As we have said in other audioguides, the history of San Sebastian is the history of a military emplacement. In previous times, this was a fortified city protected by Mount Urgull against attacks from the sea and land, thanks to its height of 120 meters, 400 feet.
Its name, Urgull, comes from the Gascon word for Hercules, although others maintain that it comes from the Spanish word "Orgullo", which means pride, as that was its name in the 18th century.
In 1921 Urgull was sold by the ministry of defence to the city of San Sebastian, who turned it into a public park.
Nowadays you can choose various routes to the summit of this mount. The oldest starts beside the Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro, going up past the Basque Gastronomic Society. Another route starts in Zuloaga Square, in front of the San Telmo Museum, a third one is a stairway situated at the junction of Maria and Virgin del Coro streets, and the fourth from the New Promenade (Paseo Nuevo). We recommend ascending from San Telmo and descending by any of the other three, or vice versa. Like that you will be sure not to miss the many and varied breath-taking views.
Once on the summit, you will see the walled fortress of Santa Cruz de la Mota, which is thought to originate from the time of the domination of the Kingdom of Navarre, around 1194. This castle was destroyed and rebuilt many times due to successive wars, not to mention being blown up in 1688 as a consequence of a lightning strike on its powder house during a tremendous storm. When the storm blew itself out, the citizens saw that the only part not affected by the explosion was the chapel of the Holy Christ – even the oil lamp lighting it had not gone out... Miracle! They exclaimed, and thus the statue became known as the Miraculous Holy Christ of the de la Mota Castle.
Nowadays, the highest point is occupied by three small churches or chapels, crowned by the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Castle de la Mota, which now boasts the status of National Monument and Monument of architectural, historical and artistic interest.
It is interesting to note that in the 19th century a telegraph tower was situated in this fortification, connecting Madrid with Irun.
In the castle, there is a grand arch. The most macabre versions assert that a hangman's noose was suspended from it, but this is not true. On the contrary, what actually hung from it was a bell which saved many lives during the Carlist wars, as it was used to warn of imminent attacks and give the population time to seek shelter. In those days, the entrance halls of all buildings had to be open at all times, by order of the city council, and this bell gave them time lock up while the attack lasted.
Going back to the summit, the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Coullant Valera was inaugurated on 27th June 1948 and then finalised with a chapel in 1955. The statue has a height of 12 and a half metres, about 39 feet, and the complete monument 28 and a half metres, about 90 feet. The total cost of the work was 1,300,000 pesetas, that is, around 7,800 euros.
Don't miss the series of fortifications, bulwarks and batteries scattered all around: The Battery of Las Damas, of the Bardocas, of the Mirador, the Santiago powder house, the shooting gallery, the storage cave, as well as a barrack block built to withstand the bombs of the time. All these are now viewpoints offering first class views, not only of our city but also of the surrounding mountains.