The island of **San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is dramatic – many will recognize it as the island fortress of “Dragonstone” from season 7 of Game of Thrones. The island is connected to the mainland by a man-made stone bridge and a very long staircase that I remember being fairly punishing on a 100 degree day. It’s worth a stop if you’re in the area.

Over the centuries the church on the island has burned down and been rebuilt several times. It is believed that the first hermitage that existed here was erected in the 9th century. In the 12th century, it became a convent. Later on, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe had a strategic purpose as a defensive outpost for the lords of Biscay. It was used as a bastion against the King of Castile, Alfonso XI.

In 1596, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe was attacked again, this time by Sir Francis Drake and his corsairs. They looted everything they found and killed the hermit that was living there by throwing him off a cliff to the rocks and water below.

The church deteriorated over time and it was eventually demolished in 1886 and then rebuilt from scratch.

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