In St. Michael's sanctuary, there is a hole in the wall into which people used to insert their head to pray. Until the end of the nineties it was connected to a cavern located just below the building. The sounds of air moving through the cavern would resonate and could be heard from the hole.

The hole was sealed when visitors began complaining that glasses, cameras and other objects that were accidentally dropped into the hole were unrecoverable.

This is how it is described in the book Pello Errota's life, related by his daughter Mikaela Elizegi: “There is a very ugly hole there, so much so that it's frightening even to look at”

In the sixties, the archaeologist, anthropologist and priest Joxemiel Barandiaran, while excavating the caves of Aitzbitarte, was staying with a family in a nearby country house called Astabiskar. This family told him some stories and beliefs related to the caves he was investigating. According to one of them, a roe deer entered one cave and reappeared, sticking its head out into the kitchen at Arandan, another country house, 6 kilometres away from the cave entrance. Barandiaran published the story in his Basque ethnography studies.

Arandan is my grandparent's house. My brother found the story and we showed it to our grandparents. They were really astonished. If they had heard the story directly from the family at Astabiskar, they would have thought that it was foolishness. But a book was a serious thing for them, especially one written by a priest. This man must know more about their own house than they do

The chapel of Saint Vitor of Gauna possesses the skull of a supposed saint. At the top of the skull is a trepanation, an ancient surgical intervention consisting of drilling a hole in the skull in order to treat health problems.

Every September, water is poured into the trepanation and is ejected out of the skull's mouth, like a fountain

Given the increasing deterioration of the prehistoric paintings inside Santimamiñe cave, drastic measures were taken in 2006. It was closed indefinitely to the public, and all of the interior lighting, electrical installations, stairs and handrails were taken out in order to protect the paintings from the damage that the light, heat, rust and breathing were causing.

When the cave was closed, the plan was to prepare a digital, virtual replica of the cave that could be experienced with 3D glasses. They chose the chapel next to the cave to host the new installation and began to remodel it.

During the remodeling, while digging into the floor, a 28-meter-long cavern was discovered just below the altar. Inside, the skeletons of five rhinoceros were found.

«- In 1983, thieves sneaked into the chapel and stole lots of things, including a relic from Saint Stephen. What a tragedy! We worshiped that relic every year on Saint Stephen's day, and people would form queues to kiss the reliquary. On the first Saint Stephen's day after the robbery, we needed something to kiss, so we decided to take down the saint itself from the retable. It's a true-to-scale wooden figure. We put it near the altar, and everybody kissed him, one by one. When the statue is in the retable his back is not visible, but, on that day, I saw the back of his head, and there was a big hole there. Inside, a large hollow area could be seen. And then I thought it must represent the fatal blow in the stoning to death of Saint Stephen. He is the Christian proto-martyr. And I'm sure that's also why we have this hole in the wall to stick your head into, connecting with the cave below.
- But there are other, similar holes in this area. There is another one in Orio, consecrated to Saint Juan.
- Really?
- In Hernani too, and it's consecrated to the Virgin...
- So, there must be in Oiartzun too, as the church is consecrated to Saint Stephen as well!»
The St. Peter's chapel seems to be a shepherd's hut at first sight, since it is a very small and simple building, without any cross or bells. Just a small sacrarium sink hints at its religious nature. Once inside, an elongated hole can be found to the right of the altar. People used to put their head inside the hole for praying.

The chapel served as a school for some years for the country people, and an alphabet near the saints and angels still remains from that period. There is also a drawing hanging on the wall which reads “St. Peter's School, year 1953-1954”. One can see a drawing of a church, a much larger and magnificent church with a porch, a bell tower and two floors.

I was talking to the locals about the school back in those days when they told me that the music for Cara al sol (the famous Falangist hymn) had been composed by, Juan Telleria, a composer from there. The original name of the composition was Sunrise in Zegama. Allegedly, José Antonio Primo de Rivera brought Telleria and many others to a Basque restaurant in Madrid called Cueva del Orkompon (Orkompon's cave). At the meeting, they wrote lyrics for the music previously composed by Telleria.

They put a bust of Telleria in Zegama, but when it was blown up with dynamite, the stone head was scattered over the nearby houses.

