With a history dating back hundreds of years, Chimayo has a wide variety of incredible stories to tell. The most fascinating and well-known of them all is the tale of the wooden crucifix and how Chimayo holy dirt came to be. While dirt may not sound like an interesting attraction, the soil found in the El Santuario de Chimayo draws thousands of people each year, all of whom hope to reap the benefits of its legendary healing abilities. Here is everything you need to know about the folklore behind Chimayo holy dirt and how you can obtain some of it for yourself!
Interested in other local attractions like Chimayo holy dirt? Then you won’t want to be without our free Vacation Guide! It’s filled with all the best things to see and do during your stay with us including nearby activities, dining, entertainment, and more.
The Wooden Crucifix and El Santuario de Chimayo Miracles
According to the folklore, on the night of Good Friday in 1810, a group of men from a secret brotherhood was engaging on a hill near the location of a once sacred spring to the Tewa Indians. One man saw a mysterious light shining in the distance, and after an investigation found a strange half-buried crucifix. The men signaled the nearest church in Santa Cruz, and its priest had the wooden crucifix carried to the church. Before dawn struck the next morning, the crucifix had strangely disappeared. It was later discovered at the original site it had been found. The priest ordered for the crucifix to be brought back to the church two more times, but each attempt, it would once again reappear in the valley. People began to understand that the crucifix was meant to stay in that spot since it was believed to be sacred.
Not long later, a Penitente brother by the name of Don Bernardo Abeyta built a small hermita (shelter) extension to his house so he may enshrine the miracle crucifix, which is now a part of the El Santuario de Chimayo. It also housed a small hole which is rumored to be the spot where the crucifix was buried and where an ancient pool of mud used by the Indians stored healing powers. Although both the crucifix and the mud have been lost to time, the hole is now filled with Chimayo holy dirt. Several people have claimed to be miraculously healed from serious illnesses thanks to the dirt, including Abeyta himself.
The Good Friday Pilgrimage
Every year on Good Friday weekend, thousands of people make their way to the El Santuario de Chimayo for the Holy Pilgrimage. Many pilgrims travel thousands of miles for this event. Some even carry heavy crosses, walk the entire journey barefoot, or approach the church on their knees. While this pilgrimage is meant for worship, many make the journey seeking the legendary healing powers of the Chimayo holy dirt. The visiting pilgrims enter a small, single-windowed room that is rumored to be the site of the original hermita. There, they may take dirt from the small hole that has existed for nearly two centuries. The uses of the holy soil vary, but those who call upon its healing powers may rub the dirt upon their bodies, sprinkle it on their food, or brew it for tea.
Does the Chimayo Holy Dirt Really Heal People?
This is a great question, and one asked by several of our visitors! Although legends and many old accounts say the dirt has miraculous healing properties, studies have shown that the dirt may be less than extraordinary. Besides the discovery of carbonates that may be beneficial for those with heartburn, no other signs of well-bringing were found in the dirt. Priests of the church have even admitted to re-filling the hole with red dirt from outside the church. No matter, many recent pilgrims have sworn the dirt healed their illnesses or injuries and the annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary has remained a valued tradition.
For more information about the El Santuario de Chimayo pilgrimage and its mission, visit their website and discover all of their sacred legends and stories. If you’d like to request your own bottle of Chimayo holy dirt, requests can be made through the El Santuario de Chimayo anytime for free!
Experience the History of Chimayo During Your Stay at Casa Escondida
Our cozy bed and breakfast in Chimayo, NM is perfect for those seeking more than the generic hotel experience. Located just minutes from the El Santuario de Chimayo, Casa Escondida provides the best of New Mexico’s countryside while never being far from all there is to experience. Our charming guest rooms accommodate guests for short term and long term stays and provides many of today’s modern comforts. The delicious daily breakfast is a favorite for many guests and features various American and New Mexican selections.
Photo Credit: Korionov/Getty Images