|Elevation||1,482 m (4,862 ft) |
|Prominence||866 m (2,841 ft) |
|Language of name||Basque|
|Location||Biscay / Álava, Spain|
|Parent range||Basque mountains|
|Easiest route||From Pagomakurre (900 m)|
Gorbea (Spanish pronunciation: [goɾˈβea]) or Gorbeia (Basque pronunciation: [gorβei.a]) is a mountain and massif in the Basque Country, Spain. It is the highest summit in Biscay and Álava, with a height of 1,482 metres (4,862 ft) above sea level. The massif covers a wide area between the two provinces. The main summit is a round grass-covered mountain crowned by a 17-metre-tall metallic cross. Other important mountains of the massif are Berretin to the south and the Lekanda and Aldamin limestone peaks to the north.
Since 1994, the whole massif has been part of the Gorbeia Natural Park, established to preserve the local beech and oak forests as well as the populations of wild boars and deers. Its status as the highest summit in two provinces and easy access have made it one of the most emblematic mountains in the Basque Country.
The peak of the Gorbea measures 1.482 meters. It is one of the five “bocineros” mountains of Biscay where general meetings are announced with stakes. It is between Álava's and Biscay's frontier. It is accessible from all its slopes and it is surrounded of a natural environment which has been used for agriculture and other type of rural works. This land was inhabited since the beginning of prehistoric life. This place, conserved apart of the civilization, forms the Natural Park of Gorbea. This park is near Urquiola Natural Park. Both of them have a variety of animals and plants diversity.
It has always been so popular for Basque mountaineers who reach the top from all of the slopes. One of the traditions of this mountain is to trek the mountain the last day of the year and the first one. But the most important reference of Gorbea is the cross with the virgin Begoña. Near it, there is mailbox where people can leave their letters.
In 1899, Pope Leo XIII ordered crosses built atop prominent mountains in the Christian world to commemorate the new century. It was decided that a cross would be installed at Gorbea, the highest mountain in Biscay and Álava. The priests of Zeanuri in Biscay and Zigoitia in Álava made the first steps coordinating the construction of the cross. The works, funded by donations, were undertaken by the Diocese of Vitoria. The total budget was of 50,000 pesetas. It was designed by architect Casto de Zavala and built in a factory owned by businessman and politician Serapio de Goicoechea. Works started on 26 July 1901, with the intention of being completed by 14 September (the Feast of the Cross), but it wasn't inaugurated until 12 November.
The construction of the cross was marred with difficulties. The parts of the disassembled cross was hauled by rail to Izarra, and then carried to the summit with the help of working animals. For unknown reasons, the 33.33 metres (109.4 ft) tall cross wasn't built according the plans drawn by Casto de Zavala. The proposed designs included guy-wires to help the structure withstand the strong winds, but due to the hurried construction they weren't added. The crossed collapsed just one month later, on 12 December. Due to the weight of accumulated snow, one of its legs snapped at a height of about 6 metres (20 ft), with the cross falling down the slope and breaking into pieces.
Plans to rebuild the cross started soon after the collapse of the first one. The design was similar to the original. It was inagurated on 1 October 1903 in a ceremony with a large attendance, which included the blessing of the cross with water from the Jordan river. The second cross lasted for slightly longer than two years, being torn down on 12 February 1906 by the wind.
To avoid the negative impact of the destruction of the first two crosses, the third one was built without publicity. As a result, few details are known about its construction. The cross was finished around 1910, although some sources cite 1907 as either the year in which construction started or was completed. With a height of 17.23 metres (56.5 ft), it is substantially shorter and stronger than the two previous crosses. The cross, reminiscent of the Eiffel tower, is supported by four legs which are joined at the top. The two northern legs sit in Biscay while the other two sit in Álava. In June 1963, an image of Our Lady of Begoña was added under the cross. The cross was renovated in 1991 and again in 2019.
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