Basílica de Santa María
After the conquest of the city by Jaume I in 1265, a foundational Gothic-style church was built atop an ancient Muslim mosque where the Basilica Saint Mary now stands. In 1556, a second, larger church was completed. Heavy rains caused it to collapse over 100 years ago, thus inspiring its current elaborately decorated reincarnation. The façade designed by Strasbourg sculptor Nicolás de Bussi (1680-1682).is considered one of the most beautiful examples of the Valencian Baroque style.
Travelers may explore the basilica during a half-day, full-day private or group walking tour of the town including attractions like ancient palm groves of the UNESCO-listed Palmeral of Elche, and the Huerto del Cura National Artistic Garden, with a stop at a local restaurant to sample local specialties. Some tours extend to Alicante to further discover the culture and history on the Costa Blanca and its many historical landmarks.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Suitable for solo travelers, couples, families.
- Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes and sun protection, as well as appropriate dress for visiting the church’s interior.
- Admission inside the basilica is free, while climbing the tower is about US$2, with children under 5 welcomed without charge.
- The church is wheelchair accessible.
- Tours may include round trip hotel transfers. Check specific tours for details.
How to Get There
The Basilica of Saint Mary is located on Plaça de Sta. Maria in Elche, about 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) and a 30-minute drive southwest of Alicante. If taking public transportation, take the C1 train from Alicante Terminal 3 stops to Elx Parc in Elche, or the ALSA bus; each route takes just under 30 minutes.
When to Get There
The Basilica of Saint Mary is open daily, 7am - 1pm and 5:30 - 9pm, while its tower is open 10:30am - 3pm, and until 7pm June through September. The Mystery of Elche performance takes place in August. Spring and fall in the region offers warm weather and fewer crowds. Come in June for San Juan's Bonfires (Hogueras de San Juan), marked by large satirical artistic papier-mâché figures and fireworks, and in March for Carnival, a three-week fiesta of costume parades, music, and dancing.
Mystery of Elche Landing on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list, the Mystery of Elche (Misterio de Elche) theatrical performance celebrating the death and assumption of Saint Mary takes place each August at the basilica and is a major draw. The traditional play features over 300 performers and has been performed since the 13th-century at Basilica of Saint Mary, the only Catholic church in the world allowed to host the event.
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