Saint Euphemia’s church (Leorza)


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.


360º images

The sacristy

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.

The church

The exterior

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.

At the foot of Saint Euphemia’s church, there is an interesting Romanesque window. It only preserves one archivolt with balls. However, there is also a relieving arch with rinceau vegetal motifs that rests on impost with acanthus leaves and its jambs are chipped. According to experts, the window could have relocated and modified.
Besides, the Romanesque façade is on the southern wall, and it is a great example of the kind of façades that spread on both sides of the mountain. Indeed, there are similar cases in the Llanada Alavesa (Txintxetru, Alaiza) and in the Montaña Alavesa (Cicujano, Maeztu).
The façade has four archivolts and a relieving arch with rounded mouldings. Indeed, the concave and pointed mouldings and the checkered motifs from the archivolts are some distinctive characteristics of the façades without narrative scenes nor the typical Romanesque iconography. The capitals are very simple, with some “V” motifs that lay on a fine capital’s collar.

The interior

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.

During the 16th century, the main section and the head of Saint Euphemia were enlarged and covered with a tierceron vault. The presbytery is located on the eastern side of the temple, houses the main altarpiece, and is also closed with an interesting, ribbed vault.

The main altarpiece

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.

Above, there is a carving of Christ on the Cross that is not original in the altarpiece. Indeed, the 16th century sculpture might be part of another altarpiece that is now relocated between two big golden loose stones.


Photo credits:

Color photographs: © Álava Medieval / Erdi Aroko Araba.

Share This