The long and exciting history of Sant Ander, nowadays Santander, it is probably less present in its streets than it should be. And that is because the Cantabrian capital has had to suffer a couple of episodes of those which leave a mark … for the worse.
The first one, in 1893, when the ship Cabo Machichaco burned down in this bay with its hold full of dynamite, concluding the show with a big explosion which it is best not to imagine it. This way, a good part of the old harbour district was erased from the map.
The unlucky strike came back to the city in 1941, this time in the form of an enormous fire that devastated the majority of the medieval quarter.
Both catastrophes robbed the town of a valuable historical heritage, but this population still has a lot, its oldest remains are Roman and are under the current cathedral. Because the Romans, naturally, liked nothing better than a port like this one.
During the Middle Ages, the Abbey of the Holy Bodies was founded to guard the relics of the martyrs Saint Emeterius and Saint Celedonius. According to the legend, very similar to the one of the apostle James, both were beheaded, and their remains were brought to this lands aboard a boat lined with stone to defend against the Muslim advance.
The town grew around that primitive church, they built walls and constructed ships for the Royal fleet until it became, by the fourteenth century, one of the most important naval enclaves of the peninsula. But even all this would not help to defend them against the many epidemics of plague that would annihilate most of the Santander population, causing a long crisis that lasted until the early eighteenth century.
Then, the city’s history retakes a spin; Santander thrives due to trade with America, and a rich bourgeoisie emerges with the desire to give splendour to the city. In the middle of the nineteenth century, spas became fashionable among the wealthy people, and the El Sardinero one gained a lot of fame when the kings began to visit it. The first ones are Isabel II and Amadeo de Saboya, and years later would be Alfonso XIII the one who enjoyed the Magdalena Palace, an impressive building of English influences that the city gave to the monarch for his holidays in a kind of a way that today we would say it was for marketing and publicity.
The Gran Casino and the Hotel Real would also open its doors at the beginning of the twentieth century. So, if you take a long walk in this area, you will be able to relive the capital of those decades, full of magnificent buildings and touched by a halo of distinction. Do you not think kings knew how to choose their holiday place?