Monumento a Mateo Benigno de Moraza

Mateo Benigno de Moraza Ruiz de Garibay was born in Vitoria-Gasteiz on 21 September 1817 and died here on 17 January 1878, at the age of sixty.

He was a distinguished jurist and politician and a great champion of the Basque system of legal charters known as the fueros. He is renowned for his vehement speeches in the lower house of the Spanish parliament on 13 and 18 July 1876, just befor legislation was passed abolishing these charters.

The initiative by public subscription to erect a monument to the memory of Moraza as a symbol of the defence of the Basque charters arose within a few days of his death in 1878; but it was not until 10 years later that the project and the collection of funds actually took off. The committee set up to handle the project set the size of the monument: a full-body bronze statue two and a half metres tall, on a pedestal measuring five to six metres.

A clay model of the sculpture, created by Agapito Vallmitjana, was completed in 1893 and the statue was eventually cast in bronze at the workshops of Frederic Masriera in Barcelona. The original pedestal was designed by the architect Fausto Íñiguez de Betolaza, but is no longer standing.

The monument was unveiled on 3 August 1895. Its stood originally in the centre of the square, but was moved to its current location when the square was comprehensively redesigned in 1941.

The statue shows Moraza in the act of pronouncing his passionate speech in defence of the Basque charters, holding the pages containing the speech in his hand. The inscription on the pedestal quotes its final words: “The cause that we have upheld has been, is and will be the cause of reason, of law, of justice and of humanity”.