Basilica de Guadaluape, Mexico City
Whether or not you choose to believe the story surrounding the foundation of the church at this location (the present Basilica is the third structure on the site), you will certainly appreciate the devotion of the Mexican people to their patroness, the Virgen de Guadalupe.
Legend has it that a simple peasant, one Juan Diego (recently canonized by the Catholic Church), received a visitation from the Blessed Virgin, only this apparition had the darker skin of the indian population. He reported the visitation to the local priest, who doubted him. Juan returned to the site and the Virgin reappeared, this time offering Juan red and white roses to bring back as proof -- it was December, when they were not in bloom. These he wrapped in his cloak and brought back to show the priest. However, when the roses tumbled out, something miraculous was seen: the image of the Virgin was imprinted in the cloak.
That cloak is one of Mexico's holiest icons, and its home is the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, on the northern edge of the city limits. The new Basilica isn't as impressive as its predecessor (still on the site, but listing sadly and unsafe for touring), but for the many thousands who visit each year, the draw is the sacred image.
Viewing the image in itself is interesting. You go to an area behind the altar and down below it. From there, you step on a little moving walkway and are whisked past the icon!
A museum is also part of the complex, situated to the rear of the older Basilica.
Basilica de Guadalupe.
(Basilica of Guadalupe).
In 1523, just two years after the Aztec capital of Tenochitlan fell to Hernán Cortés and his soldiers, the first Roman Catholic missionaries arrived to begun the religious conquest of Mexico.
The Spanish missionaries in Mexico were having a terrible time converting the Mexican Indians to Christianity.
Fray Bernadino de Sahagún and his fellow Franciscan brothers immediately immersed themselves in the intensive study of indigenous languages along with the history, customs and religious practices of the Mexicas, whom they called 'Aztecs'.
Soon fluent in 'Nahuatl' language, they proceded to translate religious texts and teach the Christian doctrines.
Curious fact: the word 'Guadalupe' is Spanish-Arabic, but in Mexico it may represent certain Aztec sound (Coatlaxopeuh).
In 1531, in Juan Diego's vision, the Virgin Mary (in Mexico is known as Our Lady of Guadalupe) asked him to make sure a church was built in her honor at the site where the Basilica is now, and where the worship place of the important Aztec goddess Tonantzin (Mother of Earth).
Well, the bishop Juan de Zumárraga didn't believe Juan's vision story, but Juan was visited again by Virgin Mary, who directed him to a stony place several kilometers north of what is now Mexico City where she said he'd find roses.
She was right. He picked the roses, wrapped them in his cloak and took them to the bishop.
Upon unwrapping the roses, the Virgin Mary's image was imprinted in the cloak, in all her dark-skinned beauty.
Stranger than science...
The bishop was convinced, and he immediately proceeded to build a church on the spot.
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Then, a bigger shrine was building in 1561-1575.
In 1601-1622 a rich shrine was erected;
a newer one, much richer, in 1695-1709.
Other structures of the 17th century and 18th century connected with it are a parish church, a convent and church for Capuchin nuns, the Well Chapel, and the Hill Chapel.
About 1750 the shrine got the title of collegiate, a canonry and choir service being established. It was aggregated to St. John Lateran in 1754; and finally, in 1904 it was created a basilica.
When this Old Basilica (from 1709) became dangerous due to the sinking of its foundations, a modern structure called the New Basilica was built nearby between 1974 and 1976, designed by architect Pedro Ramírez Vásquez.
It has a circular floorplan and the original image of the Virgin is located high up on one wall, so it can be seen from any point within the building.
An empty crucifix symbolizes Christ's resurrection.
The choir is located between the altar and the churchgoers to indicate that it, too, is part of the group of the faithful.
Its seven front doors are an allusion to the seven gates of Celestial Jerusalem.
It can accommodate 10,000 worshippers at a time, which is often necessary because a mass is almost always taking place inside.
Street vendors line the winding uphill path behind the other chapels, the Plaza de las Américas (Americas Square) and main streets around the site.
Mexico is the second largest Catholic nation in the world now. Over 90 percent of Mexicans consider themselves Catholic. Waves of pilgrims flood the place year-round, but are especially thick on December 12 since 1531.
Basilica de Guadalupe is considered by many Catholics to be the holiest place in all of the Americas and it is the most visited sanctuary in Latin America.
Well, the basilica may be the second most visited shrine in all the Catholic world, second only to St. Peter's (Vatican).
One can visit the Basilica de Guadalupe and admire San Juan Diego's coat with the infamous image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The exhibit is on the new church where one can get a quick glimpse as they stroll across the coat. I also visited the old Basilica, which used to house the coat.
Note: I visited the basilica in 2001, about a year before Juan Diego was cananised into a saint.
The Basilica of the Lady of Guadeloupe (La Villa de Guadeloupe) is modern and old. There are two Basilicas. The original is going to be a museum. I saw the outside and it is sinking into the ground. The new church is very large. It houses a portrait of the lady. People want to get close to the portrait so there is a moving sidewalk to take you past it.
I was there on a feast day. I saw people moving towards the church in a procession. Some of the people were on horses. The men and women had on traditional Mexican clothing.
The dedication of Mexican Catholics is moving. I saw women walking on their knees into the church. It must have been painful, but a sense of joy was on their faces.
According to the legend, The Holy Virgin appeared here. It was the Indian farmer Juan Diego who saw her here at the foot of the hill, Cerro Del Tepeyac on December the 9th 1531.
And since that day his whole Indian community took the Virgin as their patroness. But even nowadays this Virgin of Guadalupe plays an important role in the religious life of most Mexicans, This Virgin is even more important then Jesus Christ. At the place where the Virgin appeared they built a church around 1566, later on around 1709 they built this Basilica.
Visit the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe
The present church was constructed on the site of an earlier 16th-century church that was finished in 1709, the Old Basilica. When this basilica became dangerous due to the sinking of its foundations, a modern structure called the New Basilica was built nearby; the original image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is now housed in this New Basilica.
Built between 1974 and 1976, the new Basilica was designed by architect Pedro Ramirez Vasquez. It has a circular floorplan so that the image of the Virgin can be seen from any point within the building. An empty crucifix symbolizes Christ's resurrection. The choir is located between the altar and the churchgoers to indicate that it, too, is part of the group of the faithful. To the sides are the chapels of Santisimo and of Saint Joseph. Its seven front doors are an allusion to the seven gates of Celestial Jerusalem referred to by Christ.
In the new modern Basilica is the original miraculous cloak of native Indian Juan Diego containing the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe the Virgin that hangs behind glass above the altar.
The Old Basilica was constructed in 1531 and is sinking because it was built on the riverbank and the ground is weak. It was close for so many years and its open again.
The seventeenth century Spanish Baroque Chapel Pocito, the virgin has appeared four times and miraculous source of water appeared which had healing power. It was built in the eighteenth century.
This modern Basilica is designed by the same architect, which designed the Museo Nacional of Antropologia. Inside this Basilica there is place for 10.000 believers.
The interior of the old Basilica looks really beautifully. Personally I did more like the interior of the old Basilica then the interior of the modern one.