An elizate (Basque pronunciation: [elis̻ate]), (Spanish: anteiglesia) is an early form of local government in the Basque Country which was particularly common in Biscay but also existed in the other provinces. The terms elizate (in Standard Basque) and elexate (in Biscayan) literally translate as "church door" (eliza "church" + ate "door"). The Spanish term anteiglesia translates as "before [the] church" or "parvise".

The peculiar name derives from the Basque custom where the family heads of a settlement connected to a particular parish would gather after mass at the entrance or portico of the church to make decisions regarding issues affecting their community. Their medieval history is closely linked to the emergence of the Batzar Nagusiak or "Grand Meetings", especially those of Biscay and Gipuzkoa (Juntas Generales de Vizcaya/Guipúzcoa in Spanish) and the establishment of parochial churches. Each elizate would elect a representative who would represent the elizate at a Batzar Nagusia, so the elizate represents an early form of local democracy. These enjoyed considerable autonomy in decision-making from the higher administrative authorities.

The elizate of Bedoña near Arrasate which was only incorporated into a municipality in the 1960s

An elizate was steered by a fiel sindiko (fiel síndico in Spanish), who would organise meetings and bear a makila as a sign of authority. A fiel was normally chosen for one year through a number of methods. Some were nominated by the outgoing fiel, in some places the position of fiel would rotate through all farmholders of the elizate and in others the most recently married farmholder would be named fiel. Each elizate was subdivided into smaller units called kofradiak (cofradías in Spanish, "brotherhoods") which corresponded to the individual boroughs of an elizate.

A group of elizates was a merindad.

Through time elizates often became municipalities. In Biscay, during the time of the Lordship of Biscay (Bizkaiko Jaurerria in Basque, Señorío de Vizcaya in Spanish), the territory of all anteiglesias were referred to as Plain Land (Lur Laua in Basque, Tierra Llana in Spanish), as opposed to the more stratified cities. It was further incorporated into the administration. They became subject to the fueros which at the same time re-affirmed the status of nobility to all farmholders. This meant that unlike in most of feudal Europe, the farmers legally owned their land.

After centuries of political change, very few elizate remain today, two of the most notable in Iurreta and Derio. In 1962, in Francoist Spain, the name of the elizates was changed to auzo (neighbourhood, district) and they were merged into municipalities. The current term, auzo, is undistinguishable from the subdivisions of a city, which are called by the same term.

Zamudio - Iglesia de San Martín de Arteaga 11
Porch of Saint Martin's church in Zamudio.

See also

  • The Water Tribunal of Valencia, Spain is unrelated to elizates, but also holds sessions at the church door.


  • Kasper, M. Baskische Geschichte Primus: 1997
  • Trask, L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997

External links

  • Anteiglesia in the Spanish-language Auñamendi Encyclopedia.

Abando, formerly known as San Vicente de Abando, is one of the eight districts of Bilbao, Basque Country (Spain). It covers most of the city's centre, located on the left bank of the estuary of Bilbao. It is the only district of Bilbao with all of its land completely urbanised. Abando was originally an elizate and also a municipality until 1876, when part of it was annexed to Bilbao, the rest of the elizate's municipal land was integrated into Bilbao in 1890. In 2016 the population was 50,903.


Ajangiz (Spanish: Ajánguiz) is a town and municipality in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country. It is located in the Busturialdea comarca, and was part of the municipality of Gernika-Lumo between 1940 and 1991.

Arenal Bridge

The Arenal Bridge (Spanish: Puente del Arenal, Basque: Areatzako zubia) is a reinforced concrete bridge in Bilbao, Spain.

It spans the Estuary of Bilbao, linking the neighborhoods of Casco Viejo and Abando. The third bridge to stand on the site, it was completed in 1938. The original bridge was opened in 1848 and the second in 1878.

The Arriaga Theater, the Arenal de Bilbao (Bilbao Arenal) park, the Estación de Concordia (Concordia Train Station) and the Bailén Skyscraper (the first skyscraper of the city) can be seen from the bridge.


Arrieta (both in Basque and Spanish) is a town and municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, Spain. Arrieta is part of the comarca of Mungialdea. It had a population of 552 inhabitants as of 2007, and a population of 564 inhabitants as of 2017.


Atxondo (Spanish: Achondo) is a municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, Spain. Atxondo is part of the comarca of Durangaldea and has a population of 1.447 inhabitants as of 2007 according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute.

