SANTO TORIBIO DE LIÉBANA
The monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana is located in the municipality of Camaleño, in one of the Viorna hill´s foldings. It´s foundation could have been due to the work of Santo Toribio, the monk, native from Turieno, who was a preacher in the region of Palencia during the VI century and retired to the mountains of Liébana with a group of companions.
In 828 the monastery appears quoted, for the first time in a document, under the primitive name of San Martín. In 915 eighteen monks lived in community. The first written evidence of the name change from San Martín to Santo Toribio appears in the year 1125. Its worship could very well have started as a result of the transfer in the body of the Saint Bishop of Astorga (León). At the end of the XII century the monastery changes to priory, depending on San Salvador de Oña, and it´s in the year 1256 when the gothic church, which can be contemplated today, is built; that is, restoring the remains of the older romanesque one.
During the middle age the monastery had a great importance on the lines of donations, purchases and exchanges which took place, and exerted an important power over the valleys, specially Valdebaró and Valdecillorigo. In the XIX century the Mendizabal Desamortization Law was proclaimed and the monastery goods were acquired at public auction sale. The abandonment of the monastery took place until 1961, this is the moment when the Franciscan community begins to be in charge of the place, continuing nowadays.
The excavations carried out inside the church have allowed the finding of the remains of what it used to be a preromanesque church, between the IX and X century, with square apses; which was later built into a romanesque church with semicircular apse and, finally, the gothic church we can observe today.
The current church has suffered various modifications. It´s got three naves, the central one being wider, covered by a de crucería vault, than the lateral ones. At the head there are three polygonal apses, and on the left one, a recumbent statue of Santo Toribio, from the XIV century, can be seen. It is made in polychromic elm wood, and it´s preserved in a glass case, due to the fact that in the old days pilgrims used to take away splinters from the carving.
Opened on the northern wall of the church at the beginning of the XVIII
century, is the chapel of the Lignum Crucis; on a baroque style and
with a circular foundation. There are three access sections; the first
one, covered by a de crucería vault; the second, with a vault
sobre pechinas and an octagonal linterna, and the third, a presbitery
with a nerved vault. The pechinas of the vault, of a bright white, represent
the four evangelists. The socle is decorated with Latin inscriptions
allusive to the cross of Christ.
In the presbitery there is a wooden golden bandstand, placed over a stone altar, which is the most significant thing in the chapel. Its construction was supported by Francisco de Otero y Cossío, born in the village of Turieno (Camaleño), archbishop of Santa Fé de Bogotá. Inside the bandstand, the "Lignum Crucis" is kept and venerated. The relic was brought from Jerusalén to Astorga by Santo Toribio, guardian to the Saint Places, facing the threat of the Persian´s invasion; there, in its natal town it stayed until, most probably, due to the Arabs´ invasion in 711, it was transferred to the monastery in Liébana together with the dead body of Santo Toribio and other relics which the saint brought from Jerusalén.
The first written evidence of the relic´s presence in the monastery of Liébana is through an inventory made in 1316. In the XVI century the Benedictine monks divided the Saint Beam in two, arranging it in the shape of a cross and inserting glossed a silver reliquary. Nowadays the pilgrims can kiss the relic througt an opening in the reliquary, which leaves out a wooden piece. In1938 an official measurement was carried out giving the following resulting dimensions: 63 cm in its vertical piece, 39 cm in the horizontal one and a width oscillating between 4 and 9 cm, meaning this is the biggest remaining fragment of the cross where Christ died.
To transfer the Holy Relic to Madrid, in 1958, a scientific study was carried out at the Institute for Forest Investigations, confirming in the analysis that the wood was coniferous, with a light tobacco colour and a density of 0,700, as well as a woody structure which could determine the gender "Cupressus", species "sempervivens", very common in Palestina, pointing out this way that there isn´t anything against the idea that the studied wooden piece could be more than two thousand years.
Through one of the chapel´s lateral doors containing the "Lignum Crucis" it is possible to go into the cloister, built in the XVII century, and with a Herrerian. There, one can contemplate on the walls, panels with historical data and pictures of the monastery, as well as reproductions of the Beatos. It is believed that Beato de Liébana was a monk in the monastery of Santo Toribio who wrote the Comment to the Apocalypse at this same place, which has passed on to history because it gave way to the illustration of some codexes, well-known as Beatos, a starting point for the outburst in the Mozarabic and Romanesque painting and sculpture. At the entrance vestibule to the cloister there is a low-reliefed Beato de Liébana, made by the Cantabrian sculptor Jesus Otero.
