The northern Spanish region of Cantabria is celebrating a Holy Year through April 21 in commemoration of its patron saint, Toribio, the eighth-century monk credited with preserving the largest known piece of the Cross of Christ. The religious relic is housed in the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana, which was founded as a refuge after the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 711. Situated in the mountains of Picos de Europe, the continent's largest national park, the austere medieval structure has long been the site of Christian pilgrimages.
A Holy Year is declared whenever April 16, or Santo Toribio's Day, falls on a Sunday. Only four places in the world are granted the privilege of celebrating a Holy Year by the Vatican: Jerusalem; Rome; Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, where St. James is thought to be buried; and Santo Toribio.
Commemorative events include the religious opening of the "Door of Forgiveness," which is at the monastery's front facade. (Whoever enters with a repentant heart is said to gain eternal pardon.) On April 21 the Holy Year will be brought to a close.
The cloister of the monastery is exhibiting relics of Santo Toribio, as well as his masterpiece, the illuminated manuscript "Comments on the Revelations," an interpretation of the text of St. John.
In addition, the Holy Cave, where the saint lived, and the Cave Chapel, both on the grounds of the monastery, have been restored and are now open.
The Palacio de Festivales, in the Cantabrian capital of Santander, is also presenting a series of Holy Year programs, including dance performances and concerts.
For information, call the Tourist Office of Spain, in New York, at (212) 265-8822, or the Tourist Office of Santander, in Spain, at (34 42) 31 07 08.