Basilica of Santa María del Coro

In the heart of the Old Town of San Sebastian, at the foot of Mount Urgull, is the most important church in the city, the Basilica of Santa María del Coro.

This church is located at the crossroads between Calle 31 de Agosto and Calle Mayor, so it is almost inevitable to see it from different points in the Old Town. Furthermore, its two characteristic towers make it possible to distinguish it from much further away.

Santa María: architectural style

Santa María, as it is commonly called in San Sebastián, survived the fire of 1813, and is therefore one of the oldest buildings in the city. Built shortly before, in 1774, it replaced a previous Gothic-Renaissance church that was seriously damaged after an explosion in a powder magazine.

The current one is in the Baroque style, with neoclassicist and Churrigueresque elements, although it maintains the plan and orientation of the previous one. The Rococo style façade is profusely decorated, and is always a surprise among visitors to the city who suddenly discover it while walking through the Old Town.

Main entrance to the basilica.

Main entrance to the basilica.

And although the exterior is decorated almost to the point of horror vacui, the interior is much more sober than one would expect, especially if we compare it with other churches of the time. This is because in the past it was completely covered in silver and gold brought from Mexico, but in the attack of 1813, the Anglo-Portuguese troops took every last gram. In fact, it is said that it took them the entire week of the looting to remove all that metal.

The reason there was so much silver and gold in the church is that it was partly financed by the Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas, a trading company originating in Donostia, which during the 18th century had a monopoly on trade between Venezuela and Europe. where they brought rubber, tobacco, cocoa… That is, they had a lot of money.

The Joxemaritarras

And the Basilica of Santa María del Coro was the church of the rich of San Sebastián, also called Joxemaritarras by the poor of the city, since the most common name among them was José María and María José. Nowadays all this wealth has disappeared, but it can still be felt in the altarpieces, the large hall floor or the enormous organ placed in the choir.

What to see inside the Basilica of Santa María del Coro

Furthermore, inside, where the chapels used to be, today we can visit the Diocesan Museum , where we can admire religious art from the last 10 centuries. This is why entry to Santa María is not free, but costs 3 euros. In any case, the church is open more hours than the museum, so if it happens that the museum is closed, but the church is open, the visit to it will be completely free. Therefore, we recommend that you check the schedules of both the church and the museum when planning a visit to San Sebastián.

Museo Basilica Santa María San Sebastián

Some works from the Diocesan Museum. Photo from the museum itself.

And if you prefer someone to explain Santa María to you, but also the rest of the Old Town neighborhood and the history of San Sebastián, you can always come to one of our Free Tours in San Sebastián ! For us it is the best way to have a first contact with the city.