The Town Community of Lea Ibarra - Munitibar - Aulesti - Gizaburuaga - Amoroto - Mendexa

Farmhouse on Amoroto
Two men working in the hamlet
An ancient fountain of water

Aulesti - History

Although Aulesti is the town´s current official name, Murelaga was its original name; or, in other words, Murelaga was the name given to the parochial district. It was the name of the street near the parish of Aulesti. Murelaga was the actual town, and Aulesti the place where the inhabitants lived.

In August the 9th 1979, the Council decided to take Aulesti as the official name. The inhabitants of Aulesti had two aldermen in the General Meetings of Gernika. They had the 19th vote and seat. The first alderman was a nobleman from Navarre: Diego Garcia (at the end of the Xth century).

In the Middle Ages, a chapel was built in every neighbourhood. The chapels, besides being places of worship, gave character to the neighbourhoods, and they were also the locals┤meeting place. At that time the dead were buried around the chapel, but slowly Donibane church in Aulesti became the main cemetery.

The parochial district of Aulesti, or Murelaga, was created in the XIIIth century with the aim of achieving the administrative and political unity of all the neighbourhoods. For that purpose, the chapel was turned into a parish, and power became institutionalised. The ancestors of Aulesti´s inhabitants were the basis and the directors of this unity; they were also the promoters of the patriarcalization of power, managing to rule over the whole region.

For the first few centuries, politics in Aulesti focused on two families: the Oinaz family and the Ganboa family. The powerful families from other towns used to meet them, creating a certain atmosphere in the town because they were very influential groups. Thus, the Aulestia tower always supported the Oinaz family, and so did the town.
In september of 1495, the only street in town accidentally burned down, causing a lot of damage.


Although Murelaga was mainly a farmer town, we must emphasize the importance that forges had. The forge workers of Murelaga managed the region´s economy. They were the ones who decided the use to be given to the lands of the Republic, the ones who continued with or stopped the litigations with other jurisdictions and the ones who designed the laws for the different activities after reading the Basque Laws of Bizkaia.

It is believed that Aulesti was created as a service and power centre. Apparently, in order to become a City, Aulesti needed more lands than those which the parish owned, and also a broader set of laws.

To a great extent, this explains why the town adopted artcrafts and pre-industrial activities, or why the brotherhoods of the parochial district accepted the management of the whole region; there they placed the town hall, the bars, the hostels, the church, the brotherhoods...

As Iturritza mentions in Bizkaiko Kondaira, Aulestia had three forges in the XVIIth century.

The Collegiate Church of Ziortza and Murelaga:

The Collegiate Church dates from around the Xth century. When new houses were built in the hills, stables and fields, the church wanted to keep them under control, and this resulted in rents, first fruits, tithes and other offers on the one hand and religious obligations on the other. Thus, those who had their homes in the lands of the church of Ziortza were forced to choose this church for their religious needs, even if their homes were closer to the parish. Consequently, some farms from Amoroto, Ajangiz, Berriatu, Gizaburuaga, Lekeitio, Lumo, Murelaga etc. had to attend the church of Ziortza for their customs. They had to cover kilometers to assist religious acts, funerals etc.

As a consequence, the farmers could not get there on time or did not want to go, and the church leaders had to try harder and harder to make the farmers in their lands pay them the tributes. The farmers were unable to pay the rents, and the church had to remind them of their obligations, sometimes kindly and sometimes with the help of lawyers.

But not only the Collegiate Church of Ziortza exerted power over the farmers; there were also the owners of the surrounding woods and hills, who were either counts or marquises. In the last century the Marquis of Mortara was the rent-collector.

The beginning of the XIXth century:

The beginning of the XIXth century was very difficult for many homes in Aulesti. Because of the wars happening at that time, the town┤s inhabitants were asked to help by handing over food, clothes or money, and they inevitably had to do it.

In previous years debts were also widespread in many houses; but when in 1810, under the orders of the French military chief Thouvenet, every house was forced to show its assets and its situation, most of them stated that they were in debt. Added to that, not only house owners were in that situation. Those renting properties were also in debt, due to the impossibility to pay the rent or for other reasons. But who did they owe? Some owed the church, some owed other inhabitants, some owed the convents... Those living in town were not any better. The very council stated in that year´s accounts that it owed the parish 70.466 reals and other inhabitants 16.632 reals. Thus, the council owed 87.098 reals altogether.

It is unknown whether those debts had a decissive effect in the town´s development. But one thing is undeniable: the demands towards the French war had a tremendous impact in Aulesti´s population, as the requests were made without mercy and everybody had to pay, for fear of reprisals; some assets were even mortgaged.

Santa Kruz the priest in Aulesti:

Santa Kruz the priest and his group arrived in Aulesti on the day before Santa Ageda´s eve, on February the 3rd 1873, at around ten in the evening. The rain, the snow and the storm coming from Munitibar were hitting hard; Ansotegi´s group was pursuing them, and Santa Kruz and his group went to shelter in the abbey of Aulesti.

They placed two men in the road to Munitibar, another two in the road to Lekeitio and two more in the road to Gernika, so that if the enemy appeared, one could stay there and the other could run to tell the news. On the fourth of February, at around eight in the morning, a soldier came from Goikola-Etxebarri and said that the enemy was approaching from Zubibarriaga and that they would be there in less than half an hour.

Thus, the group took the road to Lekeitio and crossed the bridge fifteen minutes away from Aulesti, to the right side of the river Lea. The river was almost overflowing due to the storm of the previous night. And there, near Olarria Path over Angiz, they found a suitable place to wait.

Ansotegi, the leader of the enemy side, arrived in Aulesti at nine in the morning, and went straight to Antzidor without stopping in the town. Ansotegi´s group was still there when Santa Kruz and his soldiers got to Antzidor. The group found an adequate place on the left side of the river and didn´t cross the bridge, as they thought that the carlists would immediately seize them.

They spent over an hour in that situation, and the inhabitants of Aulesti watched the scene from their windows, worried about the moment when the shooting started. Then suddenly the attack began, and the former parish rector was shot dead.

Eventually the carlists took to Berriatu; the liberal Ansotegi followed them for a while, and then went back and spent the rest of the day in Aulesti.

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