Visit the Sanctuary of Mare de Déu de la Balma

Embedded in the concavity of the immense rock mass of Mount Tossa, an excellent viewpoint over the meander of the Bergantes River, and surrounded by a landscape of enormous beauty, is the Sanctuary of Mare de Deu de la Balma, which for centuries has been a place of worship and pilgrimage from faraway places. One of the most surprising, enigmatic, and exciting areas in the whole Region of Valencia.
Visit the Sanctuary of Mare de Déu de la Balma

In the inland lands of Castellón, in the region of Els Ports, north of the Region of Valencia, in the municipality of Zorita del Maestrazgo, bordering on Teruel lands, is the Sanctuary of Mare de Déu de la Balma. Just two kilometres north of the town, on the left bank of the Bergantes river, in the PK. 22 of the CV-14, is the sanctuary's access.
 
The access road

The covered Cross receives the visitor, witness since the seventeenth century of the passage of the faithful pilgrims and tourists through the sanctuary. A stone cross with a gabled roof of glazed ceramic tiles, typically Mediterranean, is supported by four cylindrical ashlar masonry columns. The vault is decorated with paintings by Juan Francisco Cruella in excellent condition.
 
The sanctuary visit

The entrance to the Sanctuary of Mare de Déu de la Balma is free, within the visiting hours established according to the season. The access to the sanctuary is through a long medieval staircase of pebbles polished by transit. After crossing the threshold and the accommodation rooms, today rehabilitated and converted into a restaurant with cafeteria and lodging; the visitor passes through other units used as exhibition space where one can see photos of the sanctuary and its restoration.

The path continues through a narrow corridor carved in the same rock, bordering the cliff, which leads to the entrance of the temple. A rugged cave church, irregularly shaped, with an original pulpit and an artistic fence enclosing the chapel, with Renaissance-style facade and bell tower built in the seventeenth century, where the Mare de Déu de la Balma, patron saint of Zorita del Maestrazgo, is venerated.

The name of Balma refers to a species of elongated concavity produced by the erosion in the rock. The sanctuary is embedded in a large concavity, and there is documentation of it being a place of pilgrimage since the fourteenth century.
 
History and legends

According to the tradition a one-armed pastor was dazzled by a glow that came from the Mother of God, which showed him her willingness to build a hermitage in the Balma, as soon as it was completed, the pastor was no longer maimed. Very soon it became a place of pilgrimage for the whole region, and the cave hermitage turned into a sanctuary hung on the rock.

According to tradition, the Sanctuary of Mare de Déu de la Balma gained fame as a place of healing for demonised people. Pilgrims from all places went there to cure strange evils.
 
Surroundings


The municipal area of ​​Zorita del Maestrazgo is very extensive and mountainous, with vast forests of pines and holm oaks that cover the hillsides and corners of high ecological value, such as the spot of Los Buenos Mozos with majestic pines of considerable dimensions. It has numerous fountains and swimming areas such as Les Fonts Calentes, thermal springs that sprout next to the Bergantes River.

The Sanctuary of the Mare de Déu de la Balma has been declared a Site of Cultural Interest and Historical-Artistic Monument since 1979. One of the most fascinating places in the natural and historical heritage of the Region of Valencia.

Other details: Zorita del Maestrazgo

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