Each year, this picturesque shrine near Santa Fe attracts nearly 300,000 visitors, many in search of the spiritual and physical healing long believed to emanate from the very earth beneath it.
At One Time, in Texas: El Santuario de Chimayo
In our continuing series, At One Time, in Texas, we present images from American regions, towns, and landmarks that fell within the boundaries of the historic Republic of Texas.
Photos by Andrew Miller for No. Four St. James.
Our first visit to the former territory of the Republic of Texas took us to beautiful Creede, Colorado. Today we head 200 miles south, to the rolling foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico. There, the little town of Chimayo looks today much as it likely did while a part of Texas, with small adobe buildings, friendly dogs in the streets, and red chile peppers—called ristras—dried and strung beneath the eaves.
Chimayo is a quiet place. The town itself is home to fewer than 3,000 people. Yet, more than 300,000 visitors make their way to Chimayo each year. Some of those visitors come to see the famous Chimayo chile peppers, unique in their form and flavor, and still harvested and roasted using traditional methods.
But most visitors visit Chimayo as pilgrims, visiting a modest but picturesque shrine called El Santuario de Chimayo. This small Roman Catholic church, cozily walled within a courtyard, sits on what many Christians and non-Christians alike believe to be holy ground, with healing properties emanating from the very soil itself.
There are different versions of the history here, and the miracles associated with the church’s founding. In one version, a local friar discovered a crucifix buried in the dirt, which miraculously returned to its spot in the dirt three times after being unearthed. The crucifix—called Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas—is on display within the sanctuary to this day. In the more refined version of the story, it was a local Chimayo resident named Bernardo Abeyta who discovered the buried crucifix, and in reverence to the discovery built a chapel there in 1813, only to be replaced three years later by the sanctuary that stands today, and which stood during the time of the Republic of Texas.
Both versions El Santuario’s history include stories of miraculous healing that began shortly after construction of the chapel, and Native Americans attribute healing powers to the surrounding lands long before that. Many of today’s pilgrims travel to Chimayo with hopes of receiving relief from physical and spiritual maladies. A popular destination within the compound is “el pocito,” a small hole in the floor from which visitors extract dirt believed to have healing properties.
Today, El Santuario de Chimayo is cared for by the Sons of the Holy Family, a congregation of priests founded in Spain in 1864. In 1970, it was declared a National Historic Landmark, and has also earned a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places. It remains a special place for all who visit, and for Texans, holds the extra special quality of having been, at one time, in Texas.
For more information about El Santuario’s history, sites, and pilgrimages, visit their official website.