the sanctuary

Situated in the Urola valley, the sanctuary is built around the tower house of the Loyola family.

Two events make Loyola a centre for pilgrimage: the birth of Inigo Lopez de Loyola in 1491 and his conversion in 1521.

the tower house

There are four key moments in the life of Inigo that make his home a place of welcome, encounter and reflection, opened to pilgrims and visitors from all around the world, from the 16th century until today.


A cannon ball broke Inigo’s legs while he was defending Pamplona. During his convalescence in his birthplace, in the care of his family, he felt called by God after reading several books on the life of Jesus and the lives of the saints.

The place, where he surrendered himself to God, is preserved as a chapel dedicated to his conversion. Over the years pilgrims have come here from many places to relive this crucial moment in Inigo’s life.


After fourteen years away, Inigo returned to his homeland to recover from an illness. Now his neighbours saw a very different person from the noble courtier they knew years before.

He returned as a pilgrim who lived among the poor and preached in the valley, and who observed everything in awe with a passion for the glory of God.


The first Jesuits showed great interest in Ignatius’s birthplace and where his conversion happened.

Francis Borgia came in 1551 to celebrate his first Mass in the chapel of the family home.


After the canonization of St. Ignatius on March 12th, 1622, the Society of Jesus worked for the preservation and encouraged devotion to the place where its founder experienced his conversion.

In 1681, the Society obtained ownership of the house and began building what we know today as the Sanctuary of Loyola.

the construction

Executing the plans for these monumental buildings was not easy.

Construction began in the 17th century and lasted until the early 20th century.

1st stage: the plans

The basilica was designed by Italian architect Carlo Fontana (1634-1714). The original plans do not survive, but we can notice the influence of the churches of Rome on his designs.

Though he never visited Loyola, this disciple of Bernini managed to express the architectural style of the period in a small valley of Gipuzkoa.

2nd stage: the building

The buildings we know today are the work of several local architects: Antonio Larraza, Martin de Zaldua, Sebastian de Lecuona, and above all, Ignacio de Ibero. As building progressed they encountered many problems.

Loyola was a centre of architectural experimentation in Gipuzkoa during the 17th and 18th centuries.

3rd stage: the completion

Building work was interrupted several times, and the works were only completed in the early 20th century.

However, the tower house has undergone several renovations over the past two centuries. The most recent, undertaken in 1991, restored the Loyola family´s house to its original state.

the sanctuary in 20th-21st centuries

1956: Jubilee of the Fourth Centenary of the death of St. Ignatius

1982: Visit of Pope John Paul II

1991: Jubilee of the Fifth Centenary of the birth of St. Ignatius

2006: Jubilee of the 450th anniversary of the death of St. Ignatius and Fifth Centenary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier and St. Peter Faber

2011: MAGIS Youth Experience

2015-2016: First Jubilee of the Ignatian Way

2021-2022: Jubilee of the Fifth Centenary of the Conversion of St. Ignatius