Basque Saints

For the Basque Marian devotion CLICK HERE.

This is a select list of Basque saints.  The primary characteristic is their birth in a part of the Basque Country.  Some identified with being Basque and they spoke Euskara, while with others it is less certain.

Basques in the canonization process:
> Fr. Aloysius

St. Bernadette was born in Lourdes in the old Low Navarre territories of Xuberoa, France on January 7, 1844.  Her parents were very poor and she was the first of nine children. She was baptized at St. Pierre’s, the local parish church, on January 9. As a toddler, Bernadette contracted cholera and suffered extreme asthma. Unfortunately, she lived the rest of her life in poor health. On Thursday, February 11, 1858, fourteen-year-old Bernadette was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood, when a very beautiful lady appeared to her above a rose bush in a grotto called Massabielle (Tuta de Massavielha). The woman wore blue and white and smiled at Bernadette before making the sign of the cross with a rosary of ivory and gold. Bernadette fell to her knees, took out her own rosary and began to pray. Bernadette later described the woman as “uo petito damizelo,” meaning “a small young lady. Though her sister and friend claimed they were unable to see her, Bernadette knew what she saw was real. Three days later, Bernadette, her sister Marie, and other girls returned to the grotto, where Bernadette immediately knelt, saying she could see “aquero” again. She fell into a trance and one girl threw holy water at the niche and another threw a rock that shattered on the ground. It was then that the apparition disappeared. On February 18, Bernadette said “the vision” asked her to return to the grotto each day for a fortnight. With each visit, Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary and the period of daily visions became known as “la Quinzaine sacrée,” meaning “holy fortnight.”  When Bernadette began to visit the grotto, her parents were embarrassed and attempted to stop her, but were unable to do so.  On February 25, Bernadette claimed to have had a life-changing vision.  The vision had told her “to drink of the water of the spring, to wash in it and to eat the herb that grew there” as an act of penance. The next day, the grotto’s muddy waters had been cleared and fresh clear water flowed.  On March 2, at the thirteenth of the apparitions, Bernadette told her family the lady said “a chapel should be built and a procession formed.”  Her sixteenth vision, which Bernadette claims to have experienced for over an hour, was on March 25.  Bernadette claimed she had asked the woman her name, but her question was only met with a smile. Bernadette asked again, three more times, and finally the woman said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” (Que soy y era Inmaculada)

  St. Martin Loinatz of the Ascension (1567-1597)
Feast day: Feb. 6

He was born in the Amunabarro farmhouse of Loinatz (a village near Beasain) on July 16, 1566, and was baptized the same day in the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption. He was the son of Juan García de Loinaz and María Martín de Amunabarro.  After his first studies in the town, he went to the University of Alcalá (Madrid), where he studied between 1583 and 1585.  On May 11, 1585, he entered the convent of San Sebastián of the Franciscans of Auñón (Guadalajara), taking the habit and beginning the novitiate.  On May 17, 1586 he professed as a Franciscan religious in Auñón, making the three religious vows. In the same convent of Auñón and in the one of San Bernardino, of Madrid, he studied Philosophy, Theology, Moral and how many subjects entered the priestly race.  In 1591, at the age of 25, he was ordained a priest in San Bernardino, where he later reached the titles of doctor and professor.  The 15 of January of 1593 embarked in Seville for the missions in the direction of Mexico, since it was the unique form that it had then to go to Japan happening through Manila.  He spent two years in this capital, teaching Philosophy and Theology in his convent, but always with his eyes on Japan.  Finally, in May 1596, he obtained the desired destination and arrived at the port of Nagasaki.  After spending a season in the hospital convent of Meaco, today Tokyo, where he stood out for his rapid learning of Japanese and humble attention to lepers, he was appointed superior of the convent of Osaka, a small house and the same church that three friars attended.  On December 30, 1596, a group of soldiers who handcuffed them and took them to Meaco, arrived there on January 3, 1597.  They were taken to the public jail where the Franciscans were already imprisoned and all them condemned.  Finally, after a painful journey on foot from Meaco to Nagasaki, they arrived at Sononki on February 4, where they spent their last night  and where 26 martyrs were crucified and speared among friars, acolytes and Christians.

