Sanctuary of Arantzazu, Bilbao, Spain | CruiseBe
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Sanctuary of Arantzazu

History and museums
church, landmark

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazu aˈɾants̻as̻u is a Franciscan sanctuary located in Oñati, Basque Country, Spain. The shrine is a much appreciated place among Gipuzkoans, with the Virgin of Arantzazu standing for the main worship figure and patron of the province along with Ignatius of Loyola.

The place benefits from the highland silence and peaceful atmosphere of the Aizkorri mountain range along with a good road infrastructure, so the place is frequently visited by devotees and regional and foreign tourists alike. It is located in the site where presumably the Virgin of Arantzazu appeared to the shepherd Rodrigo de Balanzategui in 1468. Legend has it, the figure of the Virgin was in a thorn-bush, and his exclamation "Arantzan zu?!" (Thou, among the thorns?!) gave rise to the name of the place. According to the linguistic explanation, the name stems from "arantza + zu", 'place abounding in hawthorn'.

Arantzazu can be found as a female name in Spain in the forms of Arantza and Arantzazu (especially in Biscay and Gipuzkoa) along with Arancha (Spanish spelling) or Arantxa (Basque spelling), much in line with Spanish phonetics.

The place is also a starting point for several mountains trails and circuits for hikers that provide access to the meadows of Urbia and on to the mountain range Aizkorri, to the massif Aloña and to the lands south and east of the shrine. All the trails are well signalled.

The basilica

In 1950 the works for the new basilica were started, and the building was inaugurated five years later. Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza and Luis Laorga were the leading architects, and other artists also took part in the work:

  • Lucio Muñoz, the altarpiece
  • Jorge Oteiza, the sculptures of the Apostles
  • Eduardo Chillida, the entrance gates
  • Nestor Basterretxea, the paintings of the crypt
  • Xabier Álvarez de Eulate, the stained-glass windows

The Franciscan convent has been a center for Basque culture even under Franco's repression.

The main festivity in Arantzazu is on September 9.

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