Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Basilica of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits

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You have surely heard of the Catholic order of the Jesuits, as they are present all over the world. But I´m sure you didn´t know that the founder was born in 1491 in the heart of the Basque Country, in Azpeitia. Iñigo de Loyola (born Iñigo, a Basque name, that he changed later to Ignacio), of a noble family and educated in the best manner, soon became a soldier serving the King of Castile. In 1521 he was injured while battling in Pamplona, and retired to his fortress in the valley of Loiola, near Azpeitia and Azkoitia. During his long recovery he got used to reading religious books, that made him rethink his whole life. Once recovered, he started a life of sanctity that led him to the foundation of the Jesuit order, probably the most influential in the history of the Catholic church.

The 18th century basilica is located in a beautiful valley, surrounded by a park full of trees and by the Urola river that flows through the mountainous scenery. As you can see by the pictures, it´s a magnificent but at the same time a modest building, with a great dome covered in baroque paintings and designs. On its left hand side you can visit the birthplace of San Ignacio de Loyola, a.k.a. Iñigo de Loyola, that has been beautifully restored to its original state. You can visit both buildings, and in the fortress tower you can see the rooms as they were in the 16th century.

Right by the Basilica (or Sanctuary) there´s a nice, cozy hotel and some rural housings, as well as fine restaurants, in an atmosphere surprisingly almost tourist free. The valley offers very interesting visits, like the Ferrería de Mirandaola (Ironmongery) in the Iron Valley or the town of Idiazabal, where the world famous Idiazabal sheep cheese is made (also, the Cheese Museum deserves a visit).

 

Some Useless Facts & Figures about the Basque Country, I

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- Gipuzkoa is the smallest province in Spain, and the most densely populated. Capital city: San Sebastián, a.k.a. Donostia, in Basque.

- We are just 3 million Basques in Europe. Half live in Bizkaia. There´s five more times Basque descendants overseas.

- We have the highest number of blood and organ donors per capita in the world. Also, the highest income per capita in Spain.

- Basques know the Basque Country as “Euskadi“, its official name.

- Euskadi is also known as “The Little Switzerland“, because of its mountainous profile.

- 70% of our surface is forest, and a great part of it is protected.

- Basque language has seven dialects. Many Basque speakers use different words for the same concept. For instance, days of the week or months of the year.

- Basque is spoken too in the French Basque Country (Iparralde, in Basque). Euskadi is also known as Euskal Herria (an ethnic concept), 7 provinces, three forming Euskadi, another one is Navarre and the other three are in France. Around 30% of Basques speak Basque, an increasing figure.

- There are over 70 beaches in our 150 miles coast, all free from massive tourism and over construction.

- It used to rain a lot…it still does, but the feeling is that “it doesn´t rain as before”…

- The Rioja wine region is mostly in the Basque country, where top wines are produced. We also produce natural fermented cider and txakoli“, a young wine with Denomination of Origin.

- The Athletic Bilbao soccer team, founded in 1898, has never relegated to 2nd division and plays with Basque players only.