Atxondo was formed by the fusion of the former municipalities of the elizates of Apatamonasterio, Arrazola and Axpe in 1962.


The Basques ( or ; Basque: euskaldunak [eus̺kaldunak]; Spanish: vascos [ˈbaskos]; French: basques [bask]) are an indigenous ethnic group characterised by the Basque language, a common culture and shared genetic ancestry to the ancient Vascones and Aquitanians. Basques are indigenous to and primarily inhabit an area traditionally known as the Basque Country (Basque: Euskal Herria), a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.


Berriz (in Basque and officially, in Spanish: Bérriz) is an elizate, town and municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, northern Spain. Berriz is part of the comarca of Durangaldea and has a population of 4.759 inhabitants as of 2007 and according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute.


Bilbao (, also US: , Spanish: [bilˈβao]; Basque: Bilbo [bilβo]) is a city in northern Spain, the largest city in the province of Biscay and in the Basque Country as a whole. It is also the largest city proper in northern Spain. Bilbao is the tenth largest city in Spain, with a population of 345,141 as of 2015. The Bilbao metropolitan area has roughly 1 million inhabitants, making it one of the most populous metropolitan areas in northern Spain; with a population of 875,552 the comarca of Greater Bilbao is the fifth-largest urban area in Spain. Bilbao is also the main urban area in what is defined as the Greater Basque region.

Bilbao is situated in the north-central part of Spain, some 16 kilometres (10 mi) south of the Bay of Biscay, where the economic social development is located, where the estuary of Bilbao is formed. Its main urban core is surrounded by two small mountain ranges with an average elevation of 400 metres (1,300 ft). Its climate is shaped by the Bay of Biscay low-pressure systems and mild air, moderating summer temperatures by Iberian standards, with low sunshine and high rainfall. The annual temperature range is low for its latitude.

After its foundation in the early 14th century by Diego López V de Haro, head of the powerful Haro family, Bilbao was a commercial hub of the Basque Country that enjoyed significant importance in Green Spain. This was due to its port activity based on the export of iron extracted from the Biscayan quarries. Throughout the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, Bilbao experienced heavy industrialisation, making it the centre of the second-most industrialised region of Spain, behind Barcelona. At the same time an extraordinary population explosion prompted the annexation of several adjacent municipalities. Nowadays, Bilbao is a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalisation process, started by the iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, and continued by infrastructure investments, such as the airport terminal, the rapid transit system, the tram line, the Azkuna Zentroa, and the currently under development Abandoibarra and Zorrozaurre renewal projects.Bilbao is also home to football club Athletic Club de Bilbao, a significant symbol for Basque nationalism due to its promotion of only Basque players and one of the most successful clubs in Spanish football history.

On 19 May 2010, the city of Bilbao was recognised with the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, awarded by the city state of Singapore, in collaboration with the Swedish Nobel Academy. Considered the Nobel Prize for urbanism, it was handed out on 29 June 2010. On 7 January 2013, its mayor, Iñaki Azkuna, received the 2012 World Mayor Prize awarded every two years by the British foundation The City Mayors Foundation, in recognition of the urban transformation experienced by the Biscayan capital since the 1990s. On 8 November 2017, Bilbao was chosen the Best European City 2018 at The Urbanism Awards 2018, awarded by the international organisation The Academy of Urbanism.

County of Durango

The County of Durango (Basque: Durangoko Merinaldea), also known as Land of Durango and Merindad of Durango, was the ancient political administration of the territory that is now known as Durangaldea, in the Basque region of Biscay. This political administration included all the towns and elizates that existed within its territory. The elizates were all governed by the Foral law, while the towns had their own law. The county of Durango was a vassal state of the Kingdom of Pamplona (later, Navarre), and in the 13th Century it became a constituent part of the Lordship of Biscay. It has been part of the territory of Biscay since then. Its capital city was the town of Durango.


Elorrio is a town and a municipality located in the eastern part of the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, in northern Spain. As of 2017, it has a population of 7,307 inhabitants. It covers an area of 37.20 square kilometers and it has a population density of 193.58 people per square kilometer. It holds the medieval title of Most Loyal and Noble Villa (Spanish: Muy Noble y Muy Leal Villa).

Elorrio was founded in 1356 by the Infante Tello Alfonso of Castile, who was the 20th Lord of Biscay, near the elizate of Saint Agustín of Etxebarria (Basque: San Agustin Etxebarria; Spanish: San Agustín de Echevarría). Historically, San Agustin Etxebarria was part of the medieval County of Durango, and Elorrio remains part of the comarca (local region) of Durangaldea. In 1630, Elorrio annexed Saint Agustín of Etxebarria, which today is a ward of Elorrio. Elorrio had municipal representation in the medieval Juntas Generales.

