Augustinian Convent

It was founded in 1629, under the patronage of San Joaquín and with the economic support of the Chaves, reaching a community of 30 friars in its moments of greatest splendor.

Barriada Sta. Rita 32

Foundedin 1629 and abandoned in 1835, this religious building, which belonged to the Order of the Augustinian Recollect Friars, overlooks the town of Santa Cruz. And although its main dedication was that of San Joaquín, it had four other altars: that of San José, that of the Concepción, that of Santa Rita (current Patron Saint of the town) and that of the Santísimo Cristo del Perdón (who was prayed to in order to prevent weather catastrophes and that the year would be good in terms of crops).

Of all these invocations, undoubtedly the one that has had the greatest impact in Santa Cruz has been that of St. Rita of Cascia, an Augustinian nun beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1628 and canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1900. Every May 22, on the anniversary of her death, her feast is celebrated as Patron Saint of Santa Cruz. The rest of the patronage falls jointly on the Holy Christ of Forgiveness and St. Augustine (Bishop of Hippo and one of the Fathers of the Church), whose feast day is celebrated every August 28. The festivity of Santo Cristo is celebrated every September 14, but not with the idea of being the oldest patron saint of the town, but with the traditional ” Quema de los Chozos”, which I have already mentioned.

But this convent, or rather its conventual church, which is the only part of the convent that still has a roof and walls (it is the best preserved part of the complex), has several mysteries that are not always easy to solve. To begin with, there are the events of the strange lights that were seen in the area that today is the center of the conventual church, where there is a well that has given much to talk about. These luminous phenomena, paranormal for some, magical for others, mysterious in short, were reflected in the texts that the Chaplain Isidro Parejo Bravo gave to Tomás López dated February 25, 1786, in which reference was made to people worthy of all credit who claimed to have seen them; he himself said he had seen the luminaries back in July 1743. Even the Illustrious Lord Don Pedro González de Acebedo, Bishop of Plasencia, came to Santa Cruz attracted by the aforementioned lights. It was undoubtedly an event, especially considering the historical moment.

These lights, from the religious point of view, were attributed to those that usually appear in places where the bodies of saints are buried. Hence, it was thought that important relics were hidden under the lands of the Convent; above all, and according to the tradition of the time, it was said that in its enclosure remained buried some belonging to St. Ildefonso (who was Archbishop of Toledo in the 7th century), in addition to a fragment of the Lignum Crucis (splinters of the cross on which Jesus Christ died crucified). In this regard, in 1699 Friar Simon of St. Augustine ordered excavations, since having such a relic would give prestige and power, but nothing was found. And it is precisely because of this lack of evidence that the assigned the case to Santa Rita, for being Patroness of the ImpossibleShe was given an important cult in the surrounding area, and even today there is an important devotion to this saint in many villages in the area, from where they come on pilgrimage to Santa Cruz to pray to this Augustinian nun.

It is now known that these lights originate at ground level thanks to the oxidation of phosphine and methane gases resulting from the decomposition of organic matter; also in the case of buried bodies already in decomposition, so we should not be surprised by the statements of some people who, in the last century, said they had seen these lights in what was the old cemetery attached to the church, of which I have already spoken. And in very active telluric places there can also be light sources produced by piezoelectricity (current originated by the friction of rocks rich in silica), which are typical of places with geological faults in the subsoil. Nevertheless, these luminaries still amaze those who see them, maintaining the halo of fear and mystery around them. Not in vain have they always impressed, even favored that in those places where they appeared in antiquity pagan rites were developed and they were considered doors or places of connection with the Beyond, access to infernal places, of fear and horror.

All of this, in short, is what has come to be known as fireworks, or ignis fatuus.Its origin is not free of legends, since ancient traditions attribute it to penitent dead who wander in the dark to atone for their sins; to newborn dead, who remain between Heaven and Hell; to evil spirits that at night lie in wait for those who enter the cemeteries to steal their souls…

But there are also other mysteries that envelop the Convent in a halo of magic and mysticism, such as the well that exists (today blinded) inside the conventual church. This well, with a masonry curbstone richly carved with the symbol of the Order of the Augustinians had a therapeutic fame already in late medieval times, as its waters healed several diseases to those who drank them, especially smallpox, so that people came to him from all parts of the kingdom, even from Portugal, seeking healing.

In 1896 D. Manuel Hidalgo (teacher of the town at that time) asserted that this well of miraculous waters (called Pozo de Santa Rita), cured smallpox in sheep infected with the virus. This well of miraculous waters remained within the walls of the Convent, no doubt to increase the devotion of those who came there in search of healing.

And it is the presence of this well of miraculous waters that determined at the time the orientation of the convent church, because it is well known that Christian temples are usually oriented to the east, while in this case the orientation is south. Why was it designed this way, breaking with the Christian construction tradition? The answer is simple: orienting the church to the south was the only way to have the aforementioned well within its walls.

In 1835, the exclaustration took place. Such was the bad relationship between the friars and the town that when the building was left empty, its neighbors took it upon themselves to destroy it, respecting only the convent church. Today, its ruins still look majestic, with original paintings on the walls and with an atmosphere that perpetuates the atmosphere of mystery, sacredness and legend that has been displayed throughout history.