Holy Christ of Limpias
In the province of Cantabria one can find the Village of Limpias, famous for the Sanctuary of the Holy Christ of Agony.
The name Limpias comes from the thermal waters known as the Waters of Limpias. The village is small, about 1,200 residents, and it is here where the Church of St. Peter was built.
In the main altar of the Church of St. Peter, apostle of Limpias, a prodigious image of Christ in agony is venerated. The crucifix is a meditation of the sufferings of Our Lord in the moments of His final agony. The image of Christ is of natural size, measuring six feet high placed on a cross of 2.30 meters high. The arms appear to be soft and relaxed as of a man that stretched them without effort. His index and angular fingers in both hands are extended as if giving the final blessing . . . .
His face has an indescribable expression, a particular beauty: he is looking towards heaven, and depending on where we look from, the expression of Jesus is different, not only of pain, but also of prayer and contemplation to the Father. On both sides of Christ, stand two images: the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sorrowful Mother and Saint John the evangelist.
The origin of this beautiful image is not well known. It is believed it was venerated in Cadiz, in the Franciscan Church, and after a flood there it was taken to the oratory of Don Diego de la Piedra, a knight and professor of the Order of St. James. Stories are told that a tidal wave threatened the city of Cadiz, and the Christian people took in procession the images most venerated of the city, the waters were detained and turned back before the image of Christ of Agony (Limpias). After this miracle, the people in thanksgiving to the Lord, requested the image of the Holy Christ would be placed in a special way for veneration in the Church of Cadiz.
Don Diego died in the year 1755, leaving several things in his will, and not forgetting his birth town of Limpias:
“He requested the Church of St. Peter in Limpias be renovated, building the main altar in gold, and placing the three images: Our Lord agonizing on the Cross, his Blessed Mother and St. John the evangelist.
That is why the Church was converted to the Sanctuary of the Holy Christ of Agony.
Since March 30th, 1919 word spread that in Limpias extraordinary events happen. It was said that the beautiful image of the Holy Christ of Agony moves its eyes, giving the sensation that his body is moving, that he would bleed and sweat. Limpias became famous and many pilgrims came to visit from all over the world.
The first to see the miracle was Father Antonio Lopez, a professor at the St. Vincent de Paul school located in the village:
“One day in the month of August 1914 I went to the Church with the intention of installing an electrical light in the main altar. I was alone in the Church on a ladder leaning on the back wall of the image of Christ crucified. After two hours of work, I started to clean the image so it would be seen better. My head was at the same level as Christ’s. Less than two feet away through the window rays of light were penetrating beautifully and completely illuminated the altar.
"Noticing nothing abnormal and after a long time of work, I stared at the eyes of the image and observed that his eyes were closed. For several minutes I saw with clarity his eyes closed, even so that I started to doubt if they were ever opened.
"I couldn’t believe what my eyes were contemplating. I started to feel my strength diminishing and I lost my balance, I fell off the ladder to the ground, suffering great pain. After recovering my reason I was able to confirm from where I was that the eyes of Jesus crucified still remained closed. I rapidly abandoned that Church, and told my community what happened. Minutes later after leaving the Church I met the sacristan who was about to ring the bells of the Church for the Angelus. When he saw me so agitated, he asked me what was wrong. I told him what happened, and he was not surprised because he had heard before that the Holy Christ had closed his eyes in more than one occasion.”
The priest professor thinking that the eye movement might have been due to some type of mechanism, and giving much importance to his vision, decided to carefully examine the image. He was able to confirm that the image had no mechanism and his eyes are permanently in place. Not even pressuring them hard did they move. He confirmed this several times.
At the petition of his superiors, Father Antonio wrote all that occurred to him, maintaining prudence by order of his spiritual director. Not until March 16th, 1920, one year after the miraculous incident of 1919, was this declared to the public.
At the beginning of the year 1919 the missions were taken place at the Parish of Limpias. On the last day of the mission while the priest celebrated Holy Mass, giving a homily based on the words of Prov. 23:26, two other priests were in the confessionals. A girl of 12 years old entered the confessional and told the priest that the image of Christ had his eyes closed. The priest, thinking that it was the girl’s imagination, ignored it until other children approached him with the same story. At the end of the homily, the priest from the confessional went to tell the priest celebrant of the Holy Mass what was happening. Both priests looked at the crucifix without noticing anything unusual happening. All of a sudden one of the faithful in the Church screamed: “ Look at the crucifix.” In a few minutes the people confirmed with enthusiasm what the children saw. People started to cry, others screamed, saying they have seen a miracle and others fell on their knees praying and imploring mercy from God.
To verify the phenomenon, after the church was empty the pastor went up the ladder to the Holy image, touched the face of Jesus and his neck with a handkerchief and was able to confirm that the image was perspiring, confirming to those present his wet fingers.
The second manifestation occurred on April 13th, 1919 on Palm Sunday, when the prominent men of Limpias came close to the altar doubting and considering that what was happening was due to collective hysteria and hallucination. As the men came closer to the altar they were able to see the eyes and mouth of Christ move. Suddenly they fell on their knees asking forgiveness and imploring mercy from God.
The third manifestation took place on April 20th, 1919, on Easter Sunday in the presence of a group of religious sisters of the Order of the Daughters of the Cross. They saw the eyes and mouth of the Holy Christ move while praying the Holy Rosary.
Since the 24th of April of that same year the manifestations repeated almost daily, and, as expected, the Church was filled with people who wanted to see the miracle.
