It is located on the banks of the River Urola in the Loyola district of the Gipuzkoa municipality of Azpeitia, between this locality and Azcoitia. The Sanctuary of Loyola, a real reliquary that keeps with zeal the house where he was born, in 1491, grew and that saw its spiritual rebirth in 1521 Iñigo de Loyola, San Ignacio de Loyola years later, and that in the year 1540, founded the Company of Jesus. Saint Ignatius of Loyola died in Rome in 1556 and was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. The Society of Jesus, with the intention of protecting and venerate the Holy House where its founder exchanged the knight's sword for the Gospel and the Cross, in 1681 acquires the palace tower, solar of the lords of Oñatz and Loyola and begins the construction of the today known as Sanctuary of Loyola.
The construction of the sanctuary began in the 17th century, and the project was entrusted to the Italian architect Carlo Fontana, who designed a monumental complex to house and shelter the tower house of San Ignacio. This construction was not completed until the beginning of the 20th century, although the tower house has undergone several reforms. In the last one, inaugurated in 1991, an attempt has been made to recover its original state.
The monumental and emblematic Sanctuary of Loyola houses in its buildings a Sacred Museum which, located in the north wing of the sanctuary, exhibits not only books and liturgical objects but also the altar of the original chapel of the saint's house and the doors that flanked it; the library, the hotel and the hostel, and in the centre of the façade of the main building, conceived as the Royal College of Loyola, is the Basilica of Loyola, the most important Jesuit temple, together with the church of Gesú, in Rome. This curious circular church was inaugurated in 1738 and consecrated in 1888 and 1889. If from the outside the grandiose dome draws attention than the crown, from inside the admiration is greater because, topped with a spectacular lantern of 15 m, it is profusely decorated.
The main altar has housed a silver image of San Ignacio since 1758. But the true spirit of the sanctuary is the Holy House, tower palace built in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in which above the door is the coat of arms of the ancient Loyola. The location of the Loyola Sanctuary, in the Urola valley, encourages the hiker to walk along the Urola Greenway and enjoy the landscape, tunnels and viaducts with which it is decorated or to try to tread the summit of the imposing Izarraitz mountain or perhaps after having visited the Sanctuary of Loyola follow the so-called Route of the three temples to reach the nearby sanctuaries of Arantzazu and La Antigua, the latter in Zumárraga.
The festivity in honour of San Ignacio de Loyola is the 31st of July.
The coat of arms of the Loyola family has a pot carved over a fireplace and two wolves on both sides. This emblem seems to refer to the origin of the name Loyola, "lupus in olla", wolves in a pot.
The Sanctuary of Loyola, one of the most important in the Pais Vasco, is the starting point of the Ignatian Way, a long-distance, pilgrimage route, which in its twenty-seven stages runs along the Royal Way that Ignatius, on his journey to Jerusalem after his conversion, made from his birthplace in Azpeitia to the Catalan city of Manresa, specifically the Ignatian Way ends in the sanctuary of the Cave of San Ignacio in Manresa.
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Legend has it that the crack in one of the walls of the tower was caused by the devil in an attack of anger when he saw the conversion of Ignatius and his strong faith and devotion.
Azpeitia can be reached from Elgóibar on the AP-8, from Vergara on the AP-1 and from Zumárraga via Azcoitia. We can also come from Tolosa, or from Beasain both on the A-1, another option is to do so from the coast, more specifically from the town of Zumaia. Azpeitia has a bus service that connects it with Zumaia, Zestoa-Cestona, Azkoitia, Urretxu and Zumárraga. In addition, the line that covers the Azkoitia-Donostia service also stops in Azpeitia.
The Sanctuary of Loyola can be found on the road between Azcoitia and Azpeitia, and its accesses are located in the vicinity of the latter. In the surroundings of the Sanctuary of Loyola there is an ample zone of parking where to be able to park the vehicle.
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