Sunday, December 21, 2014

El Santuario de Chimayo

This excursion was about a month ago but I am looking at photos again now so I thought I'd make a post! I had wanted to visit this little church for a while but reviews said it was small and not a "destination." Nothing else is nearby so we kept putting it off and putting it off. I am a big fan of cemeteries and churches but Jeff? kind of gets bored. I am not religious but I always find the displays beautiful, interesting and haunting/creepy. I find rituals of any kind bizarre and fascinating. Churches however are usually the best buildings in any town. So off we went to Chimayo, NM for a road trip about an hour to hour and a half away. It was a nice drive past Santa Fe and into the mountains on the road toward Taos. When we arrived we pulled into the lower parking lot and didn't even see the church, but rather some statues and photo collages and lots of crosses. After rambling around a bit we did find the church itself as well as the Shrine of Santa Nino Atocha (kind of a deceased baby church). The Chimayo Santuary was built in 1816 and became a pilgrimage of miracles with a little hole (el pucito) of holy dirt that supposedly cures all. This hole's dirt is "replenished" with dirt from the nearby hillside to a tune of 25-30 tons a year! Apparently everyone wants some dust. The church itself is a small and beautiful adobe structure. The arches and surrounding hillsides remind me of hobbit land or a fairytale movie set. There were a lot of the bag light luminaries in preparation for the holidays. It would be spectacular to see all lit up at night. The wood carvings were very impressive and inside the buildings the statues/figures and alters were truly wonderful. Unfortunately photos are not allowed inside the sanctuaries. One building didn't have signs so I took a couple quick photos but rushed because despite the lack of "no photo" signs I wasn't sure it was really ok. There was a wall of baby shoes that was oddly art-like. All around the premises there were crosses and rosaries. People make the trek there and leave these things behind. The setting, like many places in New Mexico, is just surreal with a quiet beauty. We saw some tile work of the same Saint or mythological creature we had seen at a high school a few weeks earlier. I'll have to look into the meaning of it since it has reappeared! The church has really marketed itself with free holy dirt for all, a restaurant (we didn't partake), gift shop, and rambling around caretaker type. I think it is worth another visit.