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Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana

Santo Toribio de Liébana, Cantabria (Spain)

Basic information
Location Liébana,(Spain)
Geographic coordinates 43°9′0″N 4°39′14.4″W / 43.15°N 4.654°W / 43.15; -4.654Coordinates: 43°9′0″N 4°39′14.4″W / 43.15°N 4.654°W / 43.15; -4.654
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Status Monastery
Website Official Website

The Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana is a Roman Catholic monastery located in the district of Liébana, near Potes in Cantabria, Spain. Located in the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain, the monastery is one of the four places of Christianity that, together with Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compostela, has the privilege of perpetual indulgences.

The monastery is one of the oldest shrines of Spain, founded prior to the 6th century. According to tradition, the monastery venerates that largest piece of the Lignum Crucis discovered in Jerusalem by Saint Helena of Constantinople. Brought from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher by Saint Turibius of Astorga, the left arm of the True Cross is kept on a gilded silver reliquary. The monastery was initially dedicated to St. Martin of Tours but its name was changed in the 12th century.

On April 16, 1961, the Franciscan friars, Custodians of the Holy Places, were entrusted with the relic's safekeeping and with the promotion of the devotion to the Wood of the Cross.



Lignum Crucis, the biggest surviving piece of the Holy Cross.

Its origins are obscure, but it was during the reign of Alfonso I of Asturias, who was repopulating the area around Liébana during the early part of the reconquest of Spain in the mid-eighth century. The first reference to the monastery of Turieno with the protection of Santo Toribio was made in 1125. Its foundation is attributed to a 6th century Bishop of Palencia called Torobio, who retired with some companions to Liébana to live according to the Benedictine rule. When it was founded, the monastery was first dedicated to Saint Martín de Turieno, which over time was changed to Saint Toribio de Liébana. Probably during the 8th century, the body of another 6th century bishop, Toribio of Astorga was moved to the monastery, along with relics which he was believed to have brought from the Holy Land for safekeeping. The most important of these is the Lignum Crucis, believed by some Roman Catholics to be the biggest surviving piece of the Holy Cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. Because of this, the monastery is an important pilgrimage centre, and is one of the important holy sites of Roman Catholicism in Europe, alongside other notable places such as Rome, Santiago de Compostela, Caravaca de la Cruz and Assisi. The monastery was also where the 8th century monk Beatus of Liébana wrote and illustrated his works, such as his Commentary on the Apocalypse. The monastery was originally a royal possession, but it was given by Alfonso VIII of Castile to Count Don Gómez y Doña Emilia, who then passed it on to the monastery of Oña (Burgos), along with other properties in Liébana and neighbouring provinces. The monastic community ceased to exist after the forced sale of religious land in Spain in 1837, but was refounded in 1961.


The most important building is the gothic church, whose construction began in 1256, though it has been remodeled several times since. It is built on the site of a pre-romanesque and a romanesque building (perhaps Asturian or Mozarabic in style). It has the clarity of line and space, and the surrounding decoration that characterises the architecture of San Bernardo. the church is rectangular in plan with three aisles, a tower at the foot of the central, widest aisle, and three polygonal apses. Its facade is similar to that of the Abbey of the Holy Bodies, the cathedral of Santander. Its doors in the southern wall are romantic in style and possibly predate the building inside. The principal door, the Puerta del Perdón (Door of Forgiveness) is only ever opened during each Jubilee Year when Saint Turibiu's day coincides with a Sunday. The cloister was completed in the 17th century.

Lignum Crucis

According to tradition, this relic is that part of the True Cross that Saint Helena of Constantinople left in Jerusalem. From there, Saint Turibius of Astorga, Custodian of the Holy Places, took it to the Spanish city of Astorga. When the Moors invaded Spain in 711, the relic was hidden along with others in a fold on Mount Viorna in the Liebana Valley, next to St. Turibius' relics. Both relics were eventually transferred to the monastery that became immediately an important place to be visited by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Documents dated 1507 state that, "since time immemorial" the Jubilee is celebrated every time the saint's feast-day falls on a Sunday.

Fr Sandoval, chronicler of the Benedictine order, this relic is the "left arm of the Holy Cross. It was sawed and assembled post-mode Cruz, leaving intact the hole was nailed down the hand of Christ". The vertical bar is 635 millimetres (25.0 in) long and the crossbar is 393 millimetres (15.5 in) long. The cross has a thickness of 38 millimetres (1.5 in)[1]. It is the largest preserved relic of the True Cross.

The Wood was embedded in a Gothic silver gilted cross, manufactured by a workshop of Valladolid in 1679. It lies in housing of golden wood in a baroque, domed, early 18th century chapel in the north wall of the church, looked over by an effigy of the chapel's founder, Francisco Gómez de Otero y Cossío (1640-1714), inquisitor of Madrid and archbishop of Santa Fé de Bogotá, who was born locally.

In 1817 Ignacio Ramón de Roda, Bishop of León, went to the monastery and asked permission of the Priory of the Benedictine monks to remove a portion of the Cross. Two pieces of wood arranged in the form of a cross in a reliquary were given to Don Joachim and Don Felix Columbus, descendants of Christopher Columbus, for the chapel of their family castle in Asturias. In 1909 Terry and Mathilde Boal inherited and imported to their American estate the chapel of the Columbus family, including an admiral's desk that belonged to the famous explorer himself. They brought from Spain to Boalsburg, the entrance door and the whole interior of the Columbus Chapel with the relic of the True Cross[2].

In 1958 a scientific investigation carried out by Madrid's Forestry Research Institute, concluded that the relic is of a Mediterranean Cypress wood (Cupressus sempervirens), very common in Palestine, and could be older than 2,000 years [1].


  1. ^ a b "Official website of the monastery of Snto Toribio de Liébana" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-12-31.  
  2. ^ "The Story of an American Heritage". Pamphlet from Chapel of the Family of Christopher Columbus and the Boal Mansion.. Boal Museum. Retrieved 2009-02-15.  

External links



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