  Ignazio Loiolako | St. Ignatius of Loyola
Feast day: July 31
Birthplace: Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa

Canonized: 1622 St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French.  A cannon ball and a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521.  While St. Ignatius recovered, he read the lives of the saints and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith.  Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair.  Out of this experience he wrote his famous “Spiritual Exercises”.  After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.  There are 38 Jesuit members who have been declared Blessed, and 38 who have been canonized as saints.  He died at the age of 65.

  St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)
Feastday: December 3
Birthplace:  near Pamplona, Nafarroa

Born in the family castle of Xavier, near Pamplona in the Basque area of Spanish Navarre on Apr. 7, he was sent to the University of Paris 1525, secured his licentiate in 1528, met Ignatius Loyola and became one of the seven who in 1534, at Montmartre founded the Society of Jesus.  Working against great difficulties, language problems (contrary to legend, he had no proficiency in foreign tongues), inadequate funds, and lack of cooperation and often actual resistance from European officials, he left the mark of his missionary zeal and energy on areas which clung to Christianity for centuries.  He was canonized in 1622 and proclaimed patron of all foreign missions by Pope Pius X. F. D. Dec. 3

  St. Vincenta Maria Lopez Vicuna (1847-1890)
Feast day: December 26
Birthplace:  Cascante, Nafarroa

Saint Vincenta Maria Lopez y Vicuña was born at Cascante, Navarre Spain in March 24, 1847. Vicenta had a happy childhood. She was a daughter of a famous lawyer, reared in a Catholic home and educated in Madrid. She may have had a good chance of living a comfortable life yet she chose the way of austerity and sacrifice. Vicenta’s uncle was a priest while her aunt was a nun who founded a home for domestic servants. This perhaps, fostered her attraction to religious life. At 23, she too became a nun and organized a group of ladies to protect and promote the welfare of the working girls- This was the beginning of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate. Along with this, Vicenta Maria founded several foundations, technical training schools, hostels, canteen, and provided these working girls boarding houses while they are away from home. She was a mother and homemaker to them, helping and teaching them in the ways of the Lord.  Her congregation spread throughout Spain and other parts of Europe as well as in Latin America. She endured many trials and difficulties which she faced with courage and faith. Saint Vicenta Maria died on December 26, 1890. Sixty years after her death and through numerous graces obtained through her intercession.

  St. Balentin Berrio-Otxoa (1827-1861)
Feast day:
Birthplace: Elorria, Bizkaia
Canonized: 1988

St. Balentin Berrio-Ochoa, was a martyred Dominican bishop of Central Tonkin in Vietnam.  He was born in 1827 at Elorrio, Bizkaia and he was killed Nov. 1, 1861 at Hải Dương, Tonkin. Following his profession in the Order of Preachers, he was sent to the Philippines, where he was known as an especially devout member of the order.  In 1858, he was consecrated titular bishop of Tonkin and appointed vicar apostolic.  Upon his arrival in Vietnam, he faced persecution by the government and worked in extremely difficult conditions.  Similar to Christ, the bishop was betrayed and was imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded with Bishop Hermosilla and Fr. Almatĩ.  He was canonized in 1988 by Pope John Paul II. 

  St. Mixel Garikoitz(1797-1863)
Feast-day: May 14
Birthplace: Ibarre (Donaixtiko)

Benafarroa Mixel (Michael) was born on April 15, 1797, the eldest son of Arnold and Gratianne Garicoits.  They were poor and Michael was hired out as a shepherd boy to a farmer.  His desire to become a priest always met with “No, we are too poor” by his parents, but his grandmother talked the matter over with the parish priest. Through his efforts Michael earned his expenses for college by working after school hours for the clergy and in the bishop’s kitchen.  In December 1823 he was ordained priest in Bayonne cathedral by Bishop d’Astros.  Michael’s first assignment was at Cambo where he remained two years.  He did much to revive religion there, combat Jansenism by the custom of frequent communion as well as by introducing Sacred Heart devotions. Father Garicoits’ next call was to a professorship in the senior seminary for priests at Betharram, and then to be superior.  In 1838, Father Garicoits drew up a constitution largely based on that of the sons of St. Ignatius.  Like them, his missionaries were to take life vows and to spread far and wide.  Associates gathered round him at Betharram, and all seemed promising, when the bishop disapproved of his idea of founding a new congregation.  Not till 1852 was the community allowed to choose its own superior.  He died on Ascension day, May 14, 1863.  Fourteen years later the Society of Priests of the Sacred Heart of Betharram was approved by the Holy See on the lines the founder had laid down.  He was canonized in 1947.  His feast day is May 14th.

