Santillana del Mar is said not to be a Saint (Santa), nor plain (llana), nor is by the sea (Mar). But that saying lacks information about what this Cantabrian town is, and we are going to tell you about it.
It is known that the Romans were in this area, and also that the Muslims hardly stepped on it, so it was in this mountain areas where the Visigoths were able to catch their breath and prepare their revenge. The sad thing is that there are only a few remains of that early Middle Ages era, but the villa’s origins, seemingly, date back to the foundation of a monastery dedicated to Santa Juliana, which was built around the ninth century, when the Vikings entertained themselves every morning with fires and criminal attacks.
Santa Juliana would end up being Santillana, and its abbey grew thanks to the kings and the Camino the Santiago which passed by here. Understandably, the original building deteriorated and the Collegiate Church that you can see today is, basically, a Romanesque construction of the twelfth century with a beautiful cloister.
They added to the place-name “del Mar” (of the sea) because it sounded better and because although you can't see the Cantabrian sea from the village, it is at a stone’s throw away. The fact is that, between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, Santillana was filled with noble houses, towers, palaces and all things typical of a town proud of its nobility.
Walking around here today is like taking a journey on a horse between the medieval, the Renaissance and the Baroque times, a scenario which keeps monuments such as the Velarde Palace, the houses of Quevedo or the Polanco, the Merino Tower or the Collegiate that we already mentioned. In any case, a unique experience for lovers of history, architecture and beauty.
As they already knew all this in the nineteenth century, the aristocracy of that time took the pleasure to drop by a villa of such beauty and distinction. But there was still to come, the discovery which, in 1879, was going to give world fame to the area. The paintings of the Altamira caves came to light and the news where a hit because it is one of the greatest treasures of cave art worldwide.
And it is not that Santillana needed an attraction of that magnitude, but of course, since they had found it, it had to be shown to the world!