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Cristo de Bonanza Basilica

The 14th Century Santo Cristo de Bonanza Basilica, the first parish church to exist in Pasai Donibane, was dedicated to San Juan de la Ribera. The new parish church dedicated to Saint Isabel was destroyed by fire leaving absolutely no remains. At that time the main religious services were held at the garrison of Santa Isabel Castle. The currently standing Santo Cristo de Bonanza Basilica, built to replace it in 1738, was paid for by donations by the locals, even those living abroad (Peru, Manila, Venezuela, etc.). One curious detail is that the sea bream fishing boats donated part of their catches to this endeavour.

Skippers and crew all collected money for its upkeep. Mass was given on the departure and arrival of ships, either in gratitude for the men's luck at sea or invoking the protection of the Holy Christ for their voyage.

The church has a single rectangular nave and two lovely terraced choirs. Over the second of the two, a spacious circular window lets light flow into the temple along with the four side windows and the one in the vestry. A sumptuous grille, the work of Matías Lozano from Hondarribia, covers the length and breadth of the arch supporting the first choir, reminiscent of the Santo Cristo Basilica in Lezo. The church is split into four stretches separated by box-shaped pilasters standing on a larger pilaster and column section, supporting the transversal arches, main arches and transepts of the vaults. These produce curves softening the arris.

Lengthwise, the longest part is that of the Choir and transept, closed off by a squinch arch vault decorated with a fine moulding and keystone bearing the coat of arms of Pasai Donibane. The vaults are arris vaults, with stone nerves and a keystone brought to the church by sea.
The main door is only slightly underlined by a small appendix or stone bell tower which, with a square ground plan, stands on one side, with stone balustrades on its openings and ledges, topped by a graceful spire with an acroter and ball. The interior stairs, similarly in stone, are spiral and lead to the choir; five small loophole windows provide the lighting. The entire outside of the building with its stonework on the corners and cornice, stands on a little plinth in the same material; it has a hip roof. We should underline the projection and casting work on the bases and capitals, the excellent construction of the vaults and the delicacy of the moulding work, all details underlining qualified workmanship, although the passing of time, the fact that it is no longer used for worship but as a fishing boat storeroom has partly detracted from its dignity.

On the western facade of the temple is a door known as "Lintxua". This was used as a place of shelter in bad weather while waiting for the arrival of fishing or merchant ships. It has a series of incisions or carvings representing different kinds of vessel mainly dating from the 18th Century, although there are some from the 19th Century.

The high altarpiece is discreetly Baroque in design, with, in the centre, Santo Cristo de Bonanza, whose English origins are obvious from his blond hair. This was probably the work of Jerónimo Larrea (17th Century). The images on either side represent the Nazarene and the Flagellation. Two polychromed flying angels stand out on either side of the presbytery arch.

As on so many other occasions, the holy image has a legend. It has been general belief for many a long year that fishermen found this Christ floating in the sea. With the faith characterising our people at that time, they fished it out of the sea and installed it in this church. Since then it has been worshipped not only by the people of Pasai Donibane (San Juan), but by the crews of merchant, war and privateer ships who offered their donations and masses to this Christ.

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