Santo Toribio de Liébana
Santo Toribio de Liébana is a Franciscan Monastery, part of the township of Camaleño, close to Potes, in the district of Liébana (Cantabria, Spain.) The monastery houses some of the works of Beato de Liébana, like the Lignum Crucis, the largest known piece of the True Cross. On September 23, 1512, Pope Julius II, through an apostolic bull, granted the privilege of celebrating the Jubilee Year of Lebaniego, making the monastery an important pilgrimage center. Next to Rome, Santiago de Compostela, Caravaca de la Cruz, and Assisi, Santo Toribio de Liébana is one of the most important holy sites of Roman Catholicism in Europe. The monastery is about an hour-and-15-minute drive from Garabandal.
The monastery two miles south of Potes is in an area called Liébana (translated as Lebanon in English) at the foothills of the Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe, Spain’s largest national park) which are really a continuation of the Pyrenees. Benedictine monks founded the monastery here during the sixth century. Beato, one of the monks in the middle of the eighth century, wrote a commentary on the Book of Apocalypse with illustrations and you may see copies of the illustrations on the walls of the cloister.
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 romanesque 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 Turibius' day coincides with a Sunday. The cloister was completed in the 17th century.
The side chapel containing the largest known relic of the True Cross, the Lignum Crucis, was built at the beginning of the eighteenth century. According to tradition, this relic is part of the True Cross that the Emperess Saint Helena unearthed in Jerusalem. From there, Saint Turibius of Astorga, Custodian of the Holy Places, took it to the cathedral of his hometown in Spain, where he was soon made bishop. 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 immediately became 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, wrote that this relic is the "left arm of the Holy Cross. It was sawed and assembled in the form of a cross, leaving intact the hole where 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). 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 a 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 de Cosío y Otero (1640–1715), Grand Inquisitor of Madrid and later Archbishop of Bogotá in Colombia, who was born locally.
In 1817 Ignacio Ramón de Roda, Bishop of León, went to the monastery and asked permission of the prior 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.
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.
The veneration of this relic here has been accompanied by many signs and graces from heaven. Fr. Antonio de Yepes, in his Chronicles of the Benedictine Order, states, “If one had to count all the successive miracles, they would fill an entire tract…” Many people have testified to having received big graces praying in front of the relic of the True Cross in Santo Toribio. As you venerate the cross there, you may do so in a spirit of sorrow for your sins and asking graces for your lives that you may better represent Jesus in the world.
Sundays and Feast Days: 12pm and 1pm
Mass during “La Vez”: 11pm (April 16th – October 5th only on Fridays)
Sunday Vigil and Feast Day Vigils: 7:30pm (June – September)
Morning: 10am – 1pm
Afternoon: 4pm – 7pm
The Monastery is open to the public every day, all year round. Every hour on the hour, and additional times as shown in the schedule, an explanation, blessing, and veneration of the Lignum Crucis (The True Cross) are available. The visiting hour schedule is subject to change especially on weekends and feast days and is, therefore, convenient to call beforehand. No visits may be made to the monastery during liturgical celebrations.