The town has been affected by its main economic activity: the industrial sector. It is also renowned for its rich architectural heritage, being listed as a Conjunto histórico by the Ministry of Culture.

Garai, Biscay

Garai (in Basque and officially, in Spanish Garay) is an elizate, town and municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, Spain. Garai is part of the comarca of Durangaldea and has a population of 318 inhabitants as of 2009 according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute.


Getxo is a town located in the province of Biscay, in the autonomous community of the Basque Country, in Spain.

It is part of Greater Bilbao, and has about 80,000 inhabitants (2014). Getxo is mostly an affluent residential area, as well as being the third largest municipality of Biscay.


Izurtza (in Basque and officially, in Spanish Izurza) is an elizate, town and municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, Spain. Izurtza is part of the comarca of Durangaldea and has a population of 270 inhabitants as of 2010 and according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute.

Juntas Generales

The Juntas Generales (Batzar Nagusiak in Basque) are representative assemblies in the Southern Basque Country that go back to the 14th century. The three main Juntas Generals in the Basque Country were - and are - the Juntas Generales of Biscay, the Juntas Generales of Gipuzkoa and the Juntas Generales of Álava. The equivalent in Navarre was the Cortes—or The Three States, roughly House of the Commons—to become the present-day Parliament of Navarre.

They were part of an early form of democratic institutions. At the local level, the heads of households (male or female) would meet on Sundays after church at the church door in a meeting called elizate (or anteiglesia in Spanish) to debate and decide on local issues. An elizate in turn would elect someone to represent the local community at the juntas, which existed from the district level right up to the provincial Juntas Generales.

Lordship of Biscay

The Lordship of Biscay (Spanish: Señorío de Vizcaya, Basque: Bizkaiko jaurerria) was a region under feudal rule in the region of Biscay in the Iberian Peninsula between c.1040 and 1876, ruled by a political figure known as the Lord of Biscay. One of the Basque señoríos, it was a territory with its own political organization, with its own naval ensign, consulate in Bruges and customs offices in Balmaseda and Urduña, from the 11th Century until 1876, when the Juntas Generales were abolished. Since 1379, when John I of Castile became the Lord of Biscay, the lordship got integrated into the Crown of Castile, and eventually the Kingdom of Spain.


Mallabia (in Basque and officially, in Spanish: Mallavia) is an elizate, town and municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, northern Spain. Mallabia is part of the comarca of Durangaldea and has a population of 1.135 inhabitants as of 2006 and according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute.


Markina-Xemein is a town and municipality located in the province of Biscay, Bizkaia, in the Basque Autonomous Community, also known as the Basque Country, located in northern Spain. The origin of the town's name lies in its geographic location. The last town in the province of Bizkaia, Markina lies between Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia. Coming from the Spanish word "marca" meaning "mark", Markina-Xemein marks the location where the Gipuzkoanos (the people of Guipuzcoa province) often battled the Bizkainos (the people of Biscay province).

The local economy is mostly based on the primary and secondary sectors, with particular relevance for agriculture and cattle herding, timber research and metal industry. The metal industry has in fact played an important role in the past, through the development of important weapons in the defense industry. Extraction of black marble, known as Nero Marquina (Marmol Negro), also plays an important role in the local economy. The high quality of the stone has gained international recognition. It is one of the most important marbles from Spain.

Markina-Xemein keeps a tight connection with Basque pelota sport; in fact its two walled court or frontón is known as "University of the Pelota", since it is the place where great Basket or Jai Alai pelotaris learnt to play.

Markina-Xemein's patron saint festival, consecrated to the Virgen del Carmen, takes place in the middle of July. Besides, the municipality hosts many fairs and markets all through the year. Among them, we'd like to mention October's main fair, showing typical products of the area.


Mañaria (both in Basque and Spanish) is an elizate, town and municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, Spain. Mañaria is part of the comarca of Durangaldea and has a population of 459 inhabitants as of 2006 according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute.


Zaldibar (in Basque and officially, in Spanish: Zaldívar) is an elizate, town and municipality located in the province of Biscay, in the Basque Country, Spain. Zaldibar is part of the comarca of Durangaldea and has a population of 3,062 inhabitants as of 2014 and according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute.

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