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Santo Cristo Baroque Basilica

In the Plaza del Pueblo we will find the Santo Cristo Basilica, initially no more than a little Hermitage with its wood-framed doorway. Inside the basilica is a very peculiar 10th Century Crucified Christ given that he does not and never did have a beard.

In the late 16th Century, however, due to presumed miracles, devotion to the image spread throughout the Basque Country, and the currently standing Renaissance Basilica was erected on the site of the former hermitage.

According to the experts, the sculpture of the Holy Christ in Lezo has great artistic value. However, what doubtlessly attract hordes of visitors every year are the legends that have taken shape around the image over the years.

We can quite safely say that the Holy Christ in Lezo is one of the most famous religious images in the Basque Country.

According to the legend, it appeared floating in a box in the waters of Pasaia Bay somewhere around the 15th Century. Considered to be a divine signal at the time of its finding, it is not surprising that the inhabitants of Lezo, Pasaia and Errenteria fought over who would keep the image. However, still according to legend, on returning to the box in which the Christ had been forgotten while the arguing went on, the statue had disappeared.

It was found shortly afterwards on the site of the little temple, an undisputed fact, hence the decision was taken to install the image in that place. However, a local from Pasaia, not happy with the presumed divine decision and convinced that the people of Lezo had usurped the image, decided to remove it in the middle of the night and take it to the nearby Pasai Donibane. However, immediately upon arrival, another presumed divine miracle occurred in the shape of a tremendous storm, highly unusual for the place and date. Given that the neighbour was obliged to stay where he was, right in the middle of the storm, he saw how the box opened and the Christ headed back towards Lezo. It was therefore returned to its place of origin, putting an end to the storm.

It became so famous from that moment on that, before going out to fish, ships would make their way to the ancient hermitage (now the basilica) for luck. A variety of cures have also been attributed to the statue by devotees who have prayed to it for years, meaning that it is not unusual to find a variety of ex-voto offerings in the church. The most faithful have always been those suffering from some kind of illness and seamen.

An ex-voto (from the Latin expression "ex voto", related to the making of a vow) is an offering made to a divinity by way of gratitude for a prayer come true. The popular tradition of making offerings to divinities as a sign of gratitude is a universal practice and they come in all shapes and sizes: clay figurines, vessels, etc.

One of the ex-voto offerings still existing in the Basilica of the Santo Cristo in Lezo is a model ship. It was typical in coastal villages to make this kind of offering as a sign of gratitude for having been saved from danger.

In Gipuzkoa ex-voto offerings in the shape of model ships can be seen hanging in churches in Arrasate, Deba, Eibar, Eskoriatza, Hernani, Irun, Mutriku, Tolosa, Pasai Donibane (San Juan), Pasai Antxo and Lezo.

The Santo Cristo Basilica also contains an 18th Century altarpiece.

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