If you’re driving in northern New Mexico on Good Friday, be extra cautious—thousands of people will be walking along the roadside making the annual holy pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo, a small, centuries-old Catholic chapel.
Pilgrims have a variety of reasons for making the journey to Chimayo. They walk to pray, affirm their faith, express gratitude, honor a loved one, or to collect sacred dirt that many believe has healing powers from beneath the chapel. Sometimes, it’s all of the above.
As many as 40,000 people make the journey each year, according to El Santuario’s website, and they come from across the state. Some walk hundreds of miles, some walk without shoes, others carry crosses. The pilgrimage to El Santurio is considered one of the largest, most important Catholic pilgrimages in the world.
El Santuario de Chimayo is one of six churches in northern New Mexico that serve as destinations and departure points for holy pilgrimages, but is by the far the most recognized.
It was built in 1813 in honor of a miraculous crucifix, Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas. The chapel also consists of the shrine of Santo Niño de Atocha (“the Christ Child”) and the El Pocito (“little well”) room, from which people can take small amount of holy dirt from a hole in the floor. Next to El Pocito is the Prayer Room, which is filled with discarded crutches, photographs and other mementos left by those who claim El Santuario has healed them.
El Santuario is a beautiful sight, even for secular visitors. The national landmark is nestled in a juniper-filled hillside, behind which the blue Sangre de Cristo Mountains rest. You’re almost guaranteed to have a moment of enchantment, spiritual or otherwise, when visiting this special little chapel.
For more information on El Santuario de Chimayo, visit their website.
If you’re interested in planning your own pilgrimage, check out this website for helpful information.
Are you making the pilgrimage to Chimayo this year? Share your experience in the comments section below.