestra Conductor)
1997Camino Urdiain Martínez (Director of the Provincial Archive)
1998Luis Hernández Sánchez (Director General of Osakidetza)
1999Alberto Schommer García (Photographer)
2000Ángel Jaime Baró (President of the Rioja Origin Regulation Board)
2001Fernando Savater (Philosopher)
2002Emilio Guevara
2003Alfredo Amestoy
2004Gotzone Mora
2005Florencio Asenjo Contreras (Primary School Teacher)
2006Nerea Haig Santamaría (Director of the review "Sustraia")
2007Miguel Larreina (Director of Laguardia House of Wine)
2008Joseba Arregui (Former Regional Culture Minister of the Basque Government)
2009Unai Vergara Díez-Caballero (Professional Footballer)
2010Jesús Fernández Ibáñez
2011Manuel Ruiz Hernández
2012Gorka Aguinagalde (Actor y humorista vasco)
2013Gurutze Beitia
2014Gaiteros de Elciego
2015Maribel Salas y Santi Ugalde
2016José Ramón Triana


Attached files:

Entierro de Barrihuelo 2013

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Entierro de Barrihuelo 2012

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Entierro de Barrihuelo 2011

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Entierro de Barrihuelo 2010

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Entierro de Barrihuelo 2009

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Entierro de Barrihuelo 2008

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Entierro de Barrihuelo 2007

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Map showing artistic heritage

Attached files:


Download (PDF - 0.86Mb.)

Stately Houses | Typology of the houses

Elciego was a Laguardia village until well into the 16th century Some buildings from this time remain today, although they now present a very different appearance; they conserve the entrance with its round arch, and in some a Coat of Arms with the cross of St Andrew can be seen in the keystone. This Coat of Arms seems to indicate the dwelling of the members of the brotherhood who constituted the foundational core of the town. It is said that formerly there were thirty-three, although currently no more than eleven or twelve remain.

In the 17th century "Palatial Houses" began to be built, with very similar characteristics. They all fulfil the same economic and residential functions of their owners.

These are block houses, compact and cubic, with a hip roof; in the best conserved ones the eaves, which are usually no older than the 18th century, comprise modillions carved with stylised vegetal motifs.

The Baroque constructions are classified in three kinds: agricultural or craft houses, manor houses and palatial houses. The latter generally have the same distribution. On the ground floor are the areas dedicated to the economic exploitation of the estate (stables, equipment areas and general storage). The staircase is of great importance and occupies an extensive area, and is often crowned by a skylight, providing a connection between the two floors. The first floor is laid out around a staircase. The kitchen was important on the first floor, although less than in the most popular dwelling models, where it was a fundamental; also notable is the extensive bedroom-dining room which opens onto the main facade on the portal; the bedroom-living area system is also common and functional for the time. Some of them also include a gallery which is open at midday.

Exterior decoration throughout the Rioja Alavesa area uses Coats of Arms and, above all, interesting ironwork cast using previous models and dating back, at most, to the 18th century. Elciego also has magnificent examples, such as the House of "Los Hierros".

Navarrete Ladrón de Guevara Palace or "Casa de los Hierros"

This is situated on the north side of Plaza Mayor. This house was the birthplace of Mr Francisco Manuel Navarrete Ladrón de Guevara, who was the Bishop of Mondoñedo and Archbishop of Burgos, and who ordered the construction of an altarpiece in the parish church, which is located under the organ.

It is commonly known as the House of the Hierros, a magnificent Baroque mansion with two floors and a basement, which counts on an impressive elongated and corner balcony which is hugely impressive when seen from the main square. The balconies rest on splendid iron gussets which in some cases reach down to the floor. The ironwork is considered excellent, not only around Rioja Alavesa but also in the Basque Country.

On the outside the notable carpentry work is conserved in the carved modillions of the eaves, supported on the carved cornice in the part which belongs to nº2, the best conserved one. Internally it is possibly one of the constructions which has been most affected by the passage of time; it is currently divided into three dwellings which occupy numbers 2, 4 and 6 of Calle del Norte, which has led to its interior restructuring. The original access was through nº 4, where the staircase starts underneath a segmental arch supported on carved imposts; this staircase culminates in an impressive dome with a skylight in the centre. The corner Coat of Arms covers two facades: south and west, this is posterior and is the Coat of Arms of the Bishop, although it counts on elements of his home highlighted in a simple and stylised manner.

Ramírez de la Piscina Palace

The manor house of the Ramírez de la Piscina family is located in numbers 1 and 3 of Calle del Barco, on the S-E corner of Plaza Mayor. These are two Baroque palaces from the 17th and 18th centuries, which on the exterior are in a good state. These are two outstanding two-floor buildings which, as with others in the town and area, are built from stone. The grillework is of good quality in the two buildings, with the balconies having ringed dual-spindle balustrades, sheered metal handrails and spiral gussets. The woodwork is also notable, as can be seen in the carved modillions which are supported on a carved cornice. The main facade has two Coats of Arms, with the side Coat of Arms belonging to the Ramírez de la Piscina family.

