Church of the Saint
Parish of Saint Nicholas

Hidden in the solitary lands of the Oca Mountains, there is a Sanctuary where the Jacobean pilgrim has found, since the times of Saint John of Ortega, a warm welcome as well as moments of rest, recollection and prayer.

We welcome you and invite you to visit the Church of the Saint. This space that you now visit, occupies the place where John originally built a chapel in honour of Saint Nicholas of Myra and kept the relics that he brought from the Holy Land. At the death of John, his body was buried in this place and in the stone grave that you are going to find.

“Saint John of Ortega built bridges, straightened roads and made passable difficult and dangerous paths of the Way of Saint James”

We will tell you a bit of history to know the figure of our saint and delve into the deep spirituality of this place. Saint John of Ortega was born in 1080 in Quintanaortuño, a town located north of the city of Burgos. He was a disciple and successor of the work of Saint Dominic of the Causeway. From him he took an example for his evangelizing work and with him collaborated in the task of improving the Way of Saint James through La Rioja and Burgos. After the death of his master, John made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1112. Upon his return a violent storm threatened to wreck the ship he was travelling on, so John entrusted himself to Saint Nicholas of Myra, protector of the sailors, promising that if, through his intercession, he saved their lives, he would build a chapel in their honour. After this experience, he retired to do penance to the place of Ortega -from which he took the name-, located in the inhospitable Mountains of Oca. This was the place he chose to erect a simple chapel, to fulfil his promise.

Our saint followed the example of Christ, made his message known, took care of the needs of the pilgrims and improved the route of the Way of Saint James through these lands.

His following and fidelity to the Lord soon made him famous and the pilgrims began to deviate from the natural route to reach Ortega. Soon a group of people joined him in this commendable work and a small hostel was built next to the chapel where the walkers could stay. Jean organized his followers into a community of regular canons under the Rule of Saint Augustine with the sole purpose of protection and service to pilgrims who walk to the tomb of the Apostle Saint James

“Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me”

Saint Matthew 25, 40

John died in Nájera, where he was travelling, on June 2, 1163, and was taken to this church that he had dedicated to Saint Nicholas to be buried. His reputation for sanctity grew and spread, causing the arrival of more pilgrims to venerate him already as Saint John of Ortega. His work continued to grow thanks to his followers and, due to the large influx of pilgrims and devotees, numerous expansions were made that formed the monastic complex that you now visit.

In the 15th century, after a period of decline, monastic life was reborn, thanks to the arrival of the Order of Saint Jerome in 1432, which remained until the confiscation of Mendizábal in the 19th century. After a long and fruitful time in which they attended the pilgrims and the worship of the sanctuary, the monks had to abandon it. Today the monastery is entrusted to the Canonry of the Cathedral of Burgos.

The church you visit was built on the simple chapel that Saint John built by order of Queen Elizabeth of Castile, the Catholic, who was the mother of Prince Juan, after visiting the tomb of the Saint to ask for the grace to conceive an heir. It is a wide rectangular nave covered by three ribbed vaults adorned with keys with the Sanctuary’s shield. In addition, in the head there is another major key with the royal shield that includes the pomegranate, which indicates that it is after 1492. The interior space is divided by a sober grille made in 1547. Behind it is the uncut stone coffin where the Saint was originally buried. Similarly, on the side walls you can see a set of paintings from the 17th century. They are scenes of the miracles that were performed through the intercession of the Saint among the devotees who visited his tomb.

Now you can sit down to contemplate carefully the curious altarpiece-reliquary that presides the head of the temple. It is in the Baroque style and from the mid-18th century. The ensemble is crowned by a small carving of Saint Jerome who carries in his hand a model of a temple that symbolizes his condition as doctor of the Church. At his feet, there is a lion with which he is usually represented.

The side streets can be opened to reveal numerous reliquaries from different eras inside. Meanwhile, the central part is adorned with two beautiful reliefs, probably from the late 16th century. In the upper relief you can contemplate an intimate scene, the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus in her arms before the attentive gaze of Saint Anne, mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus. In the lower relief, you can see Saint John of Ortega accompanied by Saint Nicholas of Myra with a staff and a mitre of a bishop, the titular saint of this chapel and to whom he professed great devotion.

And at the bottom of the altarpiece, the greatest treasure you can find in this temple, the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle, goes unnoticed. The living Christ has saved and redeemed us, has given us eternal life free of charge and is always by our side.

“It would be a sin not to distribute much, if God gives us so much”

Saint Nicholas of Myra

We hope your visit has been pleasant. Before leaving the temple following your path, we invite you to have a time of recollection and prayer, to sit in silence and meditate on the life of dedication of Saint John of Ortega or to adore the Lord in his real presence in front of the Tabernacle.

We put at your disposal some prayers and links that can help you in these moments of internalization. In the same way, you can delve into the life of the Saints in the altarpiece thanks to the various links in the text.

Prayer to
Saint Nicholas of Myra

Oh blessed Saint Nicholas of Myra! to whom God has glorified with innumerable miracles manifesting his will that we come to you, in the difficult moments of our life, confident in your protection. Oh wonder of charity! attended by families, the poor, the sick, the merchants, the employees, the prisoners, the children, the damsels in danger; I humbly ask you to achieve the grace that I expect from you, trusting in your most precious protection, that you never deny your devotees, so that, favored by your goodness, let us once again sing the mercies of the Lord, and the wonders of his saints. Provident Saint Nicholas! do not leave me.

Prayer to
the Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


On June 2 the festivity of Saint John of Ortega is celebrated, although nowadays the Pilgrimage is organized on the first Saturday of June. The inhabitants of the nearby towns come to Saint John of Ortega with banners and processional crosses to parade together in procession with the Saint. It ends with an act of thanksgiving at the tomb of the holy protector.

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Enter and navigate the temple.

Help the Sanctuary

The temple is the house of God and ours. Let’s collaborate to keep it worthy.

If you wish to collaborate in the conservation and restoration works of this Sanctuary of Saint John of Ortega, deposit your donation here.



(Caja Viva)