Does the Brotherhood of the four Villas sound familiar to you? No, it is not a name taken from a tale of pirates from the Antilles … but from the history of what we now call Cantabria.
The thing is that San Vicente de la Barquera was one of those four Medieval villas, but before we continue, it will be better to go back a few centuries and start at the beginning.
Well, … Actually, the beginning it’s not entirely clear. It is known that the area was already populated many millennia before Christ and that tribes like the Orgenomescos dominated the region, but until the moment when the Romans decided to invade this lands, there is very little reliable information.
After the collapse of the Empire and the abandonment of what Rome had done here, the classic dark period of the High Middle Ages came. However, the Muslim armies never arrived at this place, so its Christian repopulation began very soon, in the eighth century. King Alfonso I, boosted the growth of the city the way it was done in those times: a castle, city walls and that's all.
That first castle is not the one you see today, but the fact is that San Vicente de la Barquera was progressing little by little until the year 1210, date of its true takeoff. It happened that another king Alfonso, this time the VIII insisted on taking advantage of this coast for the maritime trade of Castile, so he granted privileges and more privileges to the town, which was twinned with three others which already were enjoying those privileges: Castro Urdiales, Laredo and Santander.
The Brotherhood became a naval power, and the four populations grew thanks to the strength of their ships. But of course, that wasn’t enough to prevent them from epidemics, fires and other misfortunes of the time which led the city to fall into decline in the mid-fifteenth century.
The oldest buildings that remain in San Vicente come from the thirteenth century: the King's Castle and the Church of Santa María de Los Angeles were constructed in those times, although both have been restored and modified after. Do not miss either the Bridge of La Maza nor the Palacio de los Corro which today serves as the town hall. You should also have a walk around the city walls, see the Convent of San Luis and … Do you know what? You are better off seeing everything! It is well worth it!