The Buen Pastor Cathedral (Good Shepherd Cathedral in English) is one of the most iconic buildings in San Sebastian (Donostia), making it a must visit when in the city.
It’s an easy building to spot as it rises above the skyline across most of the city, with sneak glimpses of the spires from the nearby shopping district. The entrance also runs in a straight line to the Basilica of Santa María in the Parte Vieja (Old Town) too, giving you a glimpse of both iconic buildings at once.
The Buen Pastor was constructed during the golden age of San Sebastian when Queen María Cristina started to pass the summers in the Basque city, leading to a number of landmark buildings being constructed. The building doesn’t look out of place next to the Miramar Palace, The Gran Casino (now the town hall) or the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, which were all constructed at a similar time around the end of the 19th century.
The cathedral sits in the Amara district in the centre of the city and is of Neo Gothic style, made from the sandstone found on Monte Igueldo.
The vertical reach of the building is what makes it particularly impressive. High reaching vertical spires are complemented with a needle shaped bell tower which comes in at over 75 metres tall, making it the highest religious building in San Sebastian as well as Gipuzkoa.
The design of the cathedral was actually subject to a competition which was won by the eventual architect Manuel Echave in 1887. The inauguration happened 10 years later in 1897, which was attended by The Royal Family.
It features numerous impressive gothic features such as gargoyles and pinnacles which can be admired walking around the gardens that surround the building – an extremely photogenic part of Donostia.
The cathedral is also free to visit. From the inside it’s flooded with natural light thanks to the stained glass window that pretty much runs across the whole side wall. It’s pretty big too, with a maximum capacity for 4,000 people.
Occasionally there are weddings in the cathedral, and you’re free to go inside and take a peek. You may even get the chance to see an Aurresku (Traditional Basque Wedding dance).
How to get to Buen Pastor
The Buen Pastor Cathedral is located in the Amara district of San Sebastian, near to the Correos (Post Office) and a 5 minute walk from the main Euskotren (Metro) Station – Amara-Donostia. There’s also a fairly large car park underneath which is paid parking and an ideal spot if you want to do a bit of shopping afterwards.
In and around, you have Reyes Catolicos which is the pedestrian street leading out from the back of Buen Pastor and features numerous bars and restaurants. All of them have terraces which make them great places to stop for a coffee, drink or pintxo.
The River Urumea is close by too, which is a nice area for a stroll.