From Diario de Noticias de Álava, June 8, 2006
The oldest archaeological remains of Christianity in Alava date from the fifth century. In Salinillas de Buradon — 38 km from Vitoria and only 8 from Haro in La Rioja — an early Christian church was discovered from this time. Also, Iruna Veleia also offered, years ago, a "lamp practically complete of African Sigillata, made in Tunisia, decorated in a mold, with the picture of a Chrismon in a disc" from this same time. What's more, according to the book Romanization, "there are two graffiti with Christian symbols" (a monogram of the name of Christ with the letters X and P, principally).
The experts deduced then that in late Roman times there existed, at least, a firmly established parish community. Doubtless, the hypothesis that was argued because the doctrine of Jesus as installed in the territory in a slow way, and later, was demolished by the latest discoveries revealed at the Iruna Veleia site.
The array of epigraphs recovered in Iruna Veleia point out that already in the third century — that is to say, 200 years early than seen before — followers of Christianity existed in Alava. The finds from this Alavesan site have been profound. Detailed images of Calvary give the idea that at this time, with the Christians subject to fierce persecution, worship was already being rendered to Jesus.
All these ceramic shards, worthy of study, in good certainty will rewrite the history of Christianity in Alava. Were Christians in the territory, in a city under Roman rule and in a time when the followers of Jesus suffered martyrdom in the circus arena or in other ways equally cruel? Until what point was Christianity tolerated by Rome? What is the value that these iconographies have if they take into account that the first images, venerated in the Vatican are from various centuries later than these pieces of extraordinary simplicity? The best part of these unknowns can be cleared up after the relevant studies. But what's clear is that Christianity implanted itself in Alava with great rapidity. Before 300 years had passed from the death of Jesus on the cross, already there were devotees of the new faith in the territory. A devotion that in after centuries would become more obvious with the finds and pieces that they exhibit in the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art of the Catedral Nueva, as in the Alavesan Museum of Archaeology.
Churches and Hermits
In principle, the early Christian church of Salinillas de Buradon [I think this is a picture of the church mentioned, but they're cool pictures, anyway] had the honor, until now, of being the oldest Christian find in Alava. In fact, it is the oldest church that we know of in the Basque Country. Discovered while prospecting before beginning the construction of new highway, the Christian building even contained a baptismal font. It was about 80 meters square. With the centuries passing, they added an additional front to the building (ninth-tenth centuries) and they transferred the altar to this new construction.
Other worship places more emblematic of the territory can be found in Faido (Penacerrada). The hermitage of medieval origin of Our Lady of the Rock, declared a monument of the Basque cultural heritage, has the uniqueness of being excavated into the rock and converted centuries ago into a refuge for hermits.
From the exceptional pieces from the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, there's also the tablet of Bolivar, where the inscription makes reference to Albaro, Bishop of Veleia and Armentia. This stone dates from the 9th century, in a time when the Muslim invasion of the Ebro Valley forced the flight from the Diocese of Calahorra to other areas where there was no permanent presence of the Crescent.
The major and minor lattices of Obecuri date back a millennium. In this same place is also found an altar with a place indicated (a hole in the stone) to put relics. Also, in the 1st and 2nd museum rooms are found other elements of the funerary world (steles, sepulchres), religious furniture (altars), and architectural elements where sculptural work exists (capitals, large windows, gates, canecillos, mensulas). What's more, inside are the remains of buildings or pieces of a Christian character from Kripan (10th-13th century) or Otazu (14th-15th century), among others.
Details of the past, however, that require, with the latest discoveries from Iruna Veleia, a profound revision. And so Christianity in Alava has suddenly gotten more than two centuries older.