Altamira and Santillana del Mar

Friday 19 July 2019

Altamira was the first place Palaeolithic rock art was found.

It was discovered in 1868 by Modesto Cubillas and his daughter, on the land of Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, who happened to be an amateur archeologist.

In 1880, Sanz de Sautuola published his research to initial public acclaim, but soon people were saying that the drawings could not be as old as suggested, 38,000 to 13,000 years ago, as such primitive people would not be capable of abstract thought. He didn’t live long enough to see his research vindicated as other caves were discovered in France and elsewhere in the region.

The artists incorporated features in the roof of the cave.

This resting bison is painted around a dome-like protuberance.

It will come as no surprise that Altamira is a Tesco World Heritage Site. It will also not surprise you that, like Lascaux (see exactly a month ago), and for the same reasons, the cave is a facsimile.

There are even versions in Madrid and Berlin. The real caves are a short distance away. It was interesting and good value at 3€.

The historic town of Santillana del Mar is nearby.

A busy little place of hotels and cafes, there is an old saying that Santillana del Mar is The Town of Three Lies, since it is neither a Saint (Santo), nor flat (llana), nor is it by the sea (Mar) as implied by its name. However, the name actually derives from Santa Juliana (or Santa Illana) whose remains are kept in the Colegiata,

a Romanesque church and former Benedictine monastery. Unsurprisingly, again, it’s on the Camino De Santiago.

A pretty place of cobbled streets, it has what nobody expects! The Spanish Inquisition!

Or rather, the Museum of Torture.

It is popular with young families, despite detailed descriptions of how to dismember people, or slowly split their orifices in various fashions.

One boy, about nine, was taking pictures of every exhibit; I hope he hasn’t got pets.

I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

Obviously, I’d have been a victim.

“So, Señor Oatey, what do you have to say about the church making money off pilgrims now?”

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