Relive the history
An old plate, with a curious history behind it, reminds us of what it was and what it has become, thanks to its ability to overcome adversity
The artwork was created in the 1820s by a British military man born in Gibraltar, Thomas Staunton St Clair, at a time when San Sebastian was suffering the onslaught of war and fire, and perfectly reflects the strategic personality of the city.
One of the most devastating episodes took place on 31 August of 1813, when San Sebastian was razed to the ground by Anglo-Portuguese troops after defeating the French troops fortified on Mount Urgull. A terrible fire that the people of San Sebastian still commemorate every 31st of August, a magical night when the emblematic 31st of August street in the Old Part of San Sebastian is illuminated only by the candlelight of the neighbourhood’s residents.
As the city grew, faced social and economic changes and tried to learn from its mistakes, the watercolour changed owners, until the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa bought it in London in 1998. Today, this artwork is cared by the Zumalakarregi Museum in Ormaiztegi.
A simple glance at the panorama reveals the enormous change that the city has undergone over the last few centuries. But the cosmopolitan essence of Donostia remains in its character, a Donostia used to receiving and welcoming, to emerging stronger from adversity and to making the most of its natural surroundings. A city clinging to its sea and mountains but open to the world.