Santuario del Señor de las Peñas – Reyes Etla, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Santuario del Señor de las Peñas

Reyes Etla, Mexico

This small church is surrounded by a landscape filled with hidden Zapotec ruins. 

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This small Catholic church is located amid farmland near the communities of Reyes Etla and Villa de Etla in Oaxaca. It houses an effigy of Christ that is highly venerated by the locals, specially on its feast day during Lent. Known as both “El Señor de las Peñas” (the Lord of Rocks) or “Señor de las Peñitas” (the Lord of Little Rocks), its feast is one of the most popular in the state.

What sets this sanctuary apart from similar temples in Oaxaca is that, despite being located in a flat valley, it is surrounded by a few vegetation-covered mounds. But these are not natural hills—they are actually un-excavated Zapotec ruins, now completely buried and overgrown. It is believed that these people regarded the location as sacred due to a fossilized human footprint, attributed to one of the first humans to have existed following the Zapotec creation myth.

Not coincidentally, modern-day veneration of the Lord of Rocks is tied to a similar footprint, said to have been made by the effigy itself. Although the original Jesus figure was stolen from this sanctuary, a replica is now housed in it and its veneration continues. A plaque near this church states that its construction dates to 1636, which would showcase a continuum of belief in the area from the original Zapotec population, through the Spanish Colonial period and to the present day.

Know Before You Go

The feast in honor of the Lord of Little Rocks is celebrated yearly on the fifth Friday of Lent.

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