Some ten kilometers from the city of Vitoria, in Spain’s Basque Country, there’s a castle whose very survival is a tribute to the passage of time. The Sierra Brava de Badaya, the mountains where the castle stands, is also home to thousands of species of plants and animals. The perfect landscape for ruins, only recently, and thanks to the work of many, the ruins were converted into a botanical garden, a cultural center and an astral observatory called Santa Catalina. Among those who helped was landscaper Eduardo Álvarez de Arcaya.

Already a legendary place, it was the home of a feudal lord named Martínez de Iruña in the 14th century. Later, it was a monastery for Augustinian monks and after that, in the 19th century, it was a refuge for absolutist Spanish troops. At around this time, the castle caught fire and finally was abandoned entirely to its fate. Over these many years, nature reclaimed the castle, and at the end of the 1990s, Arcaya and his team took on the task of rescuing it from imminent destruction.

One of the biggest obstacles to the revival of Santa Catalina was the fact that no roads led to it. Everything began with the construction of roads to allow people into this remote part of ​​the Basque mountains. During the castle’s reconstruction, many local people were employed, especially the unemployed and low-income people. The gesture determined the current policies of the garden: to this day, maintenance of the old castle is carried out by people at risk of being excluded or marginalized.

The cultural center that’s part of this magnificent space organizes workshops of all kinds ranging from exhibitions and concerts, to the manufacture of soaps, yoga classes, and film screenings. Santa Catalina has also become Spain’s first “star park.” At night, it serves as an observatory and has been recognized by the Starlight Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the right to see the light of the stars and to protecting the beauty of the night sky. For its own part, the Botanical Garden of Santa Catalina protects species of three microclimates: shady, valley and sunny, and displays a collection of plants from five continents. It’s likely one of the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens.

In its grandeur, Santa Catalina is a generous and multidisciplinary space. The past and the present converge there, and they result in one of the Iberian peninsula’s most spectacular places, perhaps one always predestined for magic.

palaciomedieval1
 

Images: 1) Basotxerri – Creative Commons 2) Public domain

Some ten kilometers from the city of Vitoria, in Spain’s Basque Country, there’s a castle whose very survival is a tribute to the passage of time. The Sierra Brava de Badaya, the mountains where the castle stands, is also home to thousands of species of plants and animals. The perfect landscape for ruins, only recently, and thanks to the work of many, the ruins were converted into a botanical garden, a cultural center and an astral observatory called Santa Catalina. Among those who helped was landscaper Eduardo Álvarez de Arcaya.

Already a legendary place, it was the home of a feudal lord named Martínez de Iruña in the 14th century. Later, it was a monastery for Augustinian monks and after that, in the 19th century, it was a refuge for absolutist Spanish troops. At around this time, the castle caught fire and finally was abandoned entirely to its fate. Over these many years, nature reclaimed the castle, and at the end of the 1990s, Arcaya and his team took on the task of rescuing it from imminent destruction.

One of the biggest obstacles to the revival of Santa Catalina was the fact that no roads led to it. Everything began with the construction of roads to allow people into this remote part of ​​the Basque mountains. During the castle’s reconstruction, many local people were employed, especially the unemployed and low-income people. The gesture determined the current policies of the garden: to this day, maintenance of the old castle is carried out by people at risk of being excluded or marginalized.

The cultural center that’s part of this magnificent space organizes workshops of all kinds ranging from exhibitions and concerts, to the manufacture of soaps, yoga classes, and film screenings. Santa Catalina has also become Spain’s first “star park.” At night, it serves as an observatory and has been recognized by the Starlight Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the right to see the light of the stars and to protecting the beauty of the night sky. For its own part, the Botanical Garden of Santa Catalina protects species of three microclimates: shady, valley and sunny, and displays a collection of plants from five continents. It’s likely one of the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens.

In its grandeur, Santa Catalina is a generous and multidisciplinary space. The past and the present converge there, and they result in one of the Iberian peninsula’s most spectacular places, perhaps one always predestined for magic.

palaciomedieval1
 

Images: 1) Basotxerri – Creative Commons 2) Public domain