In the southern facade of the church the main door has a barrel arch, with archivolts supported by capitals; the second door is denominated "Door of the Pardon," which is only openned during the Jubilee Years, and where the pilgrims who want to win the Grace can enter. It is also barrel and Romanesque, its modern door is decorated with brass figures representing the Saints from Liébana and made by the Cantabrian sculptor, Pereda de La Reguera.
Near the monastery there are still several hermitages and the remains of another one, part of the monkish group. Over all of them stands out Cueva Santa (Holy Cave), the most ancient oratory, located half way up the northern slope of the Viorna and to which you can access along a track and later along a mountain path. Cueva Santa was built making the most of the existing rock. People can enter by means of a simple barrel arch formed by big vaissoirs which rest over prismatic plate rails and these, at the same time, on monolithic jambs. The roof is made of stone sheets with a small window. Tradition says that Santo Toribio retired to pray to this place.
Other hermitages are those of San Miguel (XII), dominating the villages of Turieno, Argüébanes and the Eastern Massif of Picos de Europa; also Santa Catalina, from the end of the XII century, preserving its old Romanesque bell tower. There were also other hermitages, from which only their remains persist today.
In Santo Toribio they have continued with the tradition of the "vez" (turn), that is so two neighbours in each village of Liébana go up to the monastery to adore and worship the relic, in a rotational shift from the 16th of April until the first Sunday of October. If this is important for the people in Liébana, more it is to belong to the Brotherhood of the Sacred Cross, founded in 1181 by the bishops: Juan de León, Raimundo II de Palencia, Rodrigo de Oviedo, and Marino de Burgos. It was first created in order to designate a priest who sang a daily mass for the alive and deceased members. Today they have a great number of distributed fellow members mainly in Liébana and other points of the Spanish and foreign geography.
Finally it is necessary to highlight the celebration of the Jubilee years at the Monastery of Santo Toribio, when Santo Toribio´s celebration, on the 16th of April, coincides on Sunday. From that day until April the 16th of the following year, this celebration takes place. The next celebration will be from April the 16th of the year 2000 until April the 16th of the year 2001, coinciding with the change of millennium, so it is expected that the pilgrimage assistance to the monastery will be enormous.
There is documentary evidence of this celebration from the XVI century. The Popes Julio II and León X confirmed the Jubilee not only on the Saint´s day, but also on the seven following days. In 1967 the Holy See granted the grace, so that the Jubilee would last a whole year. This religious celebration has also meant that devotion to the "Lignum Crucis" is even now more extended outside the geographical limits of the Autonomous Community of Cantabria.
The "hórreos" have been a very typical construction from old times in the northwest of the Peninsula. The first quote in a written document of this type of construction appears in the Cartulario of Santo Toribio de Liébana´s Monastery, and corresponds to January the 25th of 831. The first "hórreo" mentioned in such document used to be in the village of Lon (Camaleño); and from then onwards have always been part of the traditional architecture in Liébana, where a few specimens are still conserved, distributed over the whole district, but mainly in the municipality of Camaleño.
This construction; rectangular in shape, was made up of a wooden room covered by a two or four slope roof, elevated over the floor by four wooden posts or, in some cases, stone ones, shaped as truncated pyramids, leaning on a stone hearth. On their top a flagstone was placed serving as foundation to the structure, composed by four horizontal beams supporting the construction´s weight. This flagstones were larger in surface than the base stones, and this was so that neither mice or rats could climb up the "hórreo", avoiding this way crops stored in the "hórreo", getting ruined. These crops could be: wheat, corn, or any other food provisions like cured meat, ham or apples. The entrance to the "hórreo" was through a totally independent stairway, whose last step wasn´t connected with the housing; this is, leaving an air space between the end of the stairway and the "hórreo´s" floor, again with the purpose of avoiding the damages that rodents could cause.
The cereals were stored in big oak arks, called "trojas" and were seated on flat stones, with the purpose of avoiding that anybody could drill the bottom and get the grain out through the hole. On the middle of the "hórreo" it was a custom to keep the "duernu" which was a recipient where, after the pig´s slaughter, they used to keep the meat and bacon. The "hórreos" were generally shared between several neighbours and the bottom part was used to keep all the farming tools, carts and firewood. Due to the changes which have taken place in the district´s way of life, today they are an ethnographic element in disuse that the locals are trying to recover.
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