The San Juan Arch
The San Juan arch is the only left standing out of seven arches that originally formed a medieval wall. The gates connected the old town to the main paths.
The arch is named after San Juan because it is the arch that’s path led to the hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (named after John the Baptist). This was the main gate of the wall because of the structure above the arch in shape of a tower.
The XIV century arch has an interior and exterior gate. The interior gate is shorter with a lower pitch, while the exterior is taller and ends in a point. In the space between them the gate could be opened and closed. Above the interior arch there is an opening in the wall with the image of Saint John inside.
As the legend says, Saint John the Baptist made it from the port of Bermeo to the hermitage of Gaztelugatxe in three steps. Each step left a footprint, and the first step can be seen below the San Juan Arch.
In the XIII and XIV centuries, Bermeo was the head of Bizkaia and the village with most economic activity thanks to the port which had more commerce than most in the entire Iberian Peninsula. Large quantities of fish were exported to the interior part of the peninsula in exchange for wine, wood and coal which was then transported by sea.
Bermeo from the XIV century forward was completely surrounded by a wall that had seven gates:
Beiportale: Means “gate for the cows” in Basque. It was torn down in 1886.
Santabarabaraportale: Located on the eastern part of the village until 1833.
Erremedioportale: This gate also served as a jail. Torn down in 1827.
Sanftanrziskoportale: Situated in front of the Franciscan convent, also known as the smith’s gate because of the many blacksmiths and shipyards nearby.
Sanmigelportale: Situated on the west side, now a days Lamera Park. Standing until 1829.
Errenteriaportale: This was the customs or tax gate. This gate was in the very center of what is now Lamera park, a space that was built on top of the sea. In that time it was a port.