In the nineteen century the “corros”, the social centres, were in the main square of the town. They were always placed near the church so when, after the Mass and bells tolled its termination people used to play bowls in the corros.
However to prevent the bowls going out of court, bowling grounds were enclosed by stone walls like the bowling alleys we have today.
Campios is a traditional neighbourhood in the high part of the town whose curving streets lead to the Corro, where people walk, dance on Sundays and used to play bowls.
King Alfonso XIII played bowls during his visit. Each Year on the sixteenth of July, the fiestas for Christ the Protector are held in this square. For many years during those multitudinous festivals this social centre was embellished with arches, pennants and festive lights that were switched on with the triumphal arch to welcome the foreigners.
Today it is also a leisure space as well as a meeting point.
Year of construction: desde la segunda mitad S. XVII hasta 1831
Builder: Rubin, an architect from Pesues
The church consists of a rectangular floor divided into three naves and a rectangular chancel. Rising from the roof is an impressive four-sectioned prismatic tower that was finished in the 18th century when the balustrade and the pyramidal pinnacle were added. The construction consists basically of stone with masonry buttresses. Within the church there is an image of Christ the Protector, the patron saint of local fishermen to whom they pray when they are in trouble on the waters. There is also a grand organ which dates from the beginning of the twentieth century. Martorell designed the pulpit, the altar screen of the chancel, the choir and the stained-glass windows.
The architectural context of this church stands out because of its two portals. The north doorway is framed by classical buttresses. It has a Romanesque arch between pilasters and a tympanum divided into two sections housing the modern image of San Cristóbal, sculpted by Jesus Otero, native of Santillana del Mar. On the opposite façade there is another doorway framed by the Coat of arms of the village and the Crown with an inscription that dates from 1713.
Outside the door there are two shields. The one on the right bears the Crown and the neck chain of the Order of Toisón. In another part of the shield is the Coat of Arms of Castilla, which is represented by a castle. One can also see a rampant lion, which represents the Coat of Arms of Leon. There are also lilies, which depict the House of Bourbon and the Coat of Arms of Philip II. The second shield represents the liberation of Seville as seen in the Coat of Arms of Comillas
La otra pieza armera apoya como la anterior sobre tres cabecitas, presenta una nave rompiendo la cadena de Sevilla. En el cantón superior izquierdo una torre de tres cuerpos, y en jefe, algo que no se distingue muy bien. Armas de la villa de Comillas
One of the most interesting things about the church is that it was constructed by the townspeople who put aside one day a week to work on this building. The reason it was built was because of the confrontation with the Duke of El Infantado in the ancient church that stands on the hill in front of the Dead Beach where the current cemetery is located.
This splendid building is located in the square Plaza de la Constitución and was built around the year 1775 on the ruins of the hermitage of Saint John, an ancient pilgrim’s resting place. It consists of a Romanesque arcade, an open ground floor for the townspeople and a first floor with door-like windows that open to an extended balcony supported by a large parapet.
The stonework was done by Simón Fernández de Castro. The five shields of the archbishops who gave Comillas the name of “The Village of the Archbishops” hang on the wall of the main façade.
Juan Antonio González de la Reguera (1720-1805), bishop of Peru.
Rafael de la Vara, bishop in Guatemala
Bernardo Martínez de la Rabia (1759-1826), bishop of Sonora, Mexico
Saturnino Fernández de Castro (1827-1886) bishop of León and Archsbishop of Burgos
In the boardroom, probably decorated by Martorell, who in turn would have been entrusted by Eusebio Güell, are displayed two copies of the portraits of Antonio López y López and Claudio López-Bru. A portrait of Joaquín del Piélago was painted by Antonio Caba Casmitjna (Barcelona 1838-1907). The reception room was built for the visit of King Alfonso.
On the balcony there are two shields. One with the Royal Crown, the other with a helmet and the Coat of Arms of Comillas, the tower of Seville and the sea, which symbolizes the liberation of that city.
In the square in front of the building it is a collection of traditional houses all attached with their balconies and their heavy walls that, as well as the town hall and the church, make Comillas a most rewarding tourist destination. The village was declared Site of Cultural Interest in 1985.
Architect: Francisco Hernández Rubio
Year of construction: 1899-1902
Period: English Historicism
At the end of the nineteen century English buildings were in vogue amongst the well to do in Comillas. This building Known as El Duque is a good example of this. Francisco Hernández Rubio designed the mansion for the Duke Almodóvar del Río.
The structure reflects a Swiss chalet, although it also carries characteristics of English mansions in many ways, specially in its asymmetric spaces, the stone, brickwork, etc, all of which is in contrast with the Eclecticism of The Sobrellano Palace and the modernism of Gaudí’s building.
On the Southwest façade there is a quartered shield bearing a helmet, the Crown of the Duke and a crest that represents the king. It is decorated with small flags and ornate emblems.
