The exterior of the Sanctuary of Loyola

The Sanctuary of Loyola was built in the 17th century along the river Urola in the town of Azpeitia, in the Basque part of Spain, where St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, was born in 1491. It was completed following the “ultra Baroque” style typical of late 17th-century Spain, featuring elaborate and dramatic stucco decorations.

The dome

The towering dome of the Basilica of the Sanctuary of Loyola is 164 feet high and 65 feet wide. Its design mirrors that of the marble floor, leading to a reflecting visual effect. At the base of the dome we find statues representing Catholic virtues such as Faith, Hope, Religion, Charity, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance, as well as coats of arms of the commissioning families, the Habsburgs and Bourbons.

The altar

The altar of the Sanctuary of Loyola was built of inlaid marble by local artist Ignacio de Iberio between 1750 and 1757. It features a statue of the saint at the top, cast in pure silver.

Chapel of Conversion

The Sanctuary of St. Ignatius de Loyola was built around the tower house of the saint's family. The room where Ignatius, at that time a soldier recovering from grievous wounds, experienced a spiritual conversion and felt the call to religious life is now a chapel.

The Sanctuary of Loyola in 1850

In this image from 1850 it’s possible to see how the imposing Sanctuary of Loyola, built in the 17th century to honor the life of the founder of the Jesuit order in his birth town of Azpeitia, used to be the only construction overlooking the Urola river.