The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Oro, nestled on a mountain next to the villages of Bitoriano and Jugo, has double the appeal: the artistic and historic value of an important 16th century place of worship and the scenic value of a privileged viewpoint some 850 meters above sea level that commands views of the valley of Zuia on one side and the Plains of Álava on the other.
The first known document to mention the existence of the sanctuary is dated 1138. This is the Deed of Gift from Doña María López to the Royal Monastery of Nájera for the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Oro along with that of Our Lady of Estíbaliz and the Monasteries of Magnarrieta and Santa Maria de Urrechu, both located in the valley of Zuia.
According to archaeological remains found near the site, the place was already occupied in 750 BC, and the home of the Virgin of Santa Maria de Oro for centuries. Since time immemorial she has been considered patron saint of the Valley of Zuia despite the fact that there is no document to corroborate this.
The name Oro is most probably of Basque origin, as with all of the other place names in the valley of Zuia. Many words in the Basque language include the name oro. “Or” is also a suffix used in place names, meaning height, elevation, eminence, so it would make sense that the name Oro was given to the mountain on which the sanctuary stands.
The sanctuary has undergone many transformations throughout the centuries since the original Romanesque church was built between the end of the 11th century and the 12th century. The vaults of the church, with their tiercerons and liernes , are 14th and 15th century, whereas the false plaster vaults of the sacristy are 18th century.
This is a very large building, divided into several parts: the main door that opens onto the portico with a rounded arch using large keystones, over it the rooms of the Local Council and the Brotherhood, cosy shelters along the sides, to the left, behind the church and the sacristy, the bell-gable and to the north the inn and the dining rooms.
In 1913 the complex was on the verge of disappearing due to a large fire. The churches in the valley rang out the alarm and the local people rallied together to put out the flames and save the sanctuary from total destruction, and then they later help rebuild it by means of their labour and money.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Oro is 22 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz and 51 kilometres from Bilbao. From Bilbao via the A-68, turn off at Altube From Vitoria-Gasteiz via the N-622, turn off at Murgia Then continue through Zárate, Manurga, Murua, Gopegui and other villages of Zigoitia It is also possible to reach via the N-240, Barazar mountain pass.