The Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu in Oñati (Gipuzkoa) has for centuries been a place of devotion and pilgrimage. Tradition has it that a shepherd once found himself before the Virgin and asked “Arantzan zu?” (You, on a hawthorn bush?). From that moment on, there were numerous constructions built in honour of the Virgin, but several fires saw an end to all of them.
The modern day Arantzazu Sanctuary was built between 1950 and 1955 by the architects Francisco Saiz de Oiza and Luis Laorga. It is of great architectural interest, as it was built with the desire to integrate it into the rough surrounding landscape. Proof of this are the thousands of limestone diamond pieces of the facade’s towers, as they represent the continuity of the karst scenery as well as a reference to the sharp thorns of the bushes.
The Sanctuary is made up of a Latin cross and is built over an ancient church which remains below, in the form of a crypt. The four doors leading into the temple, the work of Eduardo Chillida, are almost dug deep into the soil, after walking down a very steep staircase, and hence suggest an entrance into an underground world. The central wall of the facade, sculptured by Jorge Oteiza, is decorated with hollow statues, in harmony with the shapes that the ice makes quite naturally in the rock.
The main altarpiece, which is 600 sq m and constructed in polychrome wood, gives you the idea of being transported from the dark domains of the earth to brilliant celestial territories, thanks to the gradual increase of light and its colours. The main statue of the temple, Andra Mari de Arantzazu is situated in a central niche of the altarpiece and is a Gothic piece, whose origins date back to between the 13th and 14th century.