Intérieur de l'église Saint-Laurent à Cambo-les-Bains Pays basque

Jondoni Laurendi Eliza

Cambo parish

Saint-Laurent church dates back to the 16th century, but was remodeled in the 17th century.

Its bell tower was built in 1875. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and distinctive churches in the Basque Country.

Outside, around the church, old discoidal steles can be seen on the site of the former Cambo-les-Bains cemetery. They are emblematic funerary monuments that symbolize the passage of the deceased’s soul from earthly to heavenly life. Very often, the round part is engraved with a Basque cross, the family name, or symbols representing the life or profession of the deceased.

As you enter the church, you’ll discover the superb 17th-century gilded wood altarpiece, listed as a Monument Historique. Between twisted columns decorated with foliage and bunches of grapes (symbols of the blood and Body of Christ), stands a remarkable anonymous 17th-century work depicting “the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence”, which took place in Rome in 258.

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Saint Laurent, the patron saint of the church in Cambo, is also the patron saint of the cathedral church in Osca or Huesca (Spain).

He was executed for distributing the church’s wealth to the poor so that it would not fall into the hands of pagans.

In the center of the painting, the martyr, stripped of his clothes, sits on a grill, while his expressive gaze gazes up at the sky, expressing his hope that the promise of immortality will be fulfilled. On the left, Emperor Valerian (or his representative, the Prefect of Rome) watches the Saint’s execution with great severity.

As you enter the church, on the right under the galleries, is the statue of Saint-Léon, patron saint of Bayonne.

It was donated in 1728 by Marie-Anne de Neubourg, Queen Dowager of Spain and exiled to Bayonne since 1706, who came here twice in 1728 and 1729 to drink the waters of Cambo on the advice of her Bayonne doctor.

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Saint Leon was commissioned by the Pope to evangelize the Basques. First bishop of Bayonne, he converted non-believers in Labourd, Navarre and Vizcaya, and was beheaded by Vikings around 890, near the river Nive.

According to legend, Leon walked a distance of 80 paces holding his own head in his hands, and at the point of his fall sprang a spring that has since been reputed to be miraculous, whose water has beneficial properties for women about to give birth and for curing eye diseases.

Carved wooden galleries are a typical feature of Basque churches. There are 3 in Cambo-les-Bains, dating back to 1609.

One tradition was for the men to sit upstairs in the galleries and the women downstairs.

Indeed, women were considered the guardians of the family’s living and dead. Their task was to cover the body with a sheet and burn the mourning candle, the ezkoa.

The ezkoa is a candle made of beeswax, rolled up on itself, which could burn for a very long time. Until the candle burned out, they had to make prayers and offerings.

The church’s stained glass windows

Inside the church, you can see two stained glass windows donated by the Harispe family in 1868 (chocolatier in Cambo), the one on the left depicting the Nativity and the one on the right the Descent from the Cross.

The Virgin and Child

To the right of the altar, a glazed terracotta depicts the Virgin and Child. The work is inspired by Italian art, particularly the work of Lucas Della Robbia. It was given by Edmond Rostand for the private communion of one of his sons, Jean Rostand, on July 29, 1906.

Practical information

Eglise Saint Laurent
Patrimoine culturel

Eglise Saint Laurent

The town of Cambo-les-Bains preserve a typical basque church : the Saint-Laurent’s Church. The church has been built on the XVII century. Reshuffled several times, the church is now composed by an…

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