Sanctuary Saved

April 6, 2012

During Easter Week each year, Chimayo-a rural village 30 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico-hosts tens of thousands of pilgrims who come here to pray, attend services, and gather sandy soil from the floor of a tiny room adjacent to the town's chapel. The "holy dirt," dug locally and blessed by a priest, is said to promote healing, even of terminal diseases and permanent disabilities.

Sacred Santuario

The Santuario de Chimayo shelters a shrine believed to convey miraculous powers to the faithful. This humble Spanish colonial adobe chapel was built by regional religious leader Don Bernardo Abeyta between 1813 and 1816, reportedly to honor the inexplicable recovery of a lost crucifix at the site.

In 2002, The Trust for Public Land helped protect the Santuario's serene backdrop by conserving and transferring to Santa Fe County 17 acres of pasture behind the chapel.

"Our intention was to keep up the traditional agricultural use of these properties and their serene ambiance," recalls Jenny Parks, TPL's former New Mexico state director.  "These aspects are very important to the people of Chimayo and the thousands of people who come to the Santuario."

Pilgrimage Saved

A registered National Historic Landmark, the chapel receives nearly 300,000 visitors each year--mainly around Easter, when thousands of worshippers walk from as far as Albuquerque, 90 miles south. The land surrounding the Santuario still yields forage for livestock and supports native plants and animals, all now permanently protected.

"There's definitely a powerful feeling of spirituality surrounding the chapel," says Edward Archuleta, who grew up in Santa Fe and began visiting the Santuario as a small child. "When my family came here, after praying and blessing myself with holy dirt, I would always run around the back, climb over the fence to play in the river, and gaze into the beautiful meadows behind the church."

Learn more about our work in Chimayo.