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Sanctuary of Arantzazu

A great architectural, sculptural and artistic work

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazu is a Catholic sanctuary located in the municipality of Oñate, in Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, where the Virgin of Arantzazu is venerated, the patron saint of this province who would have appeared in 1469.

It is located 750 meters above sea level, surrounded by mountains and vegetation. Its basilica, built in the 1950s, is a great architectural, sculptural and artistic work, where eminent artists with international renown have worked.

The name of the sanctuary, the place, and the Virgin are related to the legend of her appearance. It is said that a shepherd discovered a little image of the Virgin with the child in her arms, hidden among a hawthorn bush, next to a cowbell. Seeing her, she would have exclaimed: Arantzan zu?!, which in Basque means “in the hawthorns, you?!”

The history of the Catholic sanctuary is not rich in relics and documents, particularly because of the loss of a big part of the heritage in several fires between the 16th and the 19th century. But the 20th century was the one that had the most impact on the image of the sanctuary. Concerning the artistic part of the monument, this century marked a milestone in the history of the place and even in the country.

In 1950 they decided to build a new basilica. Along with the architects, some of the most important contemporary artist at the time took part in the decoration of the building: the sculptor Jorge Oteiza for the main façade, the sculptor Eduardo Chillida for the main access doors, and the painter Néstor Basterretxea for the decoration of the walls of the crypt. But in 1955 the Diocesan Commission of Sacred Art ordered to stop the works arguing that the artistic performances didn’t respect the precepts of the Holy Church about the Sacred Art.

The artists had to wait until the ’60s to finish their works. The most important piece, the frieze of Jorge Oteiza, was finally finished in 1969. It’s a great representation of the apostles, exemplified in 14 concave sculptures. The artist didn’t want to represent each apostle, but the abstract idea of apostolicity as a community open to the outside world that demands, in turn, the presence of others in a way of solidarity.

Finally, the crypt was painted in the ’80s by Néstor Basterretxea, who made a collection of very modernist frescoes.

Short bio of the volunteer:

My name is Jone, I am 28 years old and I am from a city of 200,000 inhabitants, called San Sebastián, in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain. Since 2012 I have lived in France, currently in the city of Bayonne, in the French Basque area. I studied Humanities and translation, and before starting my EVS I used to work as a Basque language teacher.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.