It fulfils all the characteristics of this type constructions in terms of the interior distribution, whilst the staircase is crowned by a skylight in the shape of a polychrome dome.
They also count on a wine cellar in the basement, which comprises a series of round and pointed arches crowned with elongated stone voussoirs; the wine cellar has galleries which run from underneath the building, crossing the street and finishing at the opposite block. Moreover, the original layout has been respected in the rear of the buildings, where the patios are found.

This palace was declared a Monument in the category of Classified Cultural Heritage by the Regional Government of the Basque Country.

Zarate Nabar Palace

This is a palatial house located at numbers 14 and 16 of Calle Capitán Gallarza. On the outside it is a two-floor stonework building with significant ironwork such as the side balconies which are positioned on embossed gussets; the attractive central balcony rests on a magnificent stone bracket, whilst the main facade also has a Coat of Arms positioned asymmetrically with the legend of Zarate Nabar.

The interior fulfils the canons for this type of buildings (upper floor as a dwelling and the lower floor as a storage area for cattle and equipment of the estate), the charming portal forms a motif with the Coat of Arms which presides over the palace, whilst the wide staircases start up through a segmental arch. It is currently divided into two dwellings, which has led to interior changes, although these are not as radical as in Casa de los Hierros.

Pillory and Cross

The Pillory

The Pillory was located in the area known as "El Rollo". It is the highest part of the town; this is due to the fact that this column represents the power enjoyed by the town of Elciego to exercise social and civil justice when independence from Laguardia was achieved in the 16th century. Along with independence, Felipe II allowed Elciego to count on a pillory, gallows and stocks as signs of authority of the towns of the time.
The justice column is cylindrical and, as is common, rounded off with a truncated cone.


A few details are necessary before explaining about this square:
1.- The current location of what is today known as "El Crucero" (The Cross), known formally as "Crucifijo" (Crucifix), is not the original location since the crucifix was found at the crossroads between Villabuena, Navaridas and Laguardia.
2.- The location of the crucifix does not correspond to the existence of a crossroads but rather the existence of a Calvary in which the cross formed part of the Villabuena road.
3.- Along the Villabuena road there is another component of this Calvary which is in a poor state; it could be a small funerary chapel located between the fourteenth and final cross of the Stations of the Cross and used for praying, known in Elciego as "the Bones of Jesus Christ". It is a solid stonework construction which is in somewhat of a poor state, measuring 3.36 x 1.54 y 1.82 m high and crowned by a roof in the shape of an inverted trough. With regards to its exterior decoration, only a few small alcoves, flanked by two circular orifices on all sides, remain, the functions of which are unknown. It has been refurbished and transferred to the gardens close to the cemetery, given its funerary nature.

Plaza del Crucero

The pedestal which supports the Crucifix is located on three stone steps in the centre of Plaza del Crucero, although the current cross dates back to the Republic, when the original was destroyed. Nowadays the most interesting part is the pedestal, since its four faces show the figures of the evangelists with their representations, although this is now in a very poor state due to the effects of the weather.
The possibility of the reliefs being of Mannerist style was considered, although this cannot be confirmed. In any case, in 1705 there was news of the need to embellish the crucifix.
This square is found in the area where the representative, the Lord Mayor and the parish priest received the churchman with the edicts of the Primate of Spain.

Town Hall

This was conceived basically like the typical Basque administrative buildings of the 18th century. The result was a first-floor with a portico, the arcade of which contains six round arch windows with imposts, overlooking the square; the second floor contains the areas which open on to the Square by way of four bays and two extensive balconies which include the Imperial Coat of Arms of Felipe II. The sides of the building conserve two round arch access doors, which may have previously been a town hall or a similar building.

Chapel of the Virgin de la Plaza

Virgen de la Plaza Basilica is an 18th-century construction, built on the site of a previous construction (possibly Gothic from the 14th century); all that remains from the previous era is a beautiful "Andra Mari" 14th century sculpture of Virgen de la Plaza.
The dome is semi-spherical, segmented by ribs which are almost Baroque in style and which come together in a medallion with a dove depicting the Holy Spirit, framed with eight small angels.
The construction has an irregular layout with an octagon in the interior, the upper level of which is formed by 4 narrow pointed arches alternating with 4 wide round arches. Inside are three decadent Baroque altarpieces, almost Rococo in style, with Corinthian columns; the side ones are dedicated to St Anthony and St Joseph, and the central one is in honour of Virgen de la Plaza. Virgen de la Plaza is widely worshipped in Elciego and the town festivities, on the 8th September, are dedicated to her.

