It sits in the Urkiola harbour, in the heart of the Urkiola Natural Park, surrounded by a forest of beeches, birches and ashes, protected by the limestone walls of impressive mountains such as the Amboto, where Basque mythology situates the dwelling of Mari the "Lady of the Anboto", and the other mountains of the Duranguesado, such as Saibi, Haitz-txiki, Aluitz, Unzilahaitz, Mugarra, Eskubaratz, Larrano and the majestic image of the Oiz, and on the edge of one of the routes that from remote times links the Cantabrian coast with the Castilian plateau. Although the antiquity of the Sanctuary of Urkiola is not known for certain, its history is undoubtedly related to the establishment of Christianity, whose first outbreaks in the area began back in the 9th century, a century in which some believe was the beginning of the temple of Urkiola, as the place had all the appropriate characteristics for this, a mythical and mythologically sacred place, a grazing area and a route of transit and union.
The sanctuary of Saints Antonios, Abad and Padua, to whom the temple is dedicated, was built over a primitive hermitage, dedicated to Saint Anton, of which there are written references. It is also known, according to documents preserved from the fifteenth century, that the whole was formed, at that time, the hermitage, a house and a hospital. In the 17th century a church was built to replace the hermitage and a hospital for travellers and pilgrims was built in its surroundings, which was completed with a prison and an interior fridge. From this new sanctuary, the belfry, converted into the current neoclassical bell tower in 1870, is preserved. In 1899 construction began on a large basilica, the foundations of which can still be seen and which gives this unfinished temple a seal and character of singular beauty.
The current Neomedieval Sanctuary of Urkiola, consecrated in 1933, can be reached via a large staircase that leads to a beautiful garden in which an anchor, a laya, farming utensil and a stone turbine symbolically represent Biscayan seafaring, industrial and agricultural life, all guarded by the small bell tower that is exempt from the central building. As the work has not been completed, the side naves of what would have been the temple are also corridors leading into the building, the central nave of which has been closed with a wall, its interior decorated with a large mosaic and a window with a beautiful stained-glass window and the figures of the saints Antonios and which is the background of the altar, as the head of the church is occupied by the choir, a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament and the sacristy. On the floor of the nave you can see an original Via Crucis that has one more station. In the surroundings of the sanctuary, a paved road, which coincides with the old Royal Way, joins the two hermitages that are equidistant and on both sides of the sanctuary, that of Santo Cristo and that of Santa Apolonia.
The Santutxu hermitage, as Nuestra Señora de los Remedios and Santa Apolonia are popularly known, is located on a spring whose waters spring from a large fountain with a washing place and from which they say they cure toothache, as Santa Apolonia is the patron saint of dentists. With the water from this fountain in your mouth you have to go around the hermitage seven times and then throw it while invoking the saint. In the Santo Cristo or Vera Cruz hermitage, built in 1663, it is said that it was where pilgrims took off their shoes before arriving at the sanctuary. If the visitor follows a path marked by a Via Crucis he will reach a Calvary whose three crosses preside over a natural viewpoint from which the views over the Atxarte gorge and the Duranguesado are incredibly marvellous. In addition, the privileged enclave of the sanctuary, in the heart of the Urkiola Natural Park, offers the opportunity, through beautiful paths, to make excursions and quiet family routes where you can enjoy the natural and scenic wealth of Urkiola.
At the entrance to the sanctuary, in a small square, there is a stone that, according to tradition, is a meteorite about which there is a belief that if you are looking for a partner you have to touch the stone on 13 June, the day of Saint Anthony, and walk around it seven times in a clockwise direction. On the other hand, if you want to break up with the couple you already have, you have to turn them in the opposite direction. Try it, but watch out! Be careful how you turn.
The Sanctuary of Urkiola, where San Antonio Abad and San Antonio de Padua are venerated, is located in the geographical centre of the País Vasco, curiously on the dividing line between the Mediterraneo and Cantabrico slopes, and it is said that the water that falls on one side of its roof ends up in the Mediterraneo and that which falls on the other side ends up in the Cantabrico Sea.
Legend has it that San Antonio de Padua himself, on one of his trips, came here and after resting and spending the night in the pilgrims' hospital, he celebrated Mass in the then hermitage of San Antón. The truth is that since the thirteenth century both saints, the Abad and the Padua, preside over the Sanctuary..
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To reach the Urkiola Sanctuary, follow the BI-623 road from Durango up to the Urkiola Natural Park, passing by the sanctuary. This same road, but in the other direction, and already from Álava, departs towards the sanctuary from the N-240 road that joins Vitoria and Bilbao, as it passes through the Urrunaga Reservoir, where you will find the detour to Durango. In Alto de Urkiola there is a bus stop on the Durango-Vitoria route. For further information, telephone numbers are 946 811 432 and 945 286 466.
On the side of the sanctuary and on the back of the sanctuary there are parking spaces for vehicles.
SENDITUR is not responsible for any variation in the information described, as well as for the misuse of its guides and recommends that everyone be responsible and prudent in carrying out the activity. Likewise, we invite you to document yourself with books and specialized guides to complement the information described. From the commitment of SENDITUR with Nature and the respect to the balance of the environment, SENDITUR urges you to travel in a responsible way, with low environmental impact and respecting at all times the Natural, Cultural and Social environment wherever you go. For any suggestion, SENDITUR invites you to send an email to
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