FUENTERRABIA (formerly sometimes written Fontarabia; Lat. Fons Rapidus), a town of northern Spain, in the province of Guipúzcoa; on the San Sebastian-Bayonne railway; near the Bay of Biscay and on the French frontier. Pop. (1870) about 750; (1900) 4345. Fuenterrabia stands on the slope of a hill on the left bank of the river Bidassoa, and near the point where its estuary begins. Towards the close of the 19th century the town became popular as a summer resort for visitors from the interior of Spain, and, in consequence, its appearance underwent many changes and much of its early prosperity returned. Hotels and villas were built in the new part of the town that sprang up outside the picturesque walled fortress, and there is quite a contrast between the part inside the heavy, half-ruined ramparts, with its narrow, steep streets and curious gable-roofed houses, its fine old church and castle and its massive town hall, and the new suburbs and fishermen's quarter facing the estuary of the Bidassoa. Many industries flourish on the outskirts of the town, including rope and net manufactures, flour mills, saw mills, mining railways, paper mills.
Fuenterrabia formerly possessed considerable strategic importance, and it has frequently been taken and retaken in wars between France and Spain. The rout of Charlemagne in 778, which has been associated with Fontarabia, by Milton (Paradise Lost, i. 587), is generally understood to have taken place not here but at Roncesvalles (q.v.), which is nearly 40 m. E.S.E. Unsuccessful attempts to seize Fuenterrabia were made by the French troops in 1476 and again in 1503. In a subsequent campaign (1521) these were more successful, but the fortress was retaken in 1524. The prince of Condé sustained a severe repulse under its walls in 1638, and it was on this occasion that the town received from Philip IV. the rank of city (muy noble, muy leal, y muy valerosa ciudad, "most noble, most loyal, and most valiant city"), a privilege which involved some measure of autonomy. After a severe siege, Fuenterrabia surrendered to the duke of Berwick and his French troops in 1719; and in 1794 it again fell into the hands of the French, who so dismantled it that it has never since been reckoned by the Spaniards among their fortified places. It was by the ford opposite Fuenterrabia that the duke of Wellington, on the 8th of October 1813, successfully forced a passage into France in the face of an opposing army commanded by Marshal Soult. Severe fighting also took place here during the Carlist War in 1837.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)