Sanctuary of Ignatius of Loyola, in Azpeitia


Coat of arms

Location of Azpeitia within the Basque Autonomous Community

Coordinates: 43°10′55″N 2°15′55″W / 43.18194°N 2.26528°W / 43.18194; -2.26528Coordinates: 43°10′55″N 2°15′55″W / 43.18194°N 2.26528°W / 43.18194; -2.26528
Country Spain
Autonomous community Basque Country
Province Gipuzkoa
Comarca Urola Kosta
Founded 1310 (1310)
  Mayor Eneko Etxeberria (Bildu)
  Total 210.12 km2 (81.13 sq mi)
Elevation 80 m (260 ft)
Population (2014)
  Total 14,580
  Density 69/km2 (180/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Basque: azpeitiarra
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 20730
Website Official website

Azpeitia (meaning 'down the rock' in Basque) is a town and municipality within the province of Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Country of Spain, located on the Urola river a few kilometres east of Azkoitia. Its population is 13,708 (2001 estimate). It is located 16 miles southwest of Donostia/San Sebastián.

Azpeitia is the birthplace of Ignatius of Loyola. His birth home is now preserved as a part of large Jesuit compound, the Sanctuary of Loyola, a major attraction of tourist and pilgrims alike. It is also the birthplace of Renaissance composer Juan de Anchieta.

Azpeitia lies at the foot of the massive Izarraitz towering over the town and much visited by town-dwellers. Azpeitia Railway Museum is located in the town.

Historical Background

Azpeitia was created in 1310 by a royal order of King Fernando IV. First, its original name was “Garmendia de Iraurgi” and a year later it was renamed “Salvatierra de Iraurgi”. The name “Azpeitia” started to be used in 1397. During the 13th and 14th centuries there were many fights and wars among prominent families that happened in the town. Notably, between the Oñaz and Gamboa families. In 1766, there was revolt in the town as a consequence of King Carlos V intention of liberalizing the selling and buying of wheat. For a brief period of time, there was even a revolutionary town council. However, this revolt was quickly repressed by troops sent from San Sebastian.

The steel and wood industries have historically been the main industries in Azpeitia. The Sanctuary of Loyola is its major touristic attraction, together with the Basque Railway Museum.

San Ignacio de Loyola (Founder of the Society of Jesus)

He was born in Loyola, Azpeitia, the Basque Country, in 1491 and died in Rome, Italy, in 1556. His family was part of the lordship of Biscay. As a young man, he worked in the service of the viceroy of Navarre. He was injured in both legs during the defence of Pamplona in 1521. Afterwards, during his recovery time, he started reading books with a religious theme. This made a big impact on his life. He then travelled to Catalonia, first to the monastery of Montserrat in 1522 and then to Manresa, where he retired in a cave to meditate for a year. Afterwards he wrote his most famous book, The Book of Spiritual Exercises (Libro de los Ejercicios Espirituales). After various travels to Rome, Barcelona, Alcalá de Henares and Salamanca, he went to Paris in 1528. In the French capital, he studied philosophy and theology. Together with some other students he founded the original core of the Society of Jesus, which received the approval of the Vatican in 1540 and chose San Ignacio as their superior general. Afterwards, the Jesuits extended all over the world, starting first in Europe and then in America. When he died, San Ignacio was declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church .

The Basque Railway Museum (Museo Vasco del Ferrocarril)

The museum is situated in the old Urola railway station, a line which connected Zumaia and Zumárraga. The Basque Railway Museum has one of the best railway collections in Europe, with vehicles of all types: steam locomotives, diesel and electric; automotive and different kinds of cars.

In addition, the museum offers one of the most complete sets of machine tools in Euskadi, through the old garage Urola Railroad. This installation is preserved as it was inaugurated in 1925, with an old electric motor that drives its 16 machines through a complex system of pulleys, belts and muddy. Nowadays, the old train does no longer operate its service. However, the train travel between Azpeitia and Lasao is an important tourist attraction.

The amazing facilities of the old electrical transformer plant with its original equipment rectification, mercury vapor, reflect the most modern technology of a century ago.

