New Mexico Travelogue: Santuario de Chimayo

New Mexico Travelogue: Santuario de Chimayo

What: The Sanctuary of Chimayo

Where: Village of Chimayo, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, 30 miles north of Santa Fe


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Why: Famous as the “Lourdes of America” with a reputed history of miraculous cures

In 1810, a friar discovered a crucifix in a sand pit. He took it home with him. When he awoke the next day, the crucifix was gone, only to be rediscovered later that day in the same sand pit. This disappearance and rediscovery was repeated twice more, leading the friar to conclude the Lord intended him to worship at that location. He and the townspeople erected a small chapel almost immediately, and the present structure was completed almost six years later. The sand pit was left open and accessible from a spot behind the altar, and early pilgrims were encouraged to take a handful as a blessing. Before long, the dirt was said to have miraculous healing properties.

In the present day, at Easter, believers in need of miracles for themselves or a loved one travel to Chimayo from the world over. In true penitent fashion, it is customary to make at least a portion of the journey on foot. Some begin their walk from as many as 100 miles away. Some, hobbled by afflictions, weighted down with offerings, or bearing life-size crosses, will walk only the last few miles.

Crowds of recent years have been estimated in the tens of thousands. Also in the tens of thousands are the homemade shrines, crucifixes, candles, prayer offerings and rosaries that will be left at the stations of the cross, draped across statuary, woven into the chain link fence that separates church grounds from a stable yard on the adjacent property, nailed to tree trunks, or cast adrift on the Santa Cruz River that runs along the south edge of the church grounds.

Any who enter the grounds will be struck by the poignancy of the scene before them and will find it impossible not to be awed and humbled by the sight of rosaries hanging from tree limbs like confetti, to be saddened by the many faces of the departed and afflicted smiling out from sepia-toned photos tucked into laminated holders, to be overwhelmed by the sight of the aged and infirm making their tortuous way along dusty paths between the stations of the cross, to be soothed by the soft murmur of whispered prayers or shocked by the anguished wails of the grief stricken. For believers and cynics alike, the Santuario de Chimayo is a place that has been made venerable by suffering, consecrated by tears, and leavened by hope. And for many, it is a place of sweet surcease from pain and suffering, whether of a moment, a lifetime, or all eternity.

New Mexico Travelogue: Santuario de Chimayo

Mitchell Tillison

Albuquerque, United States

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

A traveler’s guide to the Santuario de Chimayo, in Chimayo, New Mexico.

Artwork Comments

  • dncraker
  • PaulAlbert
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