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The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in San Sebastian

The cathedral is an impressive example of neo-Gothic architecture. Its construction began in 1888 under the direction of architect Manuel Echave and was completed in 1897.
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The Basque Country is a place filled with historical and architectural treasures, and one of the most impressive is the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in San Sebastian. Also known as the San Sebastian Cathedral, this majestic neo-Gothic church has been a religious and cultural landmark in the city for over a century. Let’s delve into the history and curiosities that make this cathedral so special.


The Original Name: Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

The San Sebastian Cathedral is commonly referred to as such, but its full name is “Cathedral of the Good Shepherd of San Sebastian.” 

This title honors the Good Shepherd, a Christian term referring to Jesus Christ as the guide and protector of His flock, symbolizing His love and care for humanity. The name reflects the deep religious faith that has been an integral part of the Basque Country’s history.

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The Splendor of Neo-Gothic Architecture

The cathedral is an impressive example of neo-Gothic architecture. Its construction began in 1888 under the direction of architect Manuel Echave and was completed in 1897. The neo-Gothic style is known for its traditional Gothic architectural elements, such as pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and colorful stained glass windows. When visiting the cathedral, you’ll be surrounded by the grandeur and beauty of this architectural style.

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd features a rectangular and symmetrical floor plan in the shape of a Latin cross, comprising three aisles, a transept, and a sanctuary. It was constructed using ashlar masonry, with stones sourced from the quarries of Igeldo, a practice common to many buildings in the city. The construction process also involved the draining of a considerable marshland area along the Urumea River.


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The Tower's Height

One of the most striking features of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is its bell tower, which soars to an astonishing height of 75 meters. This tower is one of the tallest points in San Sebastian and offers a spectacular panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. Climbing to the top of the tower provides a unique opportunity to appreciate the city’s beauty from above.

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San Sebastian City and Pintxo Lunch from Bilbao

Book This Tour: San Sebastian City and Pintxo Lunch from Bilbao

The Main Stained Glass Window

Inside the cathedral, the main stained glass window is a true masterpiece. This work of art was created by the renowned French artist Gustave Pierre Dagrant. The stained glass window depicts the life of Jesus and is one of the cathedral’s main attractions. The light filtering through this stained glass creates a magical effect inside, filling the space with colors and religious symbolism.

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The Subterranean Pumping Machine

Beneath the cathedral’s foundations lies a subterranean water pumping machine with an intriguing history. This machine was used to prevent flooding in the underground areas of San Sebastian. The presence of this underground infrastructure demonstrates the historical significance of the cathedral in the city and its ability to adapt to the community’s needs.

A Monumental Organ Filling the Space with Music

Inside the cathedral, you’ll find a monumental organ that is a true musical gem. This organ was built by the prestigious organ-building firm Cavaillé-Coll in 1897. Recognized for its quality and beautiful sound, the organ is used in concerts and special events that fill the cathedral with music and emotion. Sitting and listening to the music that fills this sacred space is a unique experience.



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Relics of San Sebastian

The cathedral features a chapel dedicated to San Sebastian, the city’s patron saint. It is said that relics of this martyr saint are kept in this chapel. While the authenticity of the remains is a subject of debate, the devotion to San Sebastian is undeniable. Faithful and visitors come to this chapel to pray and honor the saint, creating an atmosphere of spirituality inside the cathedral.



Transformation During the Spanish Civil War

During the Spanish Civil War, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd underwent a surprising transformation. Amid the conflicts, the cathedral was converted into a field hospital to care for the wounded soldiers. This episode demonstrates how the cathedral’s history is intertwined with crucial moments in Spanish history. Today, this history is remembered and celebrated as part of the cathedral’s heritage.



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Facade Completed in 1974

A surprising curiosity is that the cathedral’s main facade was completed in 1974, more than 80 years after the construction of the main building was finished. The delay was due to financial and technical issues. The facade, with its impressive rose window and Gothic details, adds a final touch of splendor to the cathedral, making it even more impressive.




In addition to its religious function, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is an important venue for cultural events in San Sebastian. Classical music concerts, art exhibitions, and festivals are held inside its walls. The cathedral becomes a gathering point for the local community and visitors who want to enjoy culture in a historical and majestic setting.

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in San Sebastian is a true treasure that combines architectural beauty with history and spirituality. When you visit this impressive place, you’ll immerse yourself in centuries of Basque history and culture. You can’t miss the opportunity to explore every corner and discover why this cathedral is one of the most beloved treasures of the Basque Country. We invite you to experience this unique journey on your next trip to the region!

Author Profile

Irene was born and raised in Bilbao. She has a deep rooted passion for her country and culture. She has a Bachelors degree in education and has traveled to over 85 countries throughout the world.
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