The region of Cantabria (Spain) celebrates the closing of the Lebaniego Jubilee Year 2023-2024

The region of Cantabria (Spain) celebrates the closing of the Lebaniego Jubilee Year 2023-2024

The regional government of Cantabria (Spain) celebrated last April the closing of the Lebaniego Jubilee Year 2023-2024, an important year for the appreciation and promotion of the Lebaniego Way, which since medieval times has connected different towns and cities with the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana.

As the European network for the protection of religious heritage, Future for Religious Heritage (FRH) was invited to be part of such a special occasion and to participate in the various exchanges that took place throughout the weekend on local cultural heritage and the region’s path towards a sustainable tourism model.

A weekend to celebrate local culture and heritage

With the closing ceremony of the Jubilee Year, Cantabria officially concluded a year filled with a rich cultural programme to celebrate the region’s cultural and religious heritage along its historic pilgrimage route, the Camino Lebaniego.

The Councillor for Culture, Tourism and Sport in the region, Eva Guillermina Fernández, highlighted the importance of designing a program that reflects the local heritage and engages the community, ensuring a successful and enriching experience for all participants: ‘‘The Lebaniego Jubilee Year is very special for Liébana and for Cantabria and that is why we wanted it to be very participatory so that everyone has their place and their space in a welcoming land as is Liébana and reconnect with the spirit of hospitality of the Camino Lebaniego’. 

Parade of the closing event of the Lebaniego Jubilee Year 2023-2024

The closing celebrations were extended throughout the weekend, with various activities that showcased the traditional music and clothing of the region, illuminated the facades of historic buildings with a sound and light show, brought together hundreds of people in a concert that traced the history of religious music, and concluded with the symbolic closing of the ‘Door of Forgiveness’ in the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana. 

On Saturday 13 April, a parade crossed the centre of the town of Potes, a key enclave of the Camino Lebaniego, with the participation of different local associations, including several gastronomic brotherhoods of Cantabria, the pilgrim association ‘Amigos del Camino de Santiago’, the association ‘Arrastrasillas’ for the promotion of wheelchair accessible tourism, and other groups of folklore and traditional culture of the Camino Lebaniego.

From noon until 18:30, the Plaza Jesús de Monasterio became the stage of various groups of traditional music and dance. Among the performers there were representatives from Palencia, twinned city of Potes since 2023 and starting point of the Camino Lebaniego Castellano, a branch of the Camino Lebaniego.

In the evening, the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana hosted the first concert of the interfaith music festival ‘Roads that unite us by the group Schola Antiqua, which performed a series of medieval music, including Visigothic liturgy and neo-Mozarabic chants.

The day ended with a light and sound show under the title ‘Domus Dei, Domus Populi’, which illuminated the religious architectural heritage of Potes, including the Centre for Lebaniego Studies (located in the former church of San Vicente), the church of San Vicente, the convent of San Raimundo and the hermitage of San Cayetano.

The celebrations reached their peak on Sunday 14 April, with the symbolic closing of the ‘Door of Forgiveness’ in the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, with the attendance of the President of Cantabria, María José Sáenz de Buruaga; the President of the Advisory Board of FRH, Lilian Grootswagers; and the Director General of World Religious Tourism Destinations Network, Pilar Valdés, among other representatives from local administrations and the cultural sector.

Future for Religious Heritage applauds the region’s efforts for a sustainable tourism model rooted in the spirit of the Camino Lebaniego

The President of the Advisory Board of FRH, Lilian Grootswagers, who was invited to participate in the closing ceremony by the government of Cantabria, took the opportunity to congratulate the regional Councillor for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Eva Guillermina Fernández, for the event which was an excellent example of balance between the growth of tourism and preserving the authenticity of the Camino Lebaniego and local identity.

Lilian Grootswagers, President of the Advisory Board of FRH

During her speech at the inauguration of the ceremony, Mrs Grootswagers stated: ‘I really like to congratulate Mrs. Eva Guillermina on her vision and effort how to manage the Camino Lebaniego, her focus in keeping it authentic and bring it to the highest level of commitment internationally. Keeping a balance between the growth of tourism and maintaining the authentic values of the community is a huge challenge that multiple places in the world face. Over the years, the work, creativity, cooperation and efforts to build and maintain community life is an impressive example for many others all over Europe and the world’.

The regional Councillor for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Eva Guillermina stressed Cantabria’s desire to maintain a cultural offer rooted in the territory, participative, and reflecting the spirituality associated with the Camino Lebaniego: ‘we will continue to offer a series of cultural activities that will be characterised by its excellence and uniqueness as a resource for promoting a more sustainable tourism’.

The World Religious and Spiritual Tourism Destinations Network, founded in 2023 as a collaborative platform uniting destinations, organisations and experts involved in religious tourism, did not miss this important cultural event either. Its General Manager, Pilar Valdés, praised the activities held over the weekend: ‘Cantabria has done an excellent job in offering a variety of activities with a high level of professionalism, showing great respect for the local culture and traditions, and with incredible support from the local community of Potes and other parts of the region. I was particularly touched by the arrival of so many pilgrims at the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, right before the closing of the Puerta del Perdón. It was a luxury to be able to witness this moment.’



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