Christ cross

How the True Cross came to Spain

According to tradition, the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, in northern Spain, houses the largest preserved fragment of the True Cross.

Cantabria, in northern Spain, is houses one of Christianity’s most cherished relics. Following the tradition, the monastery houses the largest preserved fragment of the Lignum crucisthe (allegedly) True Cross on which Christ was crucified.

On September 23, 1512, Pope Julius II granted the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana the privilege of celebrating its own Jubilee Year, recognizing the importance of this relic. In doing so, he transformed the monastery into one of the five holy places of Christianity (along with Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Caravaca de la Cruz), authorized to celebrate a holy jubilee year every seven years.

Saint Helena and the Holy Cross

The True Cross, according to tradition, was found by Saint Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Emperor Constantine, in Jerusalem around the year 326. Ordering the demolition of a Roman temple that stood on Golgotha and the excavation of a deposit where the Romans disposed of crosses after the execution of prisoners, she recognized the True Cross (the Golden Legend explains) when a dead man came back to life after coming into contact with her. The text reads as follows:

So it was that Adrian the emperor had a temple of a goddess built on the very spot where the cross was, because everyone who would come to that place would worship that goddess, but the queen destroyed the temple. . So Judas prepared it and began to dig, and when he got to the depth of twenty paces, he found three crosses and brought them to the queen, and because he did not know which was the cross of our Lord, he laid them on the middle of the city and dwelling the demonstration of God; and about noon there was the body of a young man brought in to be buried. Judas kept the coffin and placed one of the crosses on it, and after the second, and when he placed the third, the body that was dead came to life.

As Mónica Arrizabalaga explains in her article for ABC, Lady Egeria’s Itinerary elaborately describes how the relic of the Holy Cross was already taken out in procession on Good Friday at the end of the 4th century. Numbers 74 and 75, The veneration of the crossread as follows:

Then a chair is placed for the bishop at Golgotha ​​behind the cross, which is now standing; the bishop duly takes his place in the armchair, and a table covered with a linen tablecloth is placed in front of him; the deacons stand around the table, and a silver-gilt casket is brought in containing the sacred wood of the cross. The coffin is opened and (the wood) is taken out, and the wood of the Cross and the title are placed on the table. Now, when it has been put on the table, the bishop, seated, holds the ends of the sacred wood firmly in his hands, while the deacons standing around guard it. It is thus guarded because custom dictates that the faithful and the catechumens come one by one and, prostrating themselves at the table, kiss the sacred wood and pass. And because, I do not know when, it is said that someone has bitten and stolen part of the sacred wood, it is thus guarded by the deacons who stand around, lest anyone approaching should venture to it. remake.

The Cross arrives in Europe

While the relic was kept in Jerusalem, fragments had already arrived in Europe as early as the 5th century, as in the case of the famous Monastery of the Holy Cross in Poitiers, France. But the largest fragment of the relic of the Holy Cross was transported to Spain, from Jerusalem (or from Rome, according to others), by Saint Turibius of Astorga.

The monastery’s website explains that the relic is part of the left arm of the Holy Cross. It retains the hole where Christ’s hand was nailed.

Tradition claims that after Turibius’ death, his relics and those of the cross were taken to a monastery in Liébana (the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana), where the relic is kept and venerated today. Other versions explain that the cross was moved from Astorga to Liébana much later, in the 8th century, to protect it from Muslim invaders.

The monastery’s website claims that the relic is part of the left arm of the Holy Cross. It retains the hole where Christ’s hand was nailed. In the 16th century, the wood was carefully cut, shaped into the shape of a cross and placed in the silver reliquary in which it is now kept. The wood is that of a Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervirens). Being extremely long-lived, some of these trees are said to be over 1,000 years old.

Measuring 24 inches tall, 14 inches across, and nearly 1.5 inches thick, it is the largest preserved relic of the cross of Christ (even larger than that kept in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome).