In the heart of Limpias, in beautiful Cantabrian lands, stands the parish church of Saint Peter the Apostle –Sanctuary of the Holy Christ of the Agony. Welcome to this place where you have arrived on your usual pilgrimage, following a spiritual search or simply attracted by the extraordinary events that have occurred in this place.
The temple you visit is one of the most visited in Cantabria. Its origins are from the 14th century and its construction lasted until the beginning of the 18th century. For this reason, although its main structure is late Gothic, it is intertwined with Renaissance and Baroque elements. The church, with a hall plan or “hallenkirche”, is divided into three naves of similar height, although the central nave is wider. The naves are covered by ribbed vaults, typical of late Gothic, which are supported by four cylindrical pillars and pilasters embedded in the side walls.
The main façade is in the Baroque style. In the central niche of the upper section is the seated sculpture of Saint Peter, to whom the temple is dedicated. On his sides, on strong columns, Saint James the Apostle and Saint Paul flank the prince of the apostles. In this way, the whole acquires a feeling of magnificence and solemnity.
It is time to access the temple and delve into this place full of art and spirituality. As you can see, the interior of the temple is solemn and spacious, dark and mysterious. Thus, our attention is focused on the main altarpiece that guards the majestic effigy of the Holy Christ of the Agony.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me”
Saint John 14, 6
You are in the last section of the nave of the epistle, where a simple carving of the Virgin Bien Aparecida, patron saint of the Diocese of Santander, welcomes you. Her Sanctuary, worth visiting, is located a short distance from Limpias.
Go to the lower choir. In another time it was a baptismal chapel and today it houses an extensive collection of carvings and altarpieces that make this place a small museum. After enjoying the artistic exhibition, it is time to advance through the central corridor towards the head of the temple and discover the various altarpieces located in the lateral naves. If you want, come to these spaces to contemplate them in detail.
In the nave of the Gospel, there are two splendid altarpieces. The first, which you see as soon as you enter the temple, is the altarpiece of Saint Joseph whose image with the Child Jesus occupies the central niche. He is escorted by Saint Anthony of Padua, one of the few saints who is represented with the Child Jesus in his arms, and by Saint Isidore the Labourer, patron saint of farmers. Meanwhile, the carving of Saint Sebastian full of arrows crowns the whole.
Next, there is the Altarpiece of Our Lady of the Rosary. His carving of fine features and great serenity presides over the whole. Mary appears as a young mother who presents us her Son and advances her right arm, bringing her rosary closer to us. This beautiful image, attributed to Alonso Cano, is flanked by Saint Raymond Nonnatus, patron saint of pregnant women, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. The upper body is occupied by Saint Dominic of Guzmán, founder of the Dominicans. On this same side wall is the neoclassical tomb of Antonio Cirilo del Rivero and his wife, the Countess of Limpias.
In the right nave, next to the access door, is the Altar of the True Cross. On the painted background of the city of Jerusalem, you can see the sober image -before the Christ of the Agony- of the Crucified, life-size and very popular. In the lower part, and from left to right, the reliefs of Saint Andrew, the Virgin of Sorrows, Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Peter stand out. In addition, you can see the elaborate tables of “The Last Supper”, “The Flagellation” and “The Lavatory”.
“Jesus is alive among us, He is the same yesterday, today and forever”
At the head of the nave of the Epistle, next to the access to the sacristy, is the altar of the Apostle Saint James, small in size and in Renaissance style. In the central niche, the apostle appears mounted on a horse. In the upper part, the original table that finished off the set is missing. Next to it, under an open arch in the wall, is the solemn sepulchre of Fernando de Palacio, Archdeacon of the Charcas Cathedral – present-day Sucre (Bolivia) – and son of Limpias. His recumbent figure, carved in alabaster, is clad in corresponding priestly vestments. The work was carried out in the year 1576.
The reliefs of the fourteen stations of the VIA CRUCIS are on the walls of the temple. Many times it seems that the accompaniment of Jesus in his Passion and Death ends in the tomb. The Cross is not a defeat, but the prelude to the definitive triumph over death that will come with his Resurrection. VIA LUCIS
After touring the temple and discovering its altarpieces, we arrive at the head of the temple where the main altarpiece is. To discover and deepen its beauty, both spiritual and artistic, we invite you to sit in the front pews or to contemplate it from the stairs that give access to the altar. At the foot of the altar is the baptismal font. Through the Baptism received here we are freed from sin, regenerated as children of God, and incorporated into his Church. It is the basis of the entire Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the gateway to the rest of the sacraments.
