In the heart of Santillana del Mar is the Collegiate Church of Saint Juliana, a large Romanesque building which dates back to the 8th century, when a group of pilgrim monks arrived with the relics of Saint Juliana of Nicomedia, who was condemned by her own father and martyred in Turkey because she refused to marry a Roman prefect, a pagan, no less.
Nothing remains of the chapel that was originally built to hold her remains. A large monastery was built in her honor which later, in the 11th century, was classified as a collegiate church and a mandatory stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago via the St. James’ Way. It is an impressive church with international Romanesque features and whose solid architecture contrasts with the peace and spirituality found inside.
Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)
Máximo Díaz de Quijano, a Spanish-American who made his fortune in America, commissioned Gaudí to build a small villa beside the Sobrellano Palace, home of the Marquis of Comillas, in 1883. The summer home, which was originally called Villa Quijano, later became known as El Capricho (a caprice or whim), an authentic fantasy construction whose colors and fern-like shapes mimic its surroundings.
El Capricho was conceived as a leisure villa, and its imaginative oriental and medieval features reflect the influence of Neo-Mudéjar art.
Díaz de Quijano’s passions, such as exotic plants and music, are visible in the architecturally rich adornments decorating the small palace. The stained glass windows depict images of animals, insects and musical instruments, including fireflies, guitars and a sparrow perched on top of an organ.
The forests of the humid mountains in the north – the Pyrenees and Cantabrian Mountains, shelter species as emblematic as the brown bear, the Iberian wolf or the bearded vulture; while in the Mediterranean forests, with some luck, we can catch a glimpse of the rare Iberian lynx and the Iberian imperial eagle. We can also witness, with the first autumn rains, the “bellow” spectacle, where male deer face their adversaries in combat in order to maintain their domain over the herd. Lastly, we cannot forget the wetlands, where a large variety of birds congregate to mate or spend the winter.
With its unique geographic location, only 14 kilometers away from North Africa, Spain is a bridge and meeting point for the migrating birds which annually cross the peninsula on their long, spring journeys north – on their way to raising their young – and on their return trip south at the summer’s end, to spend the winter in Africa.