Basque Country (autonomous community) Ebro Gipuzkoa
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Arabako Lurralde Historikoa / Territorio Histórico de Álava1
Flag of Álava
Coat-of-arms of Álava
Coat of arms
Location of the Province of Álava within Spain
Location of the Province of Álava within Spain
Autonomous CommunityBasque Country
 • Deputy GeneralRamiro González (Basque Nationalist Party)
 • Total2,963 km2 (1,144 sq mi)
 • Total331,648
 • Density110/km2 (290/sq mi)
 • Ranked
 • Percent
Official languagesSpanish, Basque
ParliamentCortes Generales
Congress seats4
Senate seats4
Juntas Generales de Álava51
WebsiteDiputación Foral de Álava
1.^ in English: Historical Territory of Álava

Álava (IPA: [ˈalaβa] in Spanish) or Araba (IPA: [aˈɾaba] in Basque, dialectal: [aˈɾaβa]), officially Araba/Álava,[1] is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the Basque Country, heir of the ancient Lordship of Álava, former medieval Catholic bishopric and now Latin titular see.

Its capital city, Vitoria-Gasteiz, is also the seat of the political main institutions of the Basque Autonomous Community.[2] It borders the Basque provinces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa to the north, the community of La Rioja to the south, the province of Burgos (in the community of Castile and León) to the west and the community of Navarre to the east. The Enclave of Treviño, surrounded by Alavese territory, is however part of the province of Burgos, thus belonging to the autonomous community of Castile and León, not Álava.

It is the largest of the three provinces in the Basque Autonomous Community in geographical terms, with 2,963 km2, but also the least populated with 331,700 inhabitants (2019).


Built around the Roman mansion Alba located on the road ab Asturica Burdigalam (possibly the current village of Albéniz near Agurain), it has sometimes been argued the name may stem from that landmark. However, according to the Royal Academy of the Basque Language, the origin may be another: The name is first found on Muslim chronicles of the 8th century referring to the Alavese Plains (Spanish Llanada Alavesa, Basque Arabako Lautada), laua in old Basque (currently lautada) with the Arab article added (al + laua), developing into Spanish Álava and Basque Araba (a typical development of l to r between vowels).

Demography and rural landscape

The province numbers 51 municipalities, a population of 315,525 inhabitants in an area of 3,037 km2 (1,173 sq mi), with an average of 104.50 inhabitants/km2.[3] The vast majority of the population clusters in the capital city of Álava, Vitoria-Gasteiz, which also serves as the capital of the Autonomous Community, but the remainder of the territory is sparsely inhabited with population nuclei distributed into seven counties (kuadrillak or cuadrillas): Añana; Ayala/Aiara; Campezo/Kanpezu; Laguardia; Agurain/Salvatierra; Vitoria-Gasteiz; Zuia.

Physical and human geography

Álava is an inland territory and features a largely transitional climate between the humid, Atlantic neighbouring northern provinces and the dry and warmer lands south of the Ebro River. According to the relief and landscape characteristics, the territory is divided into five main zones:

Tip of the Burunda corridor in Navarre, opening on the Alavese Plains, with the Basque Mountains Aratz and Aizkorri on the right

Unlike Biscay and Gipuzkoa, but for Ayala and Aramaio, the waters of Álava pour into the Ebro and hence to the Mediterranean by means of two main waterways, i.e. the Zadorra (main axis of Álava) and Bayas Rivers. In addition, the Zadorra Reservoir System harvests a big quantity of waters that supply not only the capital city but other major Basque towns and cities too, like Bilbao.

While in 1950 agriculture and farming shaped the landscape of the territory (42.4% of the working force vs 30.5% in industry and construction), the trend shifted gradually during the 60s and 70s on the grounds of a growing industrial activity in the Alavese Plains (Llanada Alavesa), with the main focus lying on the industrial estates of Vitoria-Gasteiz (Gamarra, Betoño and Ali Gobeo) and, to a lesser extent, Salvatierra-Agurain and Araia. At the turn of the century, only 2% of the working Alavese people was in agriculture, while 60% was in the tertiary sector and 32% in manufacturing.[3] Industry associated with iron and metal developed earlier in the Atlantic area much in tune with Bilbao's economic dynamics, with droves of people flocking to and clustering in Amurrio and Laudio, which have since become the third and second main towns of Álava.

Lordship of Álava

List of rulers (modern Spanish names) :

The title is attributed to the Castilian kings after 1332.

Ecclesiastical history


The Arab invasion of the Ebro valley in the 8th century, many Christians of the Diocese of Calahorra sought refuge in areas further north free of Arab rule.[citation needed] The diocese called Álava or Armentaria was established in 870 on territory split off from the Diocese of Calahorra. From then until the 11th century the names of several bishops of this see are recorded, the best known being the last, Fortún, who in 1072 went to Rome to argue before Pope Alexander II in defence of the Mozarabic Rite, which King Alfonso VI of León and Castile had decreed should be replaced by the Roman Rite.

The see was suppressed in 1088, when it was merged into the Diocese of Najéra, another suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Tarragona. The territory of the diocese of Álava, which corresponded more or less to that of the present diocese of Vitoria, was (re)absorbed into that of Calahorra when Najéra was suppressed in 1170, when King Alfonso VIII of Castile conquered La Rioja.[4][5]

Suffragan Bishops of Álava

(all Roman Rite) (For a list, see Antonio Rivera, ed., Historia de Álava (2003), pp. 599–600.)

Titular see

No longer a residential bishopric, Álava is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see[6] since the diocese was nominally restored in 1969 as Titular bishopric of Álava (español) / Alava (Curiate Italian and Latin), Latin adjective Alaven(sis).

It has had the following incumbents, so far of the fitting episcopal (lowest) rank:[5]

See also


  1. ^ Ley 19/2011, de 5 de julio, por la que pasan a denominarse oficialmente "Araba/Álava", "Gipuzkoa" y "Bizkaia" las demarcaciones provinciales llamadas anteriormente "Álava", "Guipúzcoa" y "Vizcaya"
  2. ^ Ley 1/1980 de Sede de las Instituciones de la Comunidad Autónoma del País Vasco
  3. ^ a b "Su población". Diputación Foral de Álava. Retrieved 2010-05-09. Text in Spanish
  4. ^ a b España Sagrada, tomo XXXIII, Madrid 1781, pp. 223–271
  5. ^ a b http://www.gcatholic.org/dioceses/former/t0085.htm
  6. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013, ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 828