Near the Santa María la Real church stands what may just be the most unique building in and around the town of Zarautz. And even though it forms a part of this town, its location gives one the impression that it would rather not... as if it were trying to escape up the main road in the direction of Getaria.
The Palacio de Narros (Narros Palace), a building with gothic origins that underwent renovation in the 16th century, belonged to one of the most powerful families in the Basque Country, the Marquises of Narros, whose lineage overshadowed all others. Look closely at the coat of arms on the main entrance to the palace which reads “Zarauz antes que Zarauz” (Zarauz before Zarauz) in reference to the marshy land in which the family and their loyal followers were established even before the foundation of the actual town during the 13th century. In fact, some say that Zarautz was once an ancient Basque word which meant Marshland.
The story behind the Palace doesn't end there... The Narros line became increasingly refined to the point of becoming a distinguished family that would stroll out dressed in morning suits and powered wigs, in line with the latest Paris fashions. They even read books and took an interest in Science! Their progressiveness was also reflected in the Palace which, little by little, filled up with elegant items, furnishing tea rooms in which, every afternoon at five, they would take tea, their little fingers raised in the air, discussing philosophy and literature.
It will come of no surprise, then, to learn that by the 19th century, when the aristocracy began spending their summers on the beach, Zarautz played host to the most illustrious of visitors. The (to put it mildly) surly Queen Isabel II, for example, who apparently noticed nothing strange during her stay at the Palace. Unlike Father Luis Colomo, a Jesuit monk, would wrote in one of his short stories entitled “El salón azul” (The Blue Room) that one room in the Palace was haunted (which meant he didn't have too much trouble coming up with a title for the tale).
According to Father Coloma's tale, the Palace once took in a knight who had been shipwrecked after a terrible storm during the winter of 1572. On learning that he had been taken in by catholics, the knight supposedly claimed he was a “recusant”, that is, an English Catholic who has escaped persecution at the hands of the Protestants. Whatever the case, the reputed catholic never recovered from his expedition and by the following day his condition has worsened. So when Sir Francis Boucker, (a real “recusant” who had fled to Spain from England) told the visitor that his number was up and he should receive the last rights, the fraudulent knight didn't take too kindly to spending his final days according to a catholic ritual... The story goes that he then sprang up from his death bed, returned to his knife-wielding ways and demanded to know a way out in order to defend himself from the dirty papists who, according to him, were trying to turn him into a traitor... Obviously, he didn't survive long after that... And to add insult to injury, he wasn't even given a funeral. To avoid his body being profaned by the local masses, it was hidden in the walls of the, you've guessed it... blue room.
And now, it would seem, his spirit manifests itself in the Narros Palace every 24th August, Saint Bartholomew's night, by trying to bring the paintings on the wall to life while emiting the most terrifying of noises...
Don't think twice about visiting this place... After all, it's not everyday you find a genuine haunted palace!