Up in the mountain there is a sanctuary carved out from the rocks. The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Balma has had strange legends from the start, from a place where the Virgin Mary showed herself, a place for exorcisms and a strange witch cult.
Up in the mountain there is a sanctuary carved out from the rocks. The Santuario de la Virgen de Balma or Sanctuary of the Virgin of Balma has had strange legends from the start, from a place where the Virgin Mary showed herself, a place for exorcisms and a strange witch cult.
Step back in time and immerse yourself in the captivating history of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Balma. Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Catalonia, this hidden gem of religious significance has stood the test of time, captivating visitors with its enchanting beauty and rich historical heritage.
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Dating back to the 13th century, the sanctuary holds a special place in the hearts of locals and pilgrims alike, serving as a sacred haven of peace and spirituality. From the moment you set foot on its hallowed grounds, you will be transported to a bygone era, where tales of miracles and divine intervention intertwine.
Historical Significance of the Sanctuary
The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Balma holds immense historical significance, playing a vital role in the religious and cultural fabric of the place and is an important pilgrimage center for the nearest towns. This is a small sanctuary carved out in the rocks near Zorita del Maestrazgo village in the Province of Castellon in Spain.
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Santuario de la Virgen de Balma origins date back to the 13th century when it was built as a place of worship for the local community. Over the centuries, it has become a place of pilgrimage, drawing people from far and wide. The sanctuary witnessed various historical events and has been a witness to the changing times. It has survived wars, political unrest, and natural disasters, making it a symbol of resilience and faith.
The Strange Place where it is Built
Balma is a Celtic name that refers to a cave underground and this is exactly what this is. Santuario de la Virgen de Balma is embedded into the very rock of the mountain and you have to walk through the cave to get there. It is almost half a building, the rest of the half is a natural shelter of caves.
To reach the place you have to trek up a steep slope until you reach a little chapel of the Virgen de la Balma next to a river. Then you begin the climb up the sacred mountain until you reach the sanctuary.
Religious Importance of Santuario de la Virgen de Balma
The role of the Sanctuary in local religious practices is of great importance. Santuario de la Virgen de Balma has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for centuries, attracting believers seeking solace, healing, and spiritual guidance. The sanctuary holds regular religious services, attracting both locals and visitors alike. It serves as a place of reflection and introspection, where individuals can connect with their faith and find inner peace. The serene ambiance and breathtaking beauty of the surroundings make it a perfect setting for prayer and contemplation.
Santuario de la Virgen de Balma used to be the ultimate destination for those possessed by the Devil and people would come to the sanctuary in search of divine healing and holy treatments.
Many of these possessions today have a name, like epilepsy, and many exorcisms were performed on those visiting.
Legend of the Virgin Mary in the Caves
The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Balma is not just a place of historical and religious significance; it is also steeped in legends and myths that have been passed down through generations. But what was the origin story behind this so-called sacred place?
One such legend tells the story of a poor shepherd who witnessed the apparition of the Virgin Mary at the site where the sanctuary now stands in the 14th century. The Virgin Mary said to the shepherd that she was going to become a protector of this region and she wanted a temple in her name at this place.
According to the legend, she performed a miracle to prove who she was. She cured his arms. In some versions his arm was paralyzed in other it was amputated. In any case, she cured him of his affliction and he decided to make her temple happen.
He also found a sculpture of the Virgin and went back to town to tell the local priest all about it. Together they went back to the cave and found the sculpture. They brought it back to their local church, but it wouldn’t stay. The next morning it had disappeared and was back in its original spot in the cave. So the Santuario de la Virgen de Balma was built there instead.
According to the legend, the shepherd was guided by a bright light to a cave, where he saw the Virgin Mary, who spoke to him and performed miracles. This event marked the beginning of the sanctuary’s spiritual journey, and the shepherd became a devout follower, spreading the word of the miracles he had witnessed.
The Witch Cult of Women
Another fascinating aspect of the sanctuary’s history is its association with a strange 18th-century sect of women that started to take more place than the usual pilgrim. These women believed that they were possessed by the Devil, so called Endemoniadas and sought refuge and exorcism at the Santuario de la Virgen de Balma. The sanctuary became a destination for those possessed, and many exorcisms were performed on those visiting. These events added to the mystical aura surrounding the sanctuary and its reputation as a place of divine intervention.
In truth, a lot of these Els Malignes, or conditions were epilepsy or other mental illnesses. According to the stories though, it started with being controlled by the parish priest, but somewhere along the lines, it shifted. It is said that it then was a council of three witches from the Aragonese town of Caspe, called the Caspolinas, that oversaw the exorcisms at Santuario de la Virgen de Balma.
It was said that witches, spiritists and others that wanted to make money from exorcism took over the place. The so-called healings took three days and the sick were placed in the caves where they were tied with ribbons. The ribbons on their fingers and toes would make the demon leave their body. Ribbons on their eyes, ears and mouth made the demon blind, deaf and mute. Together the group chanted psalms and the demon supposedly left their body.
This cult in Santuario de la Virgen de Balma existed all up to the 20th century and in 1929 a visiting journalist called Alardo Prats y Beltran wrote down his experience in the sanctuary.
The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Balma Today
There are perhaps no more cults, demonic possessions and strange rituals in the Santuario de la Virgen de Balma anymore. But it is still a pilgrimage now with a restaurant and cafe and a museum dedicated to its story for those visiting.
In conclusion, the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Balma is a treasure trove of history, faith, and miracles. Its enchanting beauty, rich architectural heritage, and captivating legends make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and spiritual seekers alike.
Whether you’re seeking solace, exploring the wonders of medieval architecture, or simply immersing yourself in the serene surroundings, the sanctuary promises an unforgettable journey back in time.
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