Pilgrimage to El Santuario: The Holy Dirt of Chimayo
El Santuario de Chimayo is a haven, a refuge, a healing sanctuary. It is one of the most visited holy sites in the United States. It’s also a prominent historic landmark in the state of New Mexico, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors and seekers of spiritual healing from all around the world. In spite of its fame and frequent comparisons to the Lourdes in France, Chimayo remains a simple and peaceful destination. You can focus here, pray or meditate, and refresh your spirit as others have done since the ancient days of the Pueblo people.
What is El Santuario de Chimayo?
El Santuario de Chimayo is a small and quiet adobe church where seekers of physical, mental, and spiritual healing make pilgrimages to see and touch the holy dirt. Once upon a time, long before the Spanish made their way to Chimayo, there were hot springs in this area. The land was originally called Tsimajopokwi by the Tewa people, where “pokwi” meant “pool of water.” It was later shortened to Tsimajo when the water dried up and left only the dirt behind. This is now spelled “Chimayo,” and many other changes have been made over the years. The area remains a place of refuge and renewal for thousands of people.
In the 1800’s, Catholic legend tells that a priest discovered a crucifix, half-buried in the dirt. When the crucifix returned to its original location multiple times, the priests took this as a sign from God. It was very common at the time to graft Catholic elements and stories onto the traditional holy sites of native peoples in a process called syncretism. That is a method of converting native tribes to a new religion through things like cleverly implemented “miracles” and by modifying existing holidays to connect them to the new religion.
This is how the small shelter came to be built around the crucifix. The hole of blessed dirt was then reported to instantly heal illness and cure a range of disabling conditions. Although the land around Chimayo has been recognized as holy since ancient times, all the way back to when the hot springs were still active, it wasn’t connected to western religion until the 1800’s, after the discovery of the crucifix.
Miracles from the Holy Dirt of Chimayo
A range of legends and stories exist about the healing powers of the holy dirt of Chimayo. These come from Native Americans, Roman Catholics, and pilgrims who have traveled to behold the sacred soil. One child was reportedly cured of a rare and deadly cancer. Another man described his sickly mother becoming well after visiting the site. There are even those who claim to have cured relatives by visiting the holy dirt and putting it on photographs.
Of course, others believe in more scientific explanations for this phenomenon, while still others cite the importance of a spiritual connection to God in these healing stories. Investigations of the dirt itself show no remarkable properties that differentiate it from other samples of soil. Many people, including some priests, report that the hole is refilled with ordinary dirt from the outside of the church. They claim that this dirt is blessed, but otherwise the same as any other dirt. Another common belief is that it replenishes itself. A collection of canes, crutches, and walking sticks attest to the stories of miracle healing.
Your Visit to El Santuario de Chimayo
When you make your own pilgrimage to see the holy dirt of Chimayo, you’ll find the hole much smaller than you might expect. There are shops nearby to purchase dishes and bottles to hold the blessed dirt that you collect. The hole is called “El Pocito,” and is located at the site of the crucifix, reportedly found in 1810. There are multiple shrines, photos, and a range of relics and offerings from past visitors. You can take home some of the holy dirt as a souvenir or as a spiritual tool of healing. People frequently rub the dirt on afflicted body parts and then pray for the healing powers. If you visit this holy site for healing, share your story with us.