The municipality comprises a core built-up area consisting of three historical streets that stretch out south to north, ie Zapatari, Mayor and Carnicería, which bear witness to ancient guild clusters. Outside the walls of the town spread age old neighbourhoods, such as the Madura (Basque for "swamp"), La Magdalena or San Jorge. On either side of the road connecting the 'Portal del Rey' (main south entrance to the town) and the train station, a sprawl developed in the 50s and 60s. The town keeps on growing east beside the Madura through new housing projects in the 2000s, ie Harresi Parkea. Other minor nuclei (villages) that dot the outward lands of the municipality of Salvatierra are Alangua, Arrizala, Egileor, Iturrieta and Opakua.
Agurain benefits from its location on the important European road axis N-1 E-5 E-80 and the Northern Railway, following that it developed industry since the early XXth century. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the one time stinky Curtidos Salvatierra S.A.L., a tanning factory, which provided not long ago work for so many inhabitants. Nowadays the town numbers three industrial estates, the two existing so far and a new one under construction, namely, Litutxipi across the train station (Sallurtegui,...), Agurain on the west (with PEM, former PUM Española, as its traditional flagship factory; maximum surface area for building 19,773 m2) and Galzar (urbanization works under way in 2008, maximum surface area for building 14,035 m2). The two latter industrial estates participate in a wider regional logistic scheme known as Vitoria Logistic Corridor.
A solar power plant is being built (inaugurated in 2007) on the outskirts, the biggest one in the Basque Autonomous Community, with a view to injecting into the power network 350,000 kWh/year.
The town of Salvatierra was founded in 1256 by the Castilian king Alfonso X on the former settlement of the village Hagurahin on top of a hill, which rendered the place a perfect location for military purposes. Castile was intent on strengthening the territories bordering on the Kingdom of Navarre seized some decades ago. As a result, the king founded various strongholds or free towns (salvas terras, seguras and villas francas) over the lands of Gipuzkoa and Álava in route to Gascony through the northern Way of St. James, with a view at the same time to fostering Castilian trade.
Salvatierra was in the ensuing decades and centuries home to various scuffles, battles and sieges on the grounds of its bordering location with Navarre and its strategic position in the King's Highway to France. In the XIIIth century, the definitive layout of the town was established, with the walls circling it all around and two big fortified churches sealing Salvatierra at the north and south ends as we know it today (Santa Maria and San Juan churches respectively). The so-called olbeas were erected at this time too. These consisted of arcades, made originally of wood, next to both parishes in the one-time bustling marketplaces, and they have endured up to the present, although reconstructed in the XVIth century.
The town thrived on its good location and trade in the Way of St. James, and it even had a Jewish quarter, located in today's 'Arramel' st. In 1521 the town had to fend off the attack of its own lord, the Count of Salvatierra, a rebellious leader that revolted against emperor Carlos I in the Spanish war of comunas. Yet he failed to take over the town, the Count was arrested by the emperor and executed, much to the joy of the inhabitants, who didn't sympathize with him. The joy didn't last long though, since shortly afterwards the plague hit hard the town, which eventually resulted in the burning of Salvatierra (1564), a disaster that some blame on a desperate attempt to put an end to the grim epidemic. Only the walls (and both main churches) were spared, almost the whole town was destroyed, a fact reflected in poems by the writer Juan Perez de Lazarraga.
egun ey dago tristeric
eguiten asco negarric
çerren jarri da
ez da gueratu
barruan ese galantic
jarri ey dira bacarric
ez da mercatu bearric (...)
After the burning, a vigorous and elegant reconstruction ensued under the hallmark of the Renaissance (late XVI-early XVII). Worth highlighting are the sumptuous walled stately homes in between the main streets, such as the Casa de los Diezmos in the 'Carnicería' st. While the building frenzy of the previous century waned in the XVIIIth, there were still some outstanding works like the pentagonal San Juan Church's baroque style porch stretching out to the centre of the marketplace.
The XIXth century was to know unrest and turmoil in this area. To start with, at the beginning of the century the French troops settled in Salvatierra, as it is still evidenced by a sign that reads "Biande" at a house in the 'Carnicería' st. The First Carlist War left a mayor scar on the town's medieval nucleus, since the walls were demolished in order to furnish the near-by Guevara fortress, a Carlist key position, with proper material. Between both Carlist Wars the railway was established up to the French border; however, the stretch between Vitoria-Gasteiz and Olazagutia was ready by 1862, so Agurain had already a railway stop at that time, following that the town started to expand south out of the medieval nucleus by lining both sides of the road to the station.
The location of Salvatierra in the middle of a plain has been an important crossroads as early as the Neolithic age, as evidenced by the presence of two important dolmens around (see below). Scholars pinpoint the Roman manor Alba, a milestone in the Astorga-Bordeaux Roman road (extending west to east), in the near-by village of Albeniz (some others point to Salvatierra). The way winding down the pass (cave) of San Adrian into the plains around Agurain that was to become the Way of St. James evidences prehistoric traces of seasonal cattle migration, dolmens and burial mounds in the area. It was also used by Romans and gained momentum after the seizure of Gipuzkoa and Alava by the Castilians.
The use of the Way of St. James lost ground to new and more convenient roads, like the one built through Salinas de Leniz in 1765, which proved more practical for carriages, resulting in the transfer of the traffic to the latter. The traffic gone trickle first and drain later brought about some decay to Salvatierra. Yet new communications were being built at the time: Vitoria-Gasteiz was connected to the town with a new road in 1820, and on to the corridor of Burunda. In 1862 the railway connecting Madrid and Irun arrived in the town. After having crossed the town right in the south entrance to the Medieval Nucleus for decades, currently the main road E-5 A-1 (Nacional I) passes by the town west to east in route to France.
The main language of use in Salvatierra/Agurain is currently Spanish and it has been so for at least the last 150 years. However, nowadays younger generations that come out of Basque-language schools (called ikastolas) since the 1970s may speak and/or understand Basque. Surprisingly, late in the XIXth century an interpreter is still required by the town council for Basque speaking neighbours.