Thousands of pilgrims make their way each year to this simple adobe church in a small village in northern New Mexico, a place sometimes described as the Lourdes of North America. Its fame began around the year 1810, when a local friar saw a light springing from one of the hills near the Santa Cruz River. After following it to its source, he found in the earth a crucifix bearing a dark-skinned Jesus. The local villagers paid homage to the relic and then took it to a church in nearby Santa Cruz. Mysteriously, during the night the crucifix returned to its original location. After this happened two more times, the locals built a small chapel to house the crucifix in Chimayo.
Through the years the story of the crucifix became intertwined with earlier Native American beliefs that the earth here has healing properties. Pilgrims gather dirt from the floor of the Santuario de Chimayo, whose walls are filled with discarded crutches, photographs, and other tokens of those who have received cures here.
Did You Know? The most popular time to visit Chimayo is during Easter week, when many pilgrims walk from Santa Fe, 25 miles to the south.
Next site: Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky
Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.