The village of Arkaia is located at the boundaries of the neighbourhood of Salburua in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Albeit it is still an independent town, it links the capital with the rural world. This small village is full of ancient historical remains. The humble archaeological site is worth mentioning, because it proves the existence of some thermae from the Roman period in Alava. Besides, we would like to remark the surviving Romanesque remains at the church of Nativity. Most of them are currently hidden, which means that the site was regularly populated over history. However, the medieval past is hidden with the 18th century Neoclassical renovations, which were directed by Justo Antonio de Olaguibel, one of the best local architects of that period.
The church of the Nativity
A few metres away from the Roman thermae, which are the oldest remains of the town of Arkaia, we spot the parochial church of the Nativity. Its Romanesque remains are generously scattered along the building, although sometimes they are veiled. Like that, we can approach a general idea of the temple’s medieval appearance. The shape of the primitive nave of the church can be deduced from its northern side, where a line of corbels with their original dimensions is distinguished.
The hidden façade
The primitive façade remains between the walls of the church of the Nativity of Arkaia. Once the Renaissance renovation was accomplished, the volume of the church changed, and the façade was relocated. Although it cannot be spotted from outside, the façade continues at the same place of the portico’s current entrance. Besides, the access stairs to the tower show the false ceiling created along the 18th century façade. Apart from that, its archivolts with acanthus leaves motifs still endure. In that same access, the original Romanesque capitals with vegetal decoration are displayed.
Color photographs: © Álava Medieval / Erdi Aroko Araba.
Old photographs: Archivo del Territorio Histórico de Álava.