The Siege of San Sebastian

31st August of the year eighteen thirteen – a date marked in red in the history of San Sebastián. On that day, blood and fire tainted the streets of our city, raising it to the ground. A huge civilian tragedy to which this building bore witness. 


These were the years of the Peninsula War that pitched Spain against France. San Sebastián was under the control of the French army at that time. The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, which had become involved in the war to support Spain, had started to gain the upper hand over Napoleon Bonaparte’s army.  In the summer of that year, English troops, backed up by Portuguese soldiers, besieged the city of San Sebastián. On the morning of 31st August, troops led by General Sir Thomas Graham, who was acting on orders from the Duke of Wellington, managed to breach the defences and enter the city. The French troops, who were completely overcome, withdraw to Mt. Urgull, seeking to protect themselves inside the La Mota castle. 


The locals endured a succession of unmentionable atrocities. Under the pretext that San Sebastián sympathised with French interests, English soldiers fired their guns the whole day at balconies and windows, gained access to houses and seized everything of value. The vandalism and looting spread throughout all the streets, houses and churches. As in all wars, many women were raped, and hundreds of locals were shot dead: children, the elderly…. nobody was safe. Ultimately, they set fire to the whole city. 


The huge fire reduced practically all houses to cinders in the old city. This building is one of the few that remained standing and is the only one to maintain the façades and construction elements typical of the time. 


In the wake of those awful events, the locals rebuilt the city – a new and open city, one in which the joys of life would gain the upper hand over the shadows of war.

For this reason, this house wishes to preserve the memory of the victims of that tragic cruelty, honouring their memory as a symbol of life and against violence. This house has borne witness to these events in San Sebastián – a city that welcomes everyone with open arms who visits it from within the Basque Country or from any other part of the world. This is your home.