The Port of Santander is an autonomous community in northern Spain’s Cantabria Province. With an excellent natural harbor, the port is located on the coast of the Santander Bay off the Bay of Biscay.
The Port of Santander is a busy city with an economy based on tourism, heavy industry, fishing, and ship-building. The bay is home to factories involved in refining oil and making steel as well as agricultural activities, particularly raising cattle. Other important economic sectors include finance, health and education, and public administration. In 2006, almost 146 thousand people called the Port of Santander home.
The area surrounding the Port of Santander is rich with evidence of prehistoric man including large caves contain rock art, stone tools, and Paleolithic furniture carved from horns and bones.
The Romans founded a port called Portus Victoriae here in 19 AD, honoring Agrippa’s conquest of the Cantabrians. The modern name for the Port of Santander derives, legend says, from the martyr (St. Hemerterius, leading to Santemter or Santander) whose head was brought with that of St. Celedonio to the village in the 3rd Century.
In the late 11th Century, King Sancho II granted a charter for an abbey and port. Alfonso II founded the Abbey of Saints Hemeterius and Celedoni in 1187, and the heads of the saints martyrs were kept at the Port of Santander. The Port of Santander supported the conquest of Seville by King Ferdinand in 1248 and received its coat of arms.
In the 12th Century, Alfonso VIII awarded the Port of Santander’s lordship to the abbot who lived there until the reign of Queen Maria when the abbot received a constitution from the crown. King Fernando IV confirmed the constitutions in 1312. In 1570, Felipe II declared a Cantabrian naval base in the Port of Santander.
The Port of Santander has always been its most important resource due to its excellent harbor. It was an important center for trade for the Kingdom of Castile in the Middle Ages and later between Spain and its New World territories. In 1765, the port received a permit for free trade with the Spanish colonies, and the Consulate of Santander was created in 1785.
Spain’s King Alfonso XIII used the Port of Santander as a summer residence in the early 20th Century. He built the Palacio de la Magdalena there for the royal family. With its popularity as a holiday sea bathing resort for the Victorians, the Port of Santander grew as a tourist destination throughout the Century.
In 1941, the Port of Santander was victim to a terrible two-day fire that left thousands of people homeless. The fire all but destroyed the city’s historic center and its cathedral. However, the Magdalena Palace and the provincial museum, with its collection of prehistoric artifacts, survived.
In 1985, the first three Raos wharves in the modern Port of Santander were inaugurated. In 1989, the wharves of Espigon Norte were opened, and the Ferry Terminal remodeling was completed. The same year saw the first traffic in automobiles. An effort to deepen the basin and make improvements to accommodate new wharves was completed in 1992.
In 1995, a new wharf at Espigon Central de Raos was opened, and the Port of Santander’s website was activated. In 1997, the last new wharf at Raos was opened, and new fishing wharves were begun.