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The port city of Santander is the capital of the autonomous community of Cantabria situated on the north coast of Spain between Asturias (to the west) and the Basque Country (to the east). Population in 2007 was about 184,000. Just over a third of Cantabrians live in Santander. The city is the home of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santander.

In the Roman Empire, the town was known as Portus Victoriae Iuliobrigensium. Its present name is derived from St Emeterio (Santemter, Santenter, Santander), a martyr whose head was brought there in the 3rd century, along with that of St Celedonio, according to legend.

In 1187, King Alfonso VIII made the abbot of San Emeterio lord of the town, and in 1248 Santander participated in the battle for Seville, receiving a coat of arms as reward.

The city owes its existence to the excellent harbour of the Bay of Santander. Santander was an important port for Castile in the later Middle Ages, and also for trade with the New World. It officially became a city in 1755.

In 1893 the freighter Cabo Machichaco exploded in the harbor, killing 500 people.

In the early 1900's Santander became the favored summer residence of King Alfonso XIII, who built the Palacio de la Magdalena as the residence of the royal family during the holidays. The city gained great popularity from this and from the Victorian enthusiasm for sea bathing and it remains popular with the Spanish for beach holidays today.

Map of Santander:

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