The town of Leorza is located on steep lands, closing the Valley of Laminoria and next to the Musitu river. The history of the church is linked to the current neighbourhood of Saint Euphemia and is the tallest building in town. Its strategic location along with the opening of the valley makes Leorza a very interesting spot. As the hamlet of Elhorzahea from the “Reja de San Millán” (1025) shows, Leorza exists at least since the 11th century. Its evolution had a lot of connection with the nearby secular abbey of Saint Pia -now lost. According to the preserved documentation, the parish priest of Leorza closed the abbey in the 18th century and transferred some liturgical art pieces to the town and other villages.
One of the most important architectonical elements from the church is probably the sacristy. The squared plan from the end of the 16th century or the beginning of the 17th century closes with a low dome that lays on pendentives. Overall, the sacristy has some simple but elegant geometrical motifs in relief that prove the high quality of it.
After going up many stairs, we arrive to the portico of Saint Euphemia’s church. Built in 1829, it protects the original façade and was designed as an “hórreo” -typical granary from the northwest Iberian Peninsula- by the quarry worker Vicente de Nanclares. Outside, several building stages glimpse. For example, a small bell wall works as a transition between the oldest elements of the church such as the 16th century head of the building and the Romanesque nave from the 12th-13th centuries.
Inside, the different building phases are even more obvious than outside. The Romanesque nave preserves a solid pointed barrel vault, articulated and covered with transverse arches. In the background, there is a 19th century niche with the baptismal font and, on the left, right on the foot of the church, there is a simple and modern wooden choir.
On the eastern wall, there is a Rococo altarpiece from the third quarter of the 18th century. Saint Euphemia’s carving is in the centre holding the martyrdom palm and an open book. On both sides, we spot two lower quality carvings with the depiction of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Color photographs: © Álava Medieval / Erdi Aroko Araba.