Seven kilometres of hilly topography lie between Abaurregaina and Jaurrieta. Until at least the thirties, a stone with a crude human figure carved in it could be found somewhere in the hills between the two towns. It would be constantly moved by the inhabitants. When somebody found it, they would carry it to another place and leave it there, somewhere on the mountain, until somebody else found it and moved it again.

Near the convent of Sasiola, there was a big rock, supposedly so different from the local type of rock that it gave rise to several theories and speculations. It might have been brought by somebody.

In the 70s the rock was blown up with dynamite

It is widely believed that St. Anthony of Urkiola helps one find love. The ritual is to circle around a large rock located in front of the sanctuary. It is commonly thought that this rock has been there since ancient times.

Now we know that the rock was moved there in 1929. Benito de Vizcarra, who, at the time, was the rector of the sanctuary, found the rock while hiking on a nearby mountain. Fascinated by the strange features of the rock, he ordered it to be carried to the sanctuary so it could be investigated by a geologist. The rock became rooted there indefinitely, and, since the seventies, the magical power to find love was associated with it.


In 1785, Madrid´s Royal Academy of History commissioned J.L Gamón for the report Descripción de la villa de Rentería [Description of the villa of Rentería]. There we find the first written reference to the caves of Aitzbitarte. The same part about the caves was also published in Euskal-Erria magazine in 1892. Curiously, when describing the caves, it was done from the perspective of military strategy.

This is what he says about the biggest of the caves:
“In any case, ten thousand men could comfortably fit into this cave defended by twenty against an army of a hundred thousand, with only three cannons, placing two of them twenty elbows away from the spacious room mentioned. This can be said supposing that for the defence they wouldn´t want to use the mouth of the given cave.”

The estimation of 10.000 men would seem totally exaggerated to anyone who knows the cave, taking into account that it measures 280 meters long.

In 1921, Evaristo Bozas Urrutia the writer and journalist from Errenteria published the book Andanzas y mudanzas de mi pueblo [Adventures and events from my hometown]. He made reference to that calculation of Gamón, but instead of 10.000, he made a mistake and said 100.000 could fit.


Udarregi, the bertsolari [verse improviser] didn´t know how to read or write, and created his own system to remember his lines, which only he could understand. At his Artikula-Aundi farm-house in Usurbil, with a piece of roof-tile he made stripes and marks on the walls of the wheat threshing room.

Afterwards, the organist Jose Txiki of Usurbil would go to his home and write the verses while Udarregi sang them to him looking at the marks, so that then they could take them to the printing house for publishing

When Jose Txiki couldn´t assist at his home, Udarregi copied the marks onto a stick, so as to go down to the town center and recite the verses to him looking at the stick.

In 1958 an holm oak was planted next to the hermitage of La Piedad. Some believed it was weak and that it wouldn´t survive, and so, they measured it´s diameter after a year, to know if it grew. They noted that at the height of 1.50 meters it was 0,18 centímeters wide. From then on, they measured it each year, as part of the celebrations which take place around the hermitage on Saint Valentine´s day. In 1999 the tradition was forgotten and abandoned. In 2007 it was recovered, and given official status. In 2016 it was 188 centimeters in diameter.


Via two folk songs we have received information about two murders. The song of Bereterretxe tells us how, supposedly, in the fifteenth century the earl of Lerín deceived and assassinated a member of the Bereterretxe family. And Aphez Beltcharen Kantuak [The songs of the black priest] tells us about how a stranger murdered a priest between the nineteenth and twentieth century.

In the two, telling details about the murder, we find a verse, though with variations in each one: “Haltzak ez du ezkurrik, ez gaztanberak hezurrik [The alder has no acorns, as cottage cheese has no bones]”. And then comes the disgrace: “Ez nian uste erraiten ziela aitunen semek gezurrik” [I would never have believed that a nobleman could lie], or “Ez nian uste bazela jainko semetan gezurrik” (I would never have believed that lies existed among the children of god).

The facts that the alder has no acorns and that cottage cheese has no bone are used as indications of the harmony proper to the world. We are told that it is the human´s imperfections and lies which break that peace appart.

However, we imagine an alder with acorns and a cottage cheese with bone as soon as they are named, and they are presented to us as menacing images which break up order.