  Saint Fr. Domingo Ibáńez de Erquicia was born in Régil, Guipuskoa, Spain. In 1605, he was professed in the Dominican Order and in 1611, he arrived in the Philippines where he zealously worked as missionary to Pangasinan and later as Professor of Theology at the Colegio de Santo Tomas. In 1623, he departed for Japan when the persecution was most violent. During ten years he displayed heroic priestly dedication in the care of the Christians, comforting them, reconciling the apostates, administering the sacraments in painfully difficult circumstances. Constantly sought by the authorities, and desiring martyrdom, he was captured on July 1633 and interned in the prison of Nagoya. Taken to Nagasaki, and after refusing to renounce his faith, he was placed in the torment of gallows and the pit on August 13, 1633 and gave his soul to God the following day. Fr. Domingo Ibáńez de Erquicia with Lorenzo Ruiz was beatified in Manila on February 18, 1981 by Pope John Paul II who canonized him and Lorenzo on October 18, 1987. Lorenzo and Domingo’s beatification was the first one outside the Vatican.St. Domingo was aided in his missionary efforts by St. Francis Shoyemon, a Japanese layman who later was received into the Order of Preachers as a Dominican Cooperator Brother. St. Francis served as a catechist and translator, and when St. Domingo was imprisoned, St. Francis was with him. It was while they were in prison that St. Domingo received St. Francis into the Dominican Order as a cooperator brother. The two coworkers in the faith were martyred on the same day.
  St. Juana Josefa Cipitria y Barriola was the oldest of seven children born to Juan Miguel Cipitria and María Jesús Barriola. The family were weavers, and Juana learned the craft as a child. At age 18 she left home to work as a maid to a family in Burgos, Spain. Juana early felt a call to religious life, and on 8 December 1871 she founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus to work for a Christian upbringing of children, and to improve the condition of woman in Salamanca, Spain. She took the name Mother Candida Maria de Jesus, and the Congregation received papal approval from Pope Leo XIII on 30 July 1901. Mother Candida based her spirituality on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Born in 31 May 1845 in Andoáin, Guipúzcoa, Spain as Juana Josefa Cipitria y Barriola. She died in 9 August 1912 in Salamanca, Spain of natural causes. Declared Venerable in 6 July 1993 by Pope John Paul II (decree of heroic virtues). Beatified in 8 May 1996 by Pope John Paul II. Canonized in 17 October 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.
  St. Mikel Aozaratzakoa (1598-1637)

Feast Day: September 28. Born: In the Triana neighborhood of Oñati, Gipuzkoa Also known as San Miguel Gonzalez de Aozaraza de Leibar.  He was a Dominican friar, theologian, missionary and martyr.  In 1635 he began working as a missionary in the Philippine Archipelago.  In 1636 he joined a secret missionary expedition to Okinawa, Japan to help Christianize the Japanese who were persecuted by local authorities. He was arrested upon arrival and imprisoned for a year.  He was then transferred to to Nagasaki and condemned to death.  He refused to renounce his faith and was hanged upside down with his head in a pit for three days and finally was beheaded on September 29, 1637.   He was 39 years old.

St. Maria Josefa Sancho de Guerra (Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus, September 7, 1842 – March 20, 1912) was a Spanish nun, founder of the Institute of the Servants of Jesus charity and declared a saint by the Catholic Church in 2000. Born in 1842 in the city of Vitoria (Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain). With 7 years bereft of father and lived for some years in the home of relatives in Madrid. At 18 he felt a religious vocation and finally became a nun at the Institute of the Servants of Mary, taking the religious name of Maria Josefa of the Heart of Mary. Founded in Bilbao in 1871, along with other colleagues who had left the Institute of the Servants of Mary, the Institute of the Servants of Jesus, which would be higher during the 41 years. This new institution was intended to aid the sick in hospitals and in their homes, the elderly, children and the homeless. The institution has grown since its first open house in Bilbao in 1871, so that when Maria Josefa died in 1912 were 43 houses and a thousand founded the Sisters of the institution. Today is extended to 16 countries and has nearly 100 homes.


Basques in the canonization process:
> Fr. Aloysius