Arantzazu Renovation

Renovation of Arantzazu 2001 designed by Spanish architecture studio AH Asociados, is a Franciscan Sanctuary located in Gipuzkoa (Spain) between ravines, rocky mountains and rivers.

Project description courtesy of AH Asociados

The Sanctuary of Our Lady Arantzazu is located in an exceptional natural enclave at the foot of the Urbia open field, between ravines, rocky mountains and rivers. The legend says that the Virgin Mary appeared on a hawthorn to a shepherd, who spoke to her with astonishment “Arantzan zu?” (“You, at a hawthorn?”). The name of the Sanctuary comes from the words of this shepherd and the devotion to Our Lady Arantzazu from this apparition. In 1951, after a fire destroyed the small temple, the Franciscan Order decided to build a big Basilica through the language of Contemporary Art.

Thus, the emblematic building with its pointed stones was put up. It was designed by Sáenz de Oiza and Laorga but also by artists such as Jorge Oteiza (sculptures on the façade), Eduardo Chillida (doors), Lucio Muñoz (the wood altarpiece), Néstor Basterretxea (paintings on the crypt) and Javier Eulate (glass windows). Built on a ravine at the foot of the Aizkorri Mountain, the Sanctuary of Arantzazu is unique in the whole world. It has been recognized abroad as the prime example of the Basque Avant-Garde movement and as a new vision of Religious Art. Although many experts have asked for it, the Sanctuary has not been considered as a cultural heritage yet.

The renovation of Arantzazu includes interventions that have been developed during the last four years to recover the environment around the Basilica on the occasion of its fifth centenary. These interventions had, on the one hand, the aim of adapting the physical environment (through an Special Program of Landscape Protection and an urbanization project of the Basilica’s outer doors that includes a tourist office and a parking) and, on the other hand, the renovation of the Old Seminary and pelota courts to equip them as a new meeting place: the cultural centre “Gandiaga Topagunea”. The perception of a building structure made of planes and blocks parallel to the current natural incline has disappeared in order to present the whole as a group of stone blocks that are perforated by large holes, like an excavated void and horizontal cuts that open the building to the imposing natural landscape.

In addition, a new place has been built next to the old chapel in order to host a sculpture donated by Jorge Oteiza. This building is known as “Misterio”; a small place that must not compete with the Basilica and must not be the religious protagonist. It must be a space of silence and light to whom as visitors or pilgrims are looking for something.


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