The Rev.Barón Von Kleist, a priest from the village, said:
"Many people testified that Our Lord looked at them, to some in a subtle way, to others with some sadness, and to some with a penetrating and a sidelong glance. Many saw tears in His eyes, others say to have seen drops of blood falling from His wounds produced by the thorns of His crown. Many and various manifestations were documented: seeing the image of Christ move His eyes from side to side at the moment of the blessing and looking at the whole Church in a captivating way, and also moving his head crowned with thorns and sighing."
Pilgrimages and many testimonies
Pilgrimages from many places started to come to the village of Limpias. Newspapers filled with articles relating the events in Limpias were distributed all over Spain and abroad. Finally in 1921, the number of pilgrims grew so much that the extension of traffic at Limpias surpassed visitors to the Sanctuary of Lourdes. Principality, as well as dignitaries from the Church of Spain, including bishops and cardinals visited the Sanctuary of Limpias-Christ of Agony. Archbishops also came from Mexico, Peru, Manila, Cuba and other nations. Many albums are in the sacristy of the Church of Limpias with over 8,000testimonies from people that confirm the manifestations. 2,500 of those testimonies were given “under oath”. Among the witnesses are members of religious orders, priests, doctors, lawyers, professors, officers, merchants, ranchers, believers and non-believers.
The first bishop to be granted the favor to experiment the manifestations was Don Manuel Ruiz y Rodriguez, bishop of Cuba, who went to Limpias after his visit to Rome. After returning to his country Cuba, he wrote a pastoral letter to the members of his dioceses exposing without reservations everything concerning the miraculous crucifix. He wrote about how the eyes of Jesus moved from side to side and how His face, at one point was expressively agonizing. Since this moment, devotion spread throughout Cuba to the agonizing Christ of Limpias.
In July 29th, 1919, Father Celestino Maria de Pozuelo, a Capuchin who visited the Parish of Limpias wrote about his experience: “The face presented a vivid expression of pain, the body discolored as if it had just received cruel lashes and it was totally bathed in sweat.”
Rev. Valentin Incio, from Gijon, related that he visited Limpias on August 4th, 1919. At his arrival he united to a group of pilgrims who were witnessing the miracle at that moment. About 30-40 people were present, two priests, 10 sailors and a woman who didn’t stop crying. Father Incio wrote:
“Upon arrival I contemplated Our Lord has if he was alive; His head maintained the accustomed position and His outline had a natural expression, but His eyes were full of life looking in different directions . . . at one point, He stared at the sailors, contemplating them for a long time, later He looked listless towards the sacristy also for a long time. At this moment a touching experience happened to all of us: Jesus looked straight at all of us, but in such a sweet, soft, expressive, loving and divine way, that all of us present fell on our knees, crying and adoring Christ.
"Our Lord continued to move His eyes and eyelids that glared as if they were full of tears. He moved His lips softly as if wanting to say something or praying. At the same time the women I had mentioned before was next to me and saw the Lord trying to move His arms, struggling to loosen them from the Cross.”
Three priests, 10 sailors and one woman gave this testimony.
On September 15th, 1919, two bishops in company of 18 priests, related their story when prostrated before the crucifix:
“We all saw the sadness worsen on the Face of the Holy Christ. His mouth was also open, more than usual. His eyes were staring directly at the bishops and later in the direction towards the sacristy. His gestures simultaneously took on an expression as of a man that was fighting to survive.”
On December 24th, 1919, in company of a group of people, the Priest confessor of the Church of Our Lady of Pilar in Zaragosa, Don Manuel Cubi, saw the Holy Christ in agony of death. “Our Lord tried to come down the Cross with severe and convulsive movements. Later He raised His head, moved His eyes and closed His mouth. On some occasions I was able to see His tongue and teeth. For approximately half an hour He manifested to us how costly it was for Him our salvation and how much he suffered for us in the moment of His abandonment on the Cross.”
Miracles of healing and official Church recognition
Several medical reports were submitted . . .
The miraculous manifestations of the Holy Christ were not only the ones reported, many healings were also reported. By July 1920, there were over 1,000 healings certified by doctors. Few of these healings took place in Limpias, but rather when the pilgrims returned home and were in contact with religious objects that touched the crucifix.
The bishop of Santander, diocese of which Limpias was a part, introduced the canonical process on July 20th, 1920. One year and one day later, plenary indulgences were granted for a period of 7 days for all those who visited the Holy Crucifix.
The Papal Nuncio visited Limpias on September 1921. He prayed in front of the crucifix and examined it from all angles. The nuncio manifested to the cleric and the locals that the image caused a very profound impression in him and honored them for being chosen to embrace the manifestation of Our Lord through this image in the church.
The public phenomenon ceased completely several years later. A national war seemed to have left behind and forget the Holy Christ of Limpias, but the devotion born from the warmness of so many manifestations continued. It is surprising to note the existence of tourists and pilgrims at different times in history. Tourists and pilgrims are attracted by the fame, prodigies, and the beauty of the Holy image.
Today the Paul Priests are in charge of the Parish/Sanctuary trying to continue the same pastoral work as their predecessors and the cleric from past years. Among the normal parish life the veneration of the Holy Christ is always promoted.
All of these accounts can be concluded with a brief report written by a journalist about what occurred in his presence: “I was able to perceive movement from his jaw, as if He was pronouncing syllables with His lips. I closed my eyes firmly and asked myself: What did He say? The response was not delayed. From the depths of my heart I was able to hear clearly this word so anointed and significant: “LOVE ME.”
For this reason Our Lord manifested so many miracles before the eyes of believers and non-believers. In Limpias He demonstrated the agony of His death and the magnitude of His love for us, not only to evoke sentiments of compassion and repentance, but also to ask and supplicate that WE LOVE HIM IN RETURN.