Dominican Republic: Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia
About Our Lady of Altagracia:
This image is held in high regard among Catholics in the Dominican Republic. The statue was brought to the New World from Spain around 1500 and found its way into the local church in Huguey. Over time it was lost and no one knew exactly what became of it.
In the 17th Century the daughter of a merchant requested that her father get her a copy of the image. He set out to find it but no one seemed to recognize the name of Our Lady of Altagracia. Giving up, he decided to return home.
Staying overnight at a friend’s house in Higuey, he mentioned the problem he had in finding the image and as they sat outdoors talking, an old man with a long beard, who just happened to be passing by, pulled a rolled up painting from his bindle, gave it to the merchant, and said, “This is what you are looking for.” It was the Virgin of Altagracia.
They gave the old man a place to stay for the night….but the next morning he was gone and they never saw him again. Upon returning home, the merchant place the image on the mantle in his house, but each time he did so it disappeared and was found outside.
He finally returned it to the church and it is now on display in the Basilica Catedral Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia. Thousands of pilgrims come here each year. In 1978, Pope John Paul II visited here and crowned the portrait with a gold and silver tiara, as you can see in the photo above.
Our Lady of Altagracia is the patron saint of the Dominican Republic (named after the Dominicans). The feast day of January 21st is a national holiday and is marked by Mass, festivities, and celebrations not only here, but throughout the country.
Traveling to Our Lady of Altagracia:
The town of Higuey is about 140 miles East of Santo Domingo and is one of the island’s main tourist destinations. The hotels and resorts of Punta Cana are only about 20 miles away. Please note: if you are vacationing in Punta Cana, there is a Catholic Mass every Saturday evening at the Hotel Majestic Colonial in Punta Cana.
There is an airport (code PUJ) in Punta Cana served by several major carriers. If you happen