In 1962 a dolmen was found at the foot of the Txoritokieta mountain, and was excavated the following year. The archaeologists continually had problems with the landowner, because he was convinced that actually they were looking for a hidden treasure. So that he would leave them alone, they managed to sign a contract which established that all of the gold would be for the owner, and the whole rest of bones, ceramics and other materials for the archaeologists. Finally, absolutely nothing was found, and the landowner invited the archaeologists to a snack.

Ricardo Basbaum

Would you like to participate in a artistic experience?, 1994-...

Basbaum designed a painted metal box, measuring 125 x 80 x 18 cm, with a hole in the middle. For more than twenty years he has offered this object to anyone expressing a desire to use it, inviting them to do whatever they want with it. The object has served, for instance: as a cot, a small boat, a box for storing food, and as device to insert one's head into the hole.
Mark Manders
Two connected houses, 2010
Manders proposed this project to the Guggenheim New York Museum. It consisted in drilling a tunnel from the museum atrium to the kitchen of a nearby house, on 89th Street. He accompanied the project with a map and collages of perforated kitchens.
Luis Marte
Templos, 2000-...
Marte has been making audio recordings inside many churches throughout the world since the early 2000s. He records when nobody is present in order to capture the internal resonance of the building and how the sounds from outside are affected by the acoustic reflections in the empty space. The Templos compilations have been published in several CDs.
Bruce Nauman
Audio-Video Underground Chamber, 1972-74
Nauman enclosed a microphone, a video camera and a lamp in a concrete human scale chamber and buried it one and half meters deep. In the gallery, a screen showed the transmissions of the microphone and video camera. The inside of the chamber could be seen and heard in real time.
Alejandra Riera
Vues partielles, vistas parciales, 2013
Riera opened a show in January 2013 in the MUSAC museum in Leon to present a new film. The space assigned for the screening had concrete and opaque glass walls without windows. It seemed too stiff and cold to her, so two days before the opening, they decided to cut a hole in the glass wall, allowing the cold wind to come into the space. They planned to restore the glass after the show, but the artists of the next show decided to keep it that way.
Jimmie Durham

This is a stone from the mountain, this is a stone from the red palace, 1992

At the Documenta IX in Kassel, Durham presented a divided sandstone block. One side was inscribed with “This Stone is from the Mountain,” the other “This Stone is from the Red Palace.”
Maria Loboda
This work is dedicated to an emperor, 2012
In this piece made for Documenta13, 20 cypresses were placed in the gardens surrounding the Orangerie builiding of Kassel. Their positions were changed every week, taking advantage of the night-time darkness, and following millitary strategy guidelines, as if each cypress were a soldier. It resembled an army of cypresses about to tackle the Orangerie.
Jorge Satorre
The Erratic. Measuring Compensation, 2009
The very few rocks that exist in the Netherlands were moved there by glaciers from Scandinavia during the last Ice Age. They are called erratic boulders. Satorre ordered a geologist to find out about the origin of a specific erratic boulder in The Netherlands, and he returned the rock to its place of origin, a forest in Sweden.

He made a drawing, portraying the imagined negative reactions of a multitude of people, angered at the project and trying to prevent the rock from being transported. In reality, the stone was moved without any commotion.

Falke Pisano

Changing perspectives, 2015

It´s a net shaped object, made with small branches. Written on the branches are adverbs and conjunctions, especially close to the joints: Then, if not, out...

Julia Spínola

Frase (objeto), 2012

In 2012 she completed a group of collages and sculptures about the “phrase”. At times we find successions of vertical and horizontal lines, and at others, objects placed in line (shoes, plant-pots, spilt coffee stains, plastic cups...).
David Bestué
Bola de oro oculta bajo una capa de plata, de cobre, de hierro, de plata, de plástico, de mármol, de ladrillo, de madera y de hormigón abandonada en un lugar indeterminado de España, 2013.

[Golden ball hidden under a layer of silver, of copper, of iron, of silver, of plastic, of marble, of brick, of wood and of cement abandoned in an undetermined place of Spain, 2013] A cement cube which doesn´t allow its contents to be seen was abandoned in some undetermined place of Spain. The photograph shows it to us in the middle of a deserted landscape.

Leif Elggren
Extraction, 2002.

It´s a sound piece published as a CD. In the text which accompanies it, we´re told there´s no need to listen to it, and that it can contain dangerous sounds. This is the recommendation: "Place the disc inside the player, make sure it can be well heard, and leave. On return everything will have changed".