This prison consisting of two cells and an interior courtyard was built by the townspeople in 1879; Today is the pilgrim’s hostel on their way to Santiago.
The traditional route began in the ancient capital, Santillana del Mar passed through Oreña, Novales, crossing Cigüenza and then Cóbreces. Between Cóbreces and Comillas the pilgrims had to cross Tramalón, whose hermitage still houses the image of Saint James.
Once they had crossed Ruiloba and passed through Concha they were in El Portillo, where there is a watchtower that once was used as a signal post to tell the harpooners by means of the smoke of a fire that there were whales near the coast.
During the seventeenth century, Comillas was the whaling capital of the Bay of Biscay and thanks to it, the town was freed from the marquisate’s domain. A hospital for pilgrims and passers-by was built a century earlier by a devout woman in the town. In the nineteenth century a legend referring to the pilgrim’s route to Santiago mentioned Comillas. According to the legend, there was a knight who was guarding the relic of Saint James as his disciples carried him from Jerusalem to Santiago. He found no way to cross Comillas’s valley, so riding his horse he got into the water and finally arrived to Galicia. When he got out of the water, he saw that he and his horse body were covered with shells. Since then the shell has become the apostle’s shield, and thus the pilgrims began to wear them.
This mythical legend tells us that the coast route was regularly used at that time.
During the first decades of the twentieth century the king Alfonso XIII pledged himself and his kingdom more devotedly to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.
This activity initiated a rebirth of Catholicism and led to a renewed interest in the Cerro de los Ángeles, a monument constructed in Madrid. As a result of this, many statues of the Sacred Heart were erected throughout the country. One of those is in Comillas. It is a dignified statue, which the II Marquis of Comillas entrusted to a Catalan artist.
This sculpture is located in a neighbourhood known as “La Peña” just behind the municipal building.
This is a spectacular steep-cliff coast that reaches up to 50 metres high, and which is interrupted by the beach of Comillas. This beach can be divided into three different areas.
The first is from the Pajarito stone to the rocks in Portillo.
There is a central area with a seafront and several facilities.
And there is a port. Although Comillas has two other beaches, a small bay just behind the cemetery, called the Dead Beach, and another in La Rabia Lagoon, remarkable for its interesting ecosystems.
The Hermitage of Santa Lucia is a popular church that houses an image of its patron Saint and was funded by local fishermen. They used to go to mass early in the morning every day before setting sail. It consists of a simple floor plan, a gable roof and a wooden main door covered by a small porch. It is remembered for the small bell that used to be tolled in case of bad weather conditions.
The port is enclosed by a high dyke protected from the Northwest, Northeast and fierce North winds. The 9 metres access has a wooden sluice gate the fishermen close when the weather conditions and the undertow may damage their vessels.
The port’s construction cost the townspeople 30,700 ducados equivalent to 370 euros. It was begun in 1603 and finished in 1716, so for many years the fishing activity took place in the beach. The port was first defended by three watchtowers and a fort that had four pieces of artillery. Nevertheless, from its construction it was used more for fishing rather than for protection. Fishermen put out in small boats with harpoons, and whaling was the harbour’s main activity, so much that it was the last whaling port in the eighteen century. The whale stone, as it is known, was the place where fishermen butchered their catch. In the winter they fished for red-breams, conger-eels, in the summer it was time for sardines and tunas.
A long while ago this harbour exported blended and calamine from local mines and imported coal and cement.
It had its own fishermen’s association known as the Christ the Protector Association, established in the beginning of the fifteen century. Over the years the number of fishermen has decreased considerably and consequently the importance of this confederation.
The harbour has also an auction house, this is a popular construction situated on the west side of the port that was built in 1942 on the ancient warehouse of the mines’ company, Real CIA Asturiana de Minas. It consists of three attached buildings, a central one with two floors and the two other with one.
On a corner of the port is a high relief bronze plaque in memory of Jesus Cancio (1885-1961), the so-called Poet of the Sea”.
It was Antonio Lopez’ s house.
He decided to build it for his mother in the middle of the nineteen century. Originally it was a detached house. It consists of a hipped roof and four façades, one overlooking the square Plaza de los Tres Caños, nowadays named Plaza Joaquín del Piélago.
One of the characteristics of the main façade is its undecorated stonework and it also differs from the rest of the house as it has four pointed pre-neo-Gothic windows on the ground floor.
The other façades bear balconies and the ground floor windows are framed by solid stones and grilles reminiscent of more popular constructions. It is also notable for the fence that surrounds the house which dates from 1850.
In 1881 King Alfonso XII came to spend the summer in Comillas and, in order to fit out the building for Royalty, the Marquis brought many different artists and architechs from Catalonia.
Gaudí designed the chimney and refurbished the living-room but other Catalan artists decorated the rest of the house.