"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sanctuary from time

El Santuario de Chimayó -- 9 by 12 watercolor
Time seems to stand still in certain places. For me, one of those is El Santuario de Chimayó on the high road to Taos in New Mexico.
While the church turned 200 this year, visiting it is like going back in time, to medieval faith and thought. 
The shrine, a National Historic Landmark, is famous as a pilgrimage site and its miraculous healing dirt, referred to as the "Lourdes of the Southwest." More than 300,000 visit it every year, many as just tourists, but most as Catholics professing faith and seeking healing.
About  30,000 people from all over the world make pilgrimages during Holy Week. Walking is traditional. The highway shoulders are crammed with people during those days. 

 Why? Step inside the church and you enter a different world of 16th Century faith--you are breathing time standing still. The side room contains a small room where a round pit holds the "holy dirt"--tierra bendita. People rub it on themselves or take it with them (Yes, I have some). The dirt is blessed by priests and  replenished daily.
What is impressive are the walls crowded with discarded crutches, crosses, photographs and other testimonials from those healed.
Legend says that during a holy week in the early 1800s, a friar saw a light shining from the hillside and dug the crucifix up with his bare hands. A priest took it to the Santa Cruz church, but the crucifix mysteriously returned to the spot where it was found. After the third time this happened, a chapel was built to house the crucifix, and then in 1816, the present church.
Built of adobe, it is 60 feet long and 24 feet wide with walls more than three feet thick. The present caps on the tower and metal roof were added in the 1920s. 
Inside you find hand carved doors by 19th century carpenter Pedrom Dominguez. The nave containes a six-foot tall crucifix by the santero Molleno, 1800-1850, representing Christ of Esquipulas.
Much has been written about the shrine and it is often painted and photographed, and change outside is coming rapidly. It even has a web page, and parking areas and other fancy touristy stuff are being added close by.
But for me, whether you believe in the legends or miracles or not, it is a place where time stands still. Today's watercolor hopes to catch that spirit.   

The early Santuario.
 

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