Christ hanging on a cross came to live in a Spanish Church.
The 6 foot, life-sized Crucifix which is today known as “The Miraculous Crucifix of Limpias”, located in St. Peter in Santander of Spain and is a work of Late Pedro de Mena. It has long been located above the main altar of the St. Peter Catholic Church in Santander. On both sides of the beautiful crucifix are are life-size figures of the Sorrowful Virgin Mary and the Apostle John.
The miraculous ‘coming to life of Christ’ from the Miraculous Crucifix of Limpias has two accounts. The first account was that of Don Antonio Lopez, a monk belonging to the Order of the Pauline Fathers who conducted a college in Limpias in 1914. Below are his detailed explanation for his experience:
“One day in the month of August, 1914, I went into the parish church of Limpias, by order of my friend D. Gregorio Bringas, to fix the electric light over the high altar. In order to be able to work more comfortably I put two large cases on the altar, and on them a ladder, the ends of which I leaned against the wall that serves as a background to the figure of the Crucified One.
“After I had worked for two hours, in order to rest myself a little I began to clean the figure so that it could be seen more clearly. My head was on a level with the Head of the Christ, and at a distance of only a couple of feet from it. It was a lovely day and through the window in the sanctuary a flood of light streamed into the church and lit up the whole altar. As I was gazing at the crucifix with the closest attention, I noticed with astonishment that Our Lord’s eyes were gradually closing, and for five minutes I saw them quite closed.
“Overwhelmed with fright at such an unexpected spectacle, I could still hardly quite believe what I saw, and was about to come down from the ladder. Notwithstand¬ing, my bewilderment was so great that my strength suddenly failed me; I lost my balance, fainted, and fell from the ladder onto the edge of the altar itself and down the steps into the sanctuary.
“After I had somewhat recovered, I was convinced from where I lay that the eyes of the figure on the crucifix were still closed. I pulled myself together hastily and went out in order to relate what had happened, and also to be medically examined, for my whole body was in great pain from the fall.
“A few minutes after I had left the church I met the sacristan, who was just going to ring the Angelus, as it was twelve o’clock noon. When he saw me so agitated and covered with dust he asked if anything had happened to me. I told him what had occurred, whereupon he said he was not surprised as he had already heard that the Santo Cristo had closed His eyes on one other occasion, and that it was probably brought about by the working of some interior mechanism.
“I asked him to collect the tools together and to put away the ladder, and generally to tidy up everything again. Then when I reached the college I told the Fathers the whole of the above incident. I was examined, but no wounds were found on my body and no broken bones, only a few bruises of slight importance.
“Thinking that the movement I had observed in the eyes of the figure was to be attributed in any case to a mechanism, I attached no further importance to the vision, but tried, however, to find out on what occasion this fact had already been observed, but without success, as no one could give me any information whatsoever about the matter.
“Since then I have often cleaned the crucifix, and at the same time examined it minutely, and am convinced that there is neither a spring nor any other mechanism on it. What is more, the eyes were so firmly fixed that even by pressing hard with one’s fingers they could not be made to move in the least, nor could they be turned in any direction, as I have proved myself again and again."
Father Antonio Lopez wrote the above account of his experience at the request of his superiors, and then kept the matter to himself. It was only on March 16, 1920, a year after the many miracles of 1919, that the above declaration was made public.
The Extraordinary Miracles of our Lord on the Crucifix of Limpias in 1919 –Jesus Once Again Comes Alive
During the time of the numerous miracles of the crucifix of Christ in Limpias the practice of the Catholic faith in the village of Limpias and the surrounding area was waning. The little town that is favored with the possession of the miraculous crucifix is located on the River Ason in the northernmost part of central Spain, near the Bay of Biscay. Because of this fact it is written that the venerable old Church of St. Peter that houses the Limpias crucifix was practically deserted at the time of the first miracle in 1914, and later those that took place in 1919.
In light of this, in an effort to re-ignite devotion to the beautiful crucifix and to encourage attendance at the venerable old church, the pastor, Rev. Thomas Echevarria, decided to accomplish this by means of a mission. After applying to the Capuchin monastery at Montehano, near Santander, two priests were placed at his disposal: Friar Anselmo de Jalon and Friar Agatangelo de San Miguel, both of whom were known for their apostolic zeal and success as missionaries.
