General Information about the Saint Lazarus Sanctuary
The Saint Lazarus Sanctuary in the Havana town of Rincon means the same for the Capital people as El Cobre to the Santiago inhabitants. Obviously we are in the presence of a supreme exaltation of popular religiousness. This shrine was built on February 26th, 1917 as the Saint Lazarus Church of and home-hospital for leprosy patients. In the nineties of the Twentieth Century, proposed by the Reverend Ramon Suarez Polcari the Conference of Catholic Bishops held in Puebla, Mexico, it was awarded to this small church the title of National Shrine. For this designation it was considerable the increasing number of people attending to celebrate December 17th and also visit the temple during the rest of the year. Moreover, this saint has in the lives of many Cubans a transcendental importance. Accordingly, it has now become an indispensable element of national identity and culture. Thousands of people attending the pilgrimage reach this sacred temple, on December 17th – the day of the Saint Lazarus Bishop Religious Festival – every year. During this time, the days before and after, the faithful tend to comply with the promises made and to establish others as well. In Havana´s town of Rincon devotees from all provinces, even from other countries gather there to witness what happens during the feast of this saint. Undoubtedly, the shrine or church of Saint Lazarus in El Rincon is one of the best known by all Cubans and it is very difficult not to find a person from Havana that has not seen it at least once. Saint Lazarus is as we said very famous, loved and revered by Cubans. To him are attributed miracles and healing of serious or incurable diseases. His help is also present when prompted or you make a promise.
The pilgrimage to the Saint Lazarus Sanctuary
The holy procession to the National Sanctuary of Saint Lazarus begins about 5:00 pm on December 16th, the eve of the feast of this saint. Thousands of Cubans flock to the shrine, which is located about 30 kilometers southwest of Havana. At night is celebrated as usual, under a tent and in the parking lot of the church, a Holy Mass eve of St. Lazarus. In the Church at 8 pm a procession through the streets of the city takes place. The flow of pilgrims to the shrine of El Rincon in Santiago de Las Vegas is constant. They walk five kilometers from the town of Santiago de Las Vegas to the Shrine. Dozens of faithful martyr themselves along the way and enter the temple exhausted crawling, kneeling, rolling or tumbling. Some drag a block of cement; others take rocks, shackles or even a piece of railroad rail.