Guipuzcoa has an interesting architectural and artistic heritage, but the Sanctuary of Loyola stands out in particular. This, located in the neighborhood that gives its name to Azpeitia, has become the most important in the Basque Country, together with that of Aránzazu. Moreover, it has become one of the most significant pilgrimage centers in Spain.
It is a monumental complex built around the tower house where Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus, was born. It is a complex of great value and, therefore, it is worth not missing. It is necessary to enjoy it to discover the singularity of its mixture of styles: baroque in its exterior and churrigueresque in its interior.
Sanctuary of Loyola, a monumental landmark
In the year 1689 was when the construction of the basilica of the sanctuary began, which is composed of other buildings, each one with its particularities and signs of identity. Specifically, we can highlight the following:
- The Basilica was ordered to be built by the House of the Austrias, although it was finally erected by the Bourbons. Its surprising portico and its impressive staircase become the main calling card of this temple, which stands out for its circular floor plan, its baroque style, where the color gold prevails, and its fascinating dome of 20 meters in diameter. The architect in charge of putting it up was the Italian Carlo Fontana.
- The birthplace of St. Ignatius, also known as Santa Casa, is another of the main buildings of the Sanctuary of Loyola. It has four floors, dates from the fourteenth century and allows you to discover in depth the figure of the founder of the Jesuits. It offers a very interesting tour through rooms such as the cellar, the kitchen, the room where he was born, the hall of honor and the Chapel of the Conversion.
- The gardens, which are located behind the basilica, are for the private use of the community that is part of the complex. They have their origins in the first half of the twentieth century, have a large vegetation composed of oak trees and have several sculptures along its route.
Also, it should not be overlooked that this monumental complex has other buildings and facilities such as the hostel, the library and the spirituality center.
The jewels of the Sanctuary of Loyola
Undoubtedly, any corner of the Sanctuary of Loyola is worth visiting, as it is of exceptional value. However, it is undeniable that it has a number of specific jewels that stand out in a special way:
- The Sacred Museum, which has a great variety of books, ornaments and liturgical objects. It also stands out for its Plateresque style altar and is located in the north wing of the complex.
- The so-called Imperial Stairs of the main building, which not only draw attention not only for its undeniable beauty but also for the imposing sculptures they house. We are referring to those of the Popes most closely linked to the Jesuits and those of the first saints of the Society of Jesus.
- The main altar of the Basilica, which dates from the second half of the 18th century and is the work of Ignacio Íbero. It is made of marble, has a marked Churrigueresque style and its Solomonic columns stand out. In it is where the famous silver sculpture of Ignatius of Loyola is located.
- The dome of the Basilica deserves to be admired with attention both for its dimensions and for the artistic representations that it possesses. Specifically, in these are reflected in a masterful way different virtues such as temperance, prudence or charity.
- The organ of the Basilica is another of the jewels of the Sanctuary of Loyola. Dating from 1889, it is of French origin and is made up of more than 2,000 pipes.
As you can see, if you are going to visit Azpeitia or if you are going to make a route through Guipuzcoa, it is almost obligatory to take the opportunity to know in situ this monumental complex, which is described as the ‘little Vatican’. And it is precisely this emblem of Rome that served as inspiration to shape it.
Opening hours of the Sanctuary of Loyola:
The schedule may vary, but as a general rule it is as follows: