El Santuario de Chimayo

Date: 1816
Architect: Unknown

The Santuario sits among poplars, cottonwoods and fruit trees in a sheltered valley near the village of Chimayo north of Santa Fe. It became a popular pilgrimage site after a local friar purportedly dug a six-foot crucifix out of a glowing hillside nearby in 1810. Thousands walk here during Easter Week to pray and pick up some healing dirt from a small well off the entrance. The dozens of crutches left behind near the well attest to the dirt's powers; or at least, the power of positive thinking.

A 1918 photograph shows the Santuario's earlier incarnation, with the flat-roof, prominent vigas and flat-topped bell towers common to churches in the region. The only conspicuously unusual touch was the vaguely shoebox-like vestibule stuck on the front.

Friends of the Santuario undertook a series of renovations in the 20th century to protect its adobe walls from the weather. A pitched tin roof and tin-roofed tower caps were added. The weathered, woodfaced pediment, echoed in the bell tower caps, makes the Santuario easily distinguishable from its contemporaries in northern New Mexico.

The Santuario presents one of the indelible views in New Mexico; for many people, it's enough to make the long walk and self-flagellation worth it.