On the first floor of the central building of the old station at Azpeitia, there is an exceptional sample of the uniforms used in the railroads since the late nineteenth century to the AVE. On the second floor we find a great collection of railway clocks . Nowadays, the train museum is operated by Eusko Tren, which is a public company responsible for train transport, under control of the Basque government. This line is no longer operated as a service. However, a train journey between Azpeitia and nearby Lasao is still in operation as a tourist attraction. Every year thousands of tourists visit the railway museum.

Civil War In Azpeitia

Recently, a book has been presented in the Azpeitia Town Council by Aranzadi and supported by the Basque government. It is about the impact of a very relevant event such as the Spanish Civil War and the first years of Franco´s regime in Azpeitia. Its name is Azpeitia 1936-1945. It makes a point about how those historical events affected daily live. The book has been written as a detailed comment about those events, but also as homage to the men and women that lost the war (basque nationalist and left-wing republican militants) and suffered the repression of the dictatorship afterwards. The book has, notably, an alphabetic index in which we can find many citizens of Azpeitia of the time (with a summary of their political militancy and activities during and after the Civil War). Moreover, lots of images of the historical documents of the time can be found in the book.

In the case of Azpeitia, the main sides in opposition were carlists (carlistas) (traditionalist basque foralists, supporting General Franco) and Basque Nationalists from EAJ-PNV(supporting the Spanish Republic). There were also falangists and left-wing militants (from UGT and Izquierda Republicana) and some (few) anarquists. Francoist troops entered Azpeitia in September, 1936. Shortly afterwards, they burned the ikurriña (basque flag) and Spanish Republican flag that were standing on the town hall. Shortly afterwards, a new council was created dominated by Carlists and traditionalists.

Azpeita has always been characterized by a wide use of the Basque language (Euskara), but its use was repressed after Francisco Franco´s victory. Franco himself visited Azpeitia in 1939 and in 1945 (he visited the Loyola Sanctuary, notably).

The Emparan Tower House

Its building process started in 1320. It was the property of one of the most powerful Basque families of the time, the Oñatz family. In 1456, the upper part of the tower was destroyed by order of Henry IV. It was repaired in 1535. In 1750, numerous baroque elements typical of the time were added and the tower, now a palace, acquired its current appearance. Nowadays, the palace is Azpeitia´s local public library.

The Hermitage of our Lady of Olatz

It is situated halfway between Azpeitia and Loyola. It was built in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It contains a polychrome Gothic carving of Our Lady of Olatz, for whom it is said that San Ignatius felt a special devotion.The private boards of Gipuzkoa held their meetings here until the beginning of the 18th century.

The Hospital and Hermitage of la Madalena

In 1535, after completing his studies in Paris, when Íñigo de Loyola (Saint Ignatius) arrived in Azpeitia, he was ill.However, instead of residing in the family tower house, he chose to stay in this hospital and leprosarium, together with the poorest patients. He used to preach there. He also is said to have walked the streets begging for food and help for those who were ill, homeless and unprotected. Nowadays, the old hospital is used as an Ignatian interpretation centre.

The Church of San Sebastián de Soreasu

Built by the Templars between the 16th and 18th centuries, it underwent extensive restructuring and only the tower of the old temple was conserved.The original portico was replaced in 1771 with a frontispiece designed by Francisco Ibero. The church has eight chapels in total. The Baroque altarpiece and the baptismal font where Íñigo de Loyola was Christianized are of outstanding beauty.

Notable people


Buces Cabello, Javier (2016). Azpeitia 1936-1945: Giza Eskubideen zapalketa eta errepresioa Gerra Zibilean eta lehen Frankismoan (2016). Donostia-San Sebastián: Aranzadi. ISBN 978-84-944251-4-1. 

San Ignacio de Loyola. Diccionario Enciclopédico Larousse. Madrid: Planeta,S.A. 1991. p. 1211. ISBN 84-320-6618-4. 

"Azpeitiko historia". Azpeitiko Udaletxea. May 5, 2016. 

"Museo Vasco del ferrocarril". bemfundazioa. May 3, 2016. 

Tourism leaflet about Azpeitia (2015)

External links

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