El Santuario de Chimayo was built in 1813 in the small village of El Potrero just outside of Chimayo, New Mexico. It was built after a discovery of a crucifix in 1810 and subsequent miraculous occurrences. El Santuario de Chimayo is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the world. During Easter weekend, as many as 40,000 people travel to El Santuario, some traveling hundreds of miles on foot carrying crosses.
A small doorway to the left of the altar leads to a small narrow room. In this room are messages, pictures, and tributes. Here you will find small gifts and cast off crutches left by healed pilgrims as well a shrine to Santo Nino de Atocha. At the end of this room, behind a small door, is “el pocito” (the little well) where people may take small amounts of Holy Dirt, which many believe have curative powers.
The word Chimayo derives from the hot springs that were scared to the Tewa Indians. A legend states that brethren from the secret Penitente Brotherhood were engaging in rites on a nearby hill on a dark Good Friday in 1810 when one of them saw a mysterious light coming from the valley. Upon investigation, they found a half buried crucifix, the men sent for a priest, the nearest church being ten miles away in Santa Cruz. The priest had the wooden crucifix carried in a procession to his church—but by morning it had disappeared—having been miraculously returned to its original site. This happened two more times until the people understood the message. The crucifix was to remain on the spot which had been a sacred area for the Pueblo Indians.
A chapel was built to enshrine the miracle crucifix—and also covered a hole from which came a blessed dirt that cured all ailments. The hole with the “holy dirt” seemed to replenish its self on a regular basis. Some say the priests periodically refill the hole with dirt stored behind the chapel---nevertheless, it is blessed dirt.
Travelers come to the shrine –scoop the healing dirt into jars and sprinkle it on their wounds, diseased and broken bones, and rub it onto cancerous lesions. Some walk away from the site leaving their canes and crutches behind.
What is in the contents of this miraculous dirt? A visitor ran a battery of standard analyses using a commercial soil-test kit determining the pH was 7.0 (neutral), and that nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash were at insignificant levels.
Upon this author's visit I filled three empty peanut butter jars full of the mystical dirt. When I returned to Phoenix, I spooned the sacred soil into smaller containers to give to friends and family who needed prayers and healing. As for the famous sacred dirt? Chimayo is very purifying. It heals the mind and the spirit.
To get to El Santuario de Chimayo Shrine:
Directions: From Chimayo drive east on Highway 76 for one mile, then turn right onto Country Road 98/Juan Medina Road. Drive south on mile, then turn left onto Santuario Drive. The shrine will be on the left.
Arizona Haunted Sites Examiner: Debe Branning firstname.lastname@example.org