The legend has it that the virgin appeared to shepherd Rodrigo de Balzategi over a hawthorn. The shepherd, surprised, asked: "Arantzan zu?" (You on a hawthorn?) Over the centuries Franciscan monks have made of Arantzazu a place for prayers, devotion, pilgrimage and promotion of art and culture.
The Sanctuary of Arantzazu stands on the edge of a cliff and in a rocky place, in Oñati. It survived three critical fires (1553, 1622 and 1834) and was subsequently rebuilt three times.
However, in 1951 a new basilica was built instead of continuing with partial restoration and extension works. It was solemn and with imposing presence due to its size, but the builders focused mainly on achieving an artistic and modern expression for which an ideas contest was called.
Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza's and Luis Laorga's winning project had sculptor Jorge Oteiza's mark with his 14 apostles on the façade. The iron gates were designed by sculptor Eduardo Chillida and paintings by Nestor Basterretxea and Lucio Muñoz.
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