You are standing in the oldest building of Saint Sebastian.
Not many episodes in the history of Donostia are so evocative and so heartfelt for its dwellers than the incident happening on August 31st 1813, a moment when the Independece war against the Napoleonic Army was taking place. Since then, in the evening of each August 31st every year, the assault, the raping, the fires and the destruction of an urban area are still commemorated by the Old City locals in a simple and touching celebration.
During the summer 1813 Donostia and Iruña where the only strongholds remaining undefeated by the French, so they became priority targets. Moreover, troops formed by the three Gipuzcoan battalions of Aranguren, Larreta and Calbeton, leaded by Mendizabal were not capable of expelling the enemies so the allied Anglo-Portuguesse troops took charge of the situation. Even though the inicial bombing and the taking of Saint Bartolome hill, the stronghold governor refused any parlament. On July 22nd a breach was made in the wall (La Brecha nowadays is a used place name), where now the market takes place; so some more breakings where made too. They continued to strengthen the positions and mine the wall. The fierce defense against the attack happening on July 25th ended up in a massacre that was advantageous for the defenders. It was so harsh that even the English injured soldiers were accepted by the French.
The English army decided then to prepare a total blocking. The final assault backed by the artillery battalion was endured through the breaches already made in the wall on August 31st. The French persistence and the existence of a second line of defense made it possible for the city to resist. The operation result was pointing to a new English disaster but a powder keg explosion broke the defensive line. This event and the lack of reserve troops changed the course of the assault. The French withdrawal into the inner city was not even possible and they got refuge in the Mota castle, the city was to be controlled by the English and Portuguese armies.
Apart from the soldiers’ deaths, we should add the plundering, the fire in the archive, house destruction… and to conclude, the assailants set fire to the city. The only street remaining is now known as August 31st. After some days in flames, only 3,500 or 4,000 (out of 7,000) inhabitants of the city survived, they were starving to death and almost naked.
Some time later, the rebuilding took place and the same urban structure was recovered but with some minor variations in some streets. These works were extended until the full recovery was achieved in 1849. In 1857 negotiations were carried out to demolish the wall.
We ask you to enjoy your stay in one of the most historic buildings in Saint Sebastian. Welcome!