Latin America

San Sebastián de Yumbel: magnet of popular religiosity

Thousands of Chileans have participated, after the pandemic, in the pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Saint Sebastian in Yumbel.

Pablo Aguilera-January 31, 2023-Reading time: 2 minutes
san sebastian

Photo: Procession of the image of Saint Sebastian of Yumbel.

After a forced break due to the pandemic, the pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Saint Sebastian in Yumbel (Chile) has once again gathered thousands of people. An ancient and deep-rooted devotion in this American area has returned with great force.

In the year 1859 the construction of the sanctuary temple of Saint Sebastian was finished, located next to the main square of Yumbel, a town of the Archdiocese of Concepción, in the south of Chile. The main attraction of the temple is an ancient image of the martyr Saint Sebastian, made of cedar wood, 73 cm high.

This was honored in the city of Chillán in the 17th century. But the attack of the Araucanians led by the toqui Butapichún to that city in 1655, motivated the Spaniards to move the image of Saint Sebastian to the vicinity of Yumbel to prevent it from being desecrated. The image was found in some haystacks and moved to the town's main square. In 1663, an ecclesiastical judge awarded the image of Saint Sebastian to Yumbel, whose inhabitants claimed the right to find it.

The increase in devotion and the beginning of the first pilgrimages date back to 1878, when the fame of the Saint transcended the borders of Yumbel and the area and spread throughout the rest of Chile and abroad.

In the sanctuary there are two important dates during the year, the feast of the saint that is celebrated on January 20 and March 20. On the eve of the feast, on the 19th, the liturgical activities begin with the recitation of the Holy Rosary and the sacrament of Penance. Then, from midnight, the Holy Mass is celebrated every two hours and in the afternoon the great procession through the streets of the city begins.

Due to the COVID pandemic, this pilgrimage had to be suspended in 2020, and only this January it was finally resumed without restrictions.

The Archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Chomali, commented that the sanctuary of St. Sebastian "is a very precious treasure. There the faith of people of all ages and socioeconomic status is expressed, constituting a bond of unity and fraternity. Those who go to the sanctuary are people of faith who transmit their faith to their children. This is a guarantee of God's presence in our midst. These are days of great joy and hope for the Church and for Chile".

This year, between January 20 and 22, a large number of pilgrims arrived: about 700,000 people. It can be said that this great manifestation of popular religiosity returned with force after the pandemic.

After the pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Lo Vasquez, San Sebastian continues to be the second most popular pilgrimage in Chile.

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