Chimayó Pilgrimage Buffs spring break 2017

The Santuario de Chimayó is a National Historic Landmark in the north central part of New Mexico. It is a contemporary pilgrimage site that is known for the story of how it was founded. The Santuario receives almost 300,000 visitors per year and has been called " doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States.”

Day 1: Arroyo Hondo to Arroyo Seco

In 1810, Don Bernardo Abeyta, Hermano of the Penitentes of Chimayó, was (so the story goes) praying on a hilltop called the Calvario on the evening of Good Friday. He saw a light glowing on the hillside below, alongside the Santa Cruz River. Investigating, he found a 6- foot-tall crucifix partially buried in the soil. He collected the locals to help him dig up the cross and take it to the nearest church: Santa Cruz, 9 miles away.

Arroyo Seco

Day 2: Arroyo Seco to Taos

The crucifix was unusual. It was painted green and adorned with stylized buds like branches of a tree. The crucifix was similar to the Cross of Esquipulas in Guatemala, where the natives venerated the Living Tree when the Spanish introduced Christianity. The idea of the Son of God being crucified on a Living Tree, representing continuity of life after the resurrection, was understood well by the Guatemalans. They quickly accepted Christianity when it was introduced. How and why the Living Tree cross came to be buried in the hillside of Chimayó is a mystery.

Francisco de Asis Church

Day 3: Taos to Peñasco

The day after Don Abeyta and the other residents brought the crucifix to the church of Santa Cruz, it disappeared. The next night, Don Abeyta again found the glowing light on the hillside and re-discovered the crucifix in the soil. For the second time, they made their pilgrimage to the church while carrying the cross. It was gone yet again the following day. Once more, it was found on the hillside and brought to the churh. After the third disappearance and reappearance, the villagers accepted that the crucifix was determined to stay in Chimayó and built a simple adobe hut around it.

Day 4: Peñasco to Truchas

Over the next three years, many people made pilgrimages to see the cross and took soil with them as a tangible element to recall the mystery. By 1813, Don Abeyta, on behalf of the residents, made a formal request to the local priest to build a chapel of devotion to the crucifix, in order to accommodate the many pilgrims who visit. The priest sent a letter to the bishop passing on the request. The chapel was completed by 1816. It is not, and never has been, a parish church, nor a mission church.

Day 5: Truchas to El Chimayo

Since its construction, it has been a shrine. Don Abeyta, an Hermano Mayor of the Penitentes, kept the faith alive during the following period of time when clergy were absent and instability grasped the community. Notably, he commissioned artwork that would increase devotion to El Señor de Esquipulas, as well as convey their understanding of the tenants of Catholicism. Much of the original artwork survives in the church today. To this day, people continue to take a little soil home with them.

Weather driving home

Newly Renovated Church at Costilla

The End

Created By
Jesus Banuelos-Rivera


Jesus Banuelos-Rivera

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