Parish Church of St. Andrew


San Andrés de Elciego parish church is located on the banks of the Río Mayor, far from the town's main square; to level it, it was necessary to build a large platform, which is hugely impressive when seen from the river.
The parish church brings together different architectural styles, ranging from Gothic in the first sections through to neoclassical in the new vestry.
The stonework building, built in the 16th century, presents traditional orientation with the apse orientated towards the east; on the outside it appears to be uniform, although chronologically this is not the case. The stylistic evolution and chronology of the building can be best seen inside the building. The church has a single nave, of significant size, measuring 40 m long and 16 m wide, whilst with the transept it measures 26 m and 18.5 m high.
The architectural styles used are varied. The first two sections, closest to the towers, are Gothic with ribbed columns and pointed side arches, whilst the third section is more classical, with columns covered by pilasters with cornices from which the ribs of the vaulted domes sprout. The most clearly Renaissance part is the transept area, where four Renaissance pilasters support rounded transversal arches, thus supporting the complex upper vault. The apse is semicircular with intricate stonework, completely fluted. Access to the vestry is via the right side of the transept; this neoclassical vestry was the final construction in the parish.

Main altarpiece
Constructed in the mid-17th century, the main altarpiece is from the Baroque period and conserves Renaissance influences, as can be seen throughout the site, whilst the paintwork dates back to just after the start of the 18th century.
The altarpiece has a predella, three horizontal rows and a crowning piece, and is divided into three vertical sections with four separations. The predella is a Renaissance structure with reliefs of Saints and two panels with scenes of the arrest and crucifixion of Christ. The predella also includes a tabernacle of the same period, although more elaborate, where the two most important images of the altarpiece are located, namely two semi-freestanding representations of St Peter and St Paul.
The Apostles are represented in all the separations, whilst the vertical rows include, in addition to the 19th century monstrance in the first horizontal row and the representation of St Andrew in the second, scenes of the Annunciation and the Birth in the first horizontal row, the Adoration of the Three Wise Men and the Escape to Egypt in the second horizontal row, the Visitation in the third horizontal row, with the whole composition crowned by the Eternal Father on the curved front, and over it, the Calvary.

Other altarpieces
In the church there are other altarpieces which have been continuously changed and modified. Those of the transept date from the same time as the Main Altarpiece and have the architrave structure. The one dedicated to Santo Cristo is of greater quality, with the predella showing a representation of the flagellation and the crown of thorns, whilst the other is dedicated to Virgen del Rosario.
The first section has two Rococo altarpieces, one of which was presumably dedicated to St Joseph although nowadays there is another image in its place, and one dedicated to Dolorosa, which was originally dedicated to St John and then reworked; the predella includes the figure popularly known as the "Tumbado" (the Recumbent), namely a fine sculpture of Christ with articulable arms, which, following its recent restoration, is now positioned next to the door which leads to the choir.
The second section includes the altarpieces of the Archbishop and the so-called San Antonio altarpiece, which in the parish archives appears as San Joaquin; the first one is located underneath the organ and has two paintings and two isolated figures installed at a later date, and was paid for by Mr Manuel Francisco Navarrete y Ladrón de Guevara, who was born in the town and was the Bishop of Mondoñedo and the Archbishop of Burgos.

Choir and Choir Stalls
Elciego choir is of plateresque style and is positioned on a segmental arch. Its iconography counts on medallions of busts corresponding to classic individuals and some saints.
In keeping, the construction is simple and elegant, built in two stages using walnut:
in the 16th century most were constructed with plain chairs with simple backs, separated by fluted columns in the upper section, with vegetal decoration in the lower section.
In the 18th century there was some minor remodelling when the side panels were added, two of them with golden panel decoration.

The pulpits were completed in the 18th century, one in the image of the other, and have a series of balconies with iron balustrades covered with golden sheets and a high sounding board.

The classical-style organ dates from the beginning of the 18th century, and still works today despite many pipes being missing. It is the result of the restructuring of previous ones, which were of no less importance. Given its large size, it was necessary to construct a line of balconies for access from the choir.

The walls of the apse, the transept and the first section were polychromed in the 18th century, as were the canvases of the transept, although the poor state of one of them meant it could not be recovered following restoration.

The towers are located on both sides of the facade and are characterised by their irregular pentagonal layout and the fact that they are joined by a large arch crowned by a "loggia" with seven segmental arches. The upper section of the one to the right has a row of balconies with stone balustrades where the bells are located, crowned with toothed-edge pinnacles; the one on the left is narrower and also irregular, whilst the upper section has a cornice with a row of balconies and a spire which was modified in order to install a bell.

Ebro nature route GR - 99