“No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit”
Saint John 3, 5
HISTORY OF THE HOLY CHRIST OF LIMPIAS
There are hardly any data on the origin of the extraordinary and attractive image of the Christ of the Agony. It is believed that she was venerated in the church of the convent of the Franciscans of the city of Cádiz. When the convent was demolished, the miraculous and venerated Saint Christ of Limpias received private worship in the private Oratory of Diego de la Piedra y Secadura, a Knight of the Order of Saint James and a native of Limpias.
The chronicles tell that in 1755 a tidal wave threatened the city of Cádiz. The Christian people took out in procession the most revered images in the city. Then, the waters stopped and began to recede before the holy image of the Christ of the Agony. Seeing the prodigy, devotion to the image grew and the grateful people asked that it be given public worship in a temple in the city. Diego thought of his native town and, before he died in 1779, he granted various clauses in his will in which he recalls his native town of Limpias.
–“I order the Parish of San Pedro de Limpias to be paved, paying for its main altarpiece and its gilding, placing three images on it: Our Redeemer dying on the Cross, His Blessed Mother and the Evangelist Saint John…”-
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life”
Saint John 3, 16
This magnificent and sober Baroque altarpiece is crowned by the carving of Saint Peter. He appears dressed as a pontiff and sitting on his Chair, holding the keys of Heaven in his left hand and seems to bless with his right hand. In the side streets, under two oculus beautifully decorated with frescoes and escorting the main group, are the images of the martyrs Saint Emeterio and Saint Celedonio, patron saints of the Diocese of Santander, and whose relics are kept in the Santander Cathedral.
In the central niche you can see the representation of “Calvary” with its usual iconographic composition. On the left, the Virgin of the Sorrows, whose chest is pierced by a sword as a sign of infinite pain, raises her gaze to her Divine Son in an imploring attitude. To the right, Saint John, the beloved disciple, in the same way, looks with affliction at his Lord, who is between them, on a background of bluish tones, where the city of Jerusalem is represented.
The sculpture of the Holy Christ of the Agony is life-size -1.80- and is on a cross 2.30 meters high. It is necessary to emphasize the indefinable expression of his face, which changes depending on where it is viewed from. A countenance of anguish and pain, but also of prayer and dedication to his Heavenly Father. It is an imposing and majestic work due to its delicate beauty and the feeling of piety that its drama provokes. Pure dignity before the atrocious torture of the cross. This sublime Crucified is in perfect balance between the divinity of a God clinging to his throne of martyrdom and the realism of the immense drama of a man’s agony.
The visit is ending. To do this, go to the Tabernacle Altarpiece, located to the left of the main altarpiece. In the lower part of this sculptural group, the tabernacle is located, where the greatest treasure that we can find in the temple, the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle, seems to go unnoticed. The living Christ has freely saved and redeemed us, has given us eternal life and is always by our side.
“Our salvation is a gift of the blood of Christ. Everything is a free gift from God and his love for us”
We don’t have much more to tell you. We hope your visit has been pleasant. Before leaving the temple to continue on your way through Cantabrian lands, we invite you to have a moment of recollection and prayer at the feet of the Holy Christ or in front of his real presence in the Tabernacle.
We put at your disposal some prayers that will help you in these moments of internalization. In the same way, thanks to the various links in the text, you can delve into the lives of the Saints in the altarpieces.
PRAYER TO HOLY CHRIST OF THE AGONY
O Most Merciful Jesus,
lover of souls,
I pray Thee by the agony of Thy most Sacred Heart,
and by the sorrows of Thy Immaculate Mother,
wash in Thy blood the sinners of the whole world
who are now in their agony,
and are to die this day.
THE SEVEN WORDS OF JESUS ON THE CROSS
- Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Lk. 23:34a)
- I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. (Lk. 23:43)
- “Dear Woman, here is your son!” and “Here is your mother!” (Jn. 19:26-27)
- Elí, Elí, lamá sabaqtaní (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Mt. 27:46; Mc. 15:34)
- I am thirsty. (Jn. 19:28)
- It is finished! (Jn. 19:30)
- Father, into your hands I commit my spirit! (Lk. 23:46)
HELP THE SANCTUARY
The temple is the house of God and ours. Let’s collaborate to keep it worthy.
If you wish to collaborate in the conservation and restoration works of this Sanctuary of Holy Christ of Limpias, deposit your donation here.