Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de los Santos
Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Saints
This small, popular church is famous for its collection of exvotos, offerings to the virgin.
It is located 5km outside Alcalá towards Medina Sidonia. Take the A-375 from Alcala, go under the A-381 bridge and take the service road parallel to the main road as far as Venta Cruce de los Santos. Then take the track inland until you reach the 18th century hermitage. (GPS 36.446785, -5.779646)
On arrival, you enter a patio with central well: on one side is the chapel with painted facade. Around the patio are two floors of rooms, which were used in the mid-19th century as a hospedería (hostal).
The single-nave chapel was built in 18th century on the site of an earlier chapel, by master builder Pedro José Iglesias, according to a 1769 notary's letter. It is octagonally shaped with a semi-spherical dome, decorated with painted wood; the paintings on the walls were restored in 1994.
By the rear wall, behind the main altar, you can see the image of Our Lady of the Saints. While it is of unknown origin, but probably dates from the 14th century; some say that in the late 16th century the virgin was redressed in her current purple gown; her face and hands are later than the rest of the statue.
The sanctuary walls are filled with exvotos, artifacts that the faithful have left as an offer thanks for requests fulfilled by the virgin, often related to curing illnesses or mending limbs.
The devotion dates from the historic Battle of the Salado (1340), in which the army from Alcala asked for God's protection.
The chronicles of King Alfonso XI tell that at dawn on the day of the battle the Christians noticed, hanging from a tree, a banner with the image of Jesus on the cross. The men prayed before it and shouted "SANTUS, SANTUS, SANTUS, Lord of the Armies". In gratitude for offering help to win this battle against overwhelming odds, a stone "Cross to the Humilladero" with the inscription "SANTUS, SANTUS, SANTUS" was erected. This stone can be seen today in the foundations of the shrine.
The Santuario de la Virgen de la Luz outside Tarifa was commissioned by King Alfonso XI to commemorate the victory
Inside the sheer quantity of objects, letters, paintings, and later photographs left in thanks to the virgin is a marvel to see; it's also worth reading the notes. This is one of the largest and best such collections in Andalucia, and perhaps Spain. The oldest painting dates from 1758.
Alcala celebrates its romeria (pilgrimage) here on the Sunday before 12 September. Thousands gather to follow the procession of the Virgin.
A small kiosk sells light refreshments.
Summer (May to October)
Monday to Friday: 10.00 to 14.00, 17.00 to 21.00 hrs
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays: 10.00 to 21.00 hrs
Winter (November to April)
Every day 10.00 to 18.00 hrs
A mass takes place on Sundays at 13.00 hrs
Tel: 956 233 112
Five kilometers north west of Alcala de los Gazules. If heading from Los Barrios towards Jerez de la Frontera leave the A-381 at KM 42, pass under the bridge and then take the service road parallel to the main road for two km as far as Venta Cruce de los Santos. If heading from Jerez de la Frontera towards Los Barrios leave the A-381 at KM 40 at Venta Cruce de los Santos. From here take the sign-posted track about two km inland until you reach the hermitage.