In the middle of the valley of Urola stands the huge Sanctuary of St Ignatius of Loyola, as a heartfelt tribute to the figure and his work from the city which witnessed the birth of the founder of the Jesuit order, the Brotherhood of Jesus. It was built in the 17th century by the Italian architect Carlo Fontana, who chose to use the Roman baroque style that was all the rage at the time. The basilica is spectacular in size, only slightly smaller than St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, and majestic in appearance.
Like a huge shrine, in the south wing, the interior of the construction contains St Ignatius of Loyola's house, a Mudejar style tower in which the life of the saint is recreated. A man who was so far ahead of his time, writing the “Spiritual Exercises”, a best-seller that remains relevant today. The marvellous library contains books from different periods in history in a selection of languages, in addition to thousands of other interesting books.
At the rear of the building, the large gardens, formerly the Jesuits' vegetable garden, now offer the perfect place for walking and meditation. And it would appear that this spot has a micro climate so that it is almost always good weather there. A feeling of calm invades everything here and invites the visitor to introspection, something so necessary nowadays. The appointment of Pope Francisco, the first Jesuit pope, has meant that many people have decided to visit the Sanctuary of Loyola to discover the origins of the Brotherhood of Jesus and its vision of spirituality. Whether you are religious or not, there is certainly much to be learnt about oneself here.