Land of valiant explorers, of builders of new worlds, of defiant entrepreneurs. The Basques have left their mark on history through such immortal figures as Juan Sebastián Elcano, the first navigator to sail around the world; Urdaneta and Legazpi, pioneers who opened up the Pacific route between Mexico and the Philippines; Juan de Garay, founder of the city of Buenos Aires; Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus; and Francisco de Vitoria, originator of International Law.

The enterprising spirit of the Basques has stayed strong for centuries, as evidenced in their industrial zones, their markets, their strong financial institutions, and their fishing fleets, which have sailed through all the oceans.

The mountainous terrain through which the pilgrims will be walking, with its pleasant trails, green forests, and steep inclines, will give us a chance to discover the secrets of this land in which such creative and sturdy men and women have been forged. Those who love natural landscapes will enjoy Euskadi tremendously. The diversity and beauty of its rugged landscapes is evident not only in the areas which have been designated nature reserves but also in most of the Basque territory.

The Ignatian Way begins, appropriately, at the sanctuary of Loyola, nestled among hills in Spain’s Basque region. It is the home of one of world and religious history’s most remarkable figures.

Ignatius was born in 1491, in the old Casa Torre Gipuzkoa. The four story castle still stands. You’ll find it just inside the outer walls of the shrine complex; its interior has been beautifully re-imagined as a museum. Tour the museum, and, above all, be sure to spend time in the room (now a chapel) where Ignatius convalesced after his battle injury at Pamplona in 1521. Ignatius’s Autobiography describes how he read a life of the saints in this room, and, inspired by it, slowly began to conceive of serving God with his own life, in imitation of the great saints. His first steps along this new life path were to embark on his pilgrimage. So it could not be more fitting that your pilgrimage (just like his) would begin in this room, and be sure to pray for his intercession for the success of your journey.

While you are in the museum, also be sure to visit the exhibits which tell the story of Ignatius’s life, and, just outside the shrine buildings, visit the nearby ‘farmhouse’ where he spent much time as a young child in the company of his nursemaid’s family.

The Jesuits warmly welcome all pilgrims to this holy place. To make the most of your visit, have a look at the shrine’s website: website of the Shrine of Loyola. Tourism: visitors Sanctuary: youth hostel. A very good place to sleep in Loyola is the hostel of Jesus-María.

Azpeitia (meaning ‘down the rock’ in Basque) is a town and municipality within the province of Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Country of Spain, located on the Urola river a few kilometres east of Azkoitia. Its population is 14,305 (2010 estimate). It is located 44 miles southwest of Donostia/San Sebastián. Azpeitia is the birthplace of Ignatius of Loyola. His birth home is now preserved as a part of large Jesuit compound, the Sanctuary of Loyola, a major attraction of tourist and pilgrims alike. Azpeitia lies at the foot of the massif Izarraitz towering over the town and much visited by town-dwellers.

Consult the website of the council to visit the monuments and understand its history.

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