On the last day of the mission, Sunday, March 30, while the Archpriest D. Eduardo Miqueli was celebrating Holy Mass, both missionaries were occupied in the confessional. Fr. Agatangelo, however, delivered the day’s sermon based on the words, “My son, give me thy heart.” (Prov. 23:26). While he was speaking, a girl of about 12 entered the confessional of Fr. Jalon and told him that the eyes of Christ on the cross were closed. Thinking that this was the product of the child’s imagination, the priest ignored her claim until other children also came to him with the same message. After Fr. Agatangelo finished the address and was about to return to his confessional, Fr. Jalon approached him and told him of the children’s claim. Both priests then looked at the crucifix but saw nothing unusual. Presently a man in the congregation shouted for everyone to look upon the crucifix. In a few moments the people confirmed with great excitement what the children had seen. Some of the people began crying, others shouted that they had seen a miracle, others fell to their knees in prayer while others called out to God for mercy.
After the parish priest was called from the sacristy and was told that the eyes of the Crucified were opening and closing and that the figure was turning His gaze from side to side, he, too, fell on his knees to pray. But his prayer was soon interrupted by many of the people who declared that the figure was perspiring and that Fr. Jalon should climb up to the crucifix to verify it. When a ladder was produced, Fr. Jalon climbed up and saw that the perspiration covered the figure’s neck and chest. After touching the neck, he looked upon his fingers that were wet with the fluid. As verification of what had taken place, he showed his moistened fingers to the congregation. Once again agitation and excitement gripped the people so that it was a long time before they were calmed.
None of the priests saw the movements of the eyes, but Fr. Agatangelo later saw the miracle several times when he prayed alone in the church at night.
A report of all that had taken place was given by the Archpriest D. Eduardo to the bishop of Santander on April 2, 1919. This report was later published in the Boletin Eclesiastico of the diocese of Santander.
The Miraculous Apparitions of 1919 continue
The second set of public apparitions first took place on Palm Sunday, April 13, 1919, when two prominent men of Limpias approached the altar. Speaking of hallucination and mass hysteria as they looked upon the crucifix, one of them suddenly pointed upward and fell to his knees. At once the other man also fell to his knees, crying for mercy and proclaiming his belief in the miracle.
The third apparitions took place on Easter Sunday, April 20, in the presence of a group of nuns known as the Daughters of the Cross who conducted a girls’ school in Limpias. They saw both the eyes and lips of the Santo Cristo move. At this time some of their students also saw the miracle, as did a group of people who were reciting the Holy Rosary. Their experience was quickly reported to the parish priest. The manifestations were repeated almost daily from April 24.
As can be expected, the church was often filled with people from Limpias and the neighboring towns who were hoping to witness the miracle. Reverend Baron Von Kleist reports that:
“Many said that the Saviour looked at them; at some in a kindly manner, and at others gravely, and at yet others with a penetrating and stern glance. Many of them saw tears in His eyes; others noticed that drops of blood ran down from the temples pierced by the crown of thorns; some saw froth on His lips and sweat on His body; others again saw how He turned His eyes from side to side, and let His gaze pass over the whole assembly of people; or how, at the Benediction, He made a movement of the eyes as if giving the blessing; how at the same time He moved the thorn-crowned head from one side to the other. Others had the impression that a deep, submissive sigh was wrested from His breast, some believed they saw Him whisper- in short, the most varied manifestations were observed on this crucifix."
One of the first to declare his experience to the secular press was the well-known and highly respected D. Adolfo Arenaza. His testimony was published May 5, 1919 in the newspaper La Gazeta del Norte, which was published in Bilbao. He reported that he joined a procession going to Limpias in order to visit the crucifix. While looking through his field-glasses he saw the movement of the eyes four times. He further stated that it could not have been an effect of the light nor an hallucination, since people saw the miracle from all parts of the church. He then asked, “Does Our Lord really move His eyes … I am rather of the opinion that He really does move them, for I have seen it myself.”
Because of the newspaper reports, pilgrimages from near and distant towns began to arrive in Limpias, for the newspaper reports detailing accounts of the wonderful crucifix spread the news to all parts of Spain and finally to other countries including the United States. One journalist who watched in amazement at the movement of the eyes and mouth of our Lord stated:
“I could perceive two movements of the jawbone, as if He were saying two syllables with His lips. I shut my eyes quite tight and asked myself: “What will He have said?” The answer was not long in coming, for in my innermost self I clearly heard the significant and blessed words, “Love Me!”
One early group of pilgrims under the leadership of the Bishop of Toledo, Joseph Schrembs, arrived in Limpias from America. By the middle of November, 1919, 66 pilgrim trains had arrived at Limpias. Finally, by the year 1921, the number of pilgrims had increased to such an extent that foreign traffic in Limpias was determined to be greater than the visitors to Lourdes. Additionally, numerous Princes, Barons, politicians and other notables also visited Limpias, as did dignitaries of the Church in Spain including bishops and cardinals. Archbishops also arrived from Mexico, Peru, Manila, Cuba, and other foreign nations.
The multiple albums that are found in the sacristy of the church of Limpias contain well over 8,000 testimonies of people who had seen the wonderful apparitions. Of these, 2,500 were sworn on oath. Among these witnesses were members of religious orders, priests, doctors, lawyers, professors, and governors of universities, officers, merchants, workmen, countryfolk, unbelievers and even atheists.
The are several hundred testimonies from religious worldwide who witnessed the miracles. For example Father Celestino Maria de Pozuelo, a Capuchin monk, who visited Limpias on July 29, 1919 and wrote a detailed report that included this statement: ” … The face presented a vivid expression of pain: the body was a bluish colour, as if it had received cruel blows, and was bathed in perspiration. . .”
In his statement, Father Valentin Incio of Gijon tells that he visited Limpias on August 4, 1919 and joined a group of pilgrims who wen; witnessing the miracle. There were 30 to 40 people, two other priests, 10 sailors and a woman who was crying with emotion. Father Incio wrote:
“At first Our Lord seemed to be alive; His head then preserved its customary position and His countenance the natural expression, but His eyes were full of life and looked about in different directions… Then His gaze was directed towards the centre, where the sailors stood, whom He contemplated for a long time; then He looked to the left towards the sacristy with a remarkably stern glance which He retained for some time. Now came the most touching moment of all. Jesus looked at all of us, but so gently and kindly, so expressively, so lovingly and divinely, that we fell on our knees and wept and adored Christ. .. Then Our Lord continued to move His eyelids and eyes, which shone as if they were full of tears; then He moved His lips gently as if He were saying something or praying. At the same time the above mentioned lady who was beside me, saw the Master trying to move His arms and striving to get them loose from the Cross."
Signing their names to this statement were the three priests, nine of the sailors and the lady.
The Coadjutor of St. Nicholas Church in Valencia, Father Paulino Girbes, relates in his statement of September 15, 1919 that he was in the company of two bishops and 18 priests when they knelt before the crucifix:
“… We all saw the face of the Santo Cristo become sadder, paler, and more bluish-looking. The mouth also was wider open than usual. The eyes gave a gentle glance now at the bishops and then in the direction of the sacristy. The features at the same time took on the expression of a man who is in his death-struggle. That lasted a long time. I could not restrain my tears and began to weep; the others were similarly affected…”
Father Joseph Einsenlohr submitted his statement on June 18, 1921. After offering Holy Mass at the altar below the crucifix, he sat in the church to attend the Mass being offered by another priest. He wrote:
“After the Santo Cristo moved His head and eyes for a certain time He began to pull at the shoulders, to writhe and to bend, as a man does when he is nailed alive to a cross. Everything was in motion, only the hands and feet remained nailed fast. In the end the whole body relaxed as if exhausted, then took up its natural position again with the head and eyes turned up in the direction of heaven. This whole scene of the dying Saviour lasted from the Sanctus until after the priest’s Communion…"
A Capuchin monk named Father Antonio Maria de Torrelavega visited the crucifix on September 11, 1919, he saw blood streaming from the left corner of Our Lord’s mouth. The next day, he:
“…. observed anew, only still more frequently, the movement of the eyes, and saw, too, once more that blood was flowing down from the corner of the mouth … Several times He also looked at me. Now I felt as if my whole being were shaken violently … I stood up, therefore, and changed places three or four times, always observing, however, the same manifestations … At about two o’clock, as I was kneeling in one of the central benches, I saw the Santo Cristo gazing at me again, and this so affected me that I had to hold on tight to the bench, as my strength was beginning to fail me … I noticed that the countenance changed colour and became bluish and sad. Many other persons who were kneeling round me also observed this … Now I verify it; there is no doubt the Santo Cristo moves His eyes. During my visit I saw the movement of the eyes about fifty times… “
Father Manuel Cubi, an author, lecturer and confessor of the Church del Pilar in Saragossa, Spain gave his statement on December 24, 1919. In the company of a group of people, he saw the Santo Cristo in a death agony.
“…One had the impression that Our Lord was trying to loosen Himself from the cross with violent convulsive movements; one thought to hear the death-rattle in His throat. Then He raised His head, turned His eyes, and closed His mouth. Now and then I saw His tongue and teeth … For nearly half an hour He showed us how much we had cost Him, and what He had suffered for us during His abandonment and thirst on the cross."
There are also many statements from physicians who were at first very skeptical and sought a scientific reason to disprove the “hysteria".
A report made by Dr. Penamaria was published in the paper “La Montana" dated May, 1920. The doctor described what seemed to him to be “…a re-enactment of Christ’s death on the Cross.” He writes that after witnessing the movement of the statue’s eyes and mouth, and after changing locations in the church to verify the miracle, he prayed for a more distinctive proof, something more extraordinary “… that would leave no scope to further doubt, and would give me positive grounds for His miracle, so that I might also proclaim it to all and sundry, and defend it against every opponent, even at the risk of losing my life.” He then writes:
“This request seemed pleasing to Our Lord … A moment later His mouth was twisted sharply to the left, His glassy, pain-filled eyes gazed up to heaven with the sad expression of those eyes that look and yet do not see. His leadcolored lips appeared to tremble; the muscles of the neck and breast were contracted and made breathing forced and laboured. His truly Hippocratic features showed the keenest pangs of death. His arms seemed to be trying to get loose from the cross with convulsive backward and forward movements, and showed clearly the piercing agony that the nails caused in His hands at each movement. Then followed the indrawing of a breath, then a second … a third … I do not know how many… always with painful oppression; then a frightful spasm, as with someone who is suffocating and struggling for air, at which the mouth and nose were opened wide. Now fol¬lows an outpouring of blood, fluid, frothing, that runs over the under-lip, and which the Saviour sucks up with His bluish, quivering tongue, that He slowly and gently passes two or three times in succession over the lower lip; then an instant of slight repose, another slow breath … now the nose becomes pointed, the lips are drawn together rhythmically, and then extend, the bluish cheek-bones project, the chest expands and contracts vio¬lently after which His head sinks limply on His breast, so that the back of the head can be seen distinctly. Then … He expires! . . . I have tried to describe in out¬line what I saw during more than two hours…"
An extraordinary revelation was observed by Dr. D. Pedro Cuesta in August, 1920. The doctor first tells that he was in the company of a priest, a doctor and a married couple. In the morning, during Holy Mass, his companions saw the miraculous movements but he did not, even though he moved from one position in the church to another. That afternoon he was persuaded to return to the church and saw this astounding revelation.
“When I fixed my gaze for the third or fourth time on the figure I noticed that the fleshy parts entirely disappeared, so that only the skin still remained, a skeleton on which I could have made anatomical studies. The head was completely dried up, until it, like the skin that I had seen, totally vanished. After I had not seen the figure at all for some time it reappeared, but as if mummified, until later on it was also restored by degrees in its fleshy parts. Yes, I observed clearly the formation of a hypertrophy (enlargement) of the head, which then also extended to the remaining parts of the body. Each of these apparitions was repeated twice.
“At the last stage of the second development I could no longer control myself, but cried out in terror and fled out of the church. A cowardly fear had taken possession of me, whereas I had never before known fear-let my description not be set down to exaggeration … I, who was never ill, thought I should die on the spot. The instinct of self-preservation drove me out of the church or I should have had to be carried out as a corpse. So I stumbled out of the church and confessed with my whole heart to the people standing outside: By my reputation as a physician and on my word of honour, I take my oath to what I state herewith, and which I will also certify and ratify with my blood.”
So emotionally spent was the doctor that he went on to say:
“I felt the necessity of taking some restorative [a tranquilizer],” which he did.
Dr. D.Eduardo Perez y Perez gives us a graphic medical report of what he saw on October 6, 1919:
“As I was praying before the crucifix of the Santo Cristo, He looked at me lovingly for nearly a minute … then Christ raised His head, which then remained in quite a peaceful attitude. The muscles of the neck relaxed … the eyes were at the same time wide open and turned upwards … there ensued a violent inhalation with straining of the muscles of the neck, whereby the musculus cleidomastoideus especially stood out, and furthermore the musculi pectorales, the scalenus anterior, and the accessory respiratory muscles, with a considerable dilation of the intercostal spaces, as in the case, for example at the last struggle after mortal wounds … For a moment He appeared on the point of death … then He resumed His customary expression, as the artist had given it to the figure … I must add that during the whole of that afternoon I saw the figure a reddish colour. The following day it was a yellowish or lead colour, as with a dying person …"
There is also a report of a non-believer who was a medical student named D. Heriberto de la Villa. His testimony was published in the paper “Del Pueblo Astur" on July 8, 1919. He first strongly declares that: ” … auto-suggestion is quite out of the question, for I did not believe in the miracle when I went.”
He later went into the church at the urging of a friend and saw the movement of the eyes and mouth. Doubting what he was seeing, he changed his location in the church to better study the movements and then saw the crucifix of Limpias:
“. . . gaze upon me with a terrible look full of anger, which makes me shudder, and I cannot help but bow my head … I look up again and see how He is looking to the right, bowing His head, and turns it to the right, so that I can see the crown of thorns from behind … Once again he turns on me the same angry look which makes such a deep impression upon me that I see myself obliged to leave the church.”
Later that day he returned to the church and saw that,
“… little by little the breast and face became dark blue, the eyes move to the right and left, upwards and down, the mouth opens somewhat, as if He were breathing with difficulty. This I saw for fifteen to twenty minutes … I also noticed that above the left eyebrow a wound formed, out of which a drop of blood flowed over the eyebrows, and remained stationary by the eyelids. After that I saw another drop of blood fall from the crown of thorns and flow over the face. I could distinctly discern it, for it was very red and contrasted with the dark blue colour of the face. Then I saw a quantity of blood drip from the crown of thorns onto the shoulder, but without touching the face. He opened His mouth wide, out of which a white matter like froth welled. At this moment a Dominican priest mounted the pulpit, whereupon Christ gazed steadily at him for five or six minutes …”
“When the preacher ended with the words: “and now, Santo Cristo, give us Thy blessing,” Christ opened His eyes and mouth, smiling, and bowed His head, as if He wished to give the benediction in reality. At this moment someone who was standing near me asked me if I would venture to swear on oath to what I saw … Then I recognized that Christ wanted to prove to me the truth of what I saw; He opened His mouth again, out of which froth and blood streamed in great quantity and flowed out of the comers of the mouth quite distinctly … Thereafter I believed that it was now my duty to swear upon oath to what I had seen, and I did so in the sacristy of the church."
As noted above, most of those who saw the miracle instinctively felt the need to change locations within the church in order to verify what they had witnessed. For some, the miracle took place the first time they entered the church, but might not have taken place sometime later. For others, the miracle did not take place the first time, but occurred later in the day. Some did not see the miracle at all. As one witness testified: “The fact that these manifestations are seen by some, by others not, cannot be explained by the laws that are prescribed for nature.”
The official position of the Catholic Church concerning the miraculous events at Limpias
Bishop Sanchez de Castro, the Bishop of Santander, in whose diocese Limpias belongs, introduced a canonical process on July 18, 1920 in which Rome was notified of the miraculous cures and manifestations. One year and one day later, a plenary indulgence was granted for a period of seven years to all the faithful who visit the holy crucifix.
-Lord Jesus Crucified, have mercy on us!
Sources: “Miraculous Images of Our Lord" by Joan Carroll Cruz, 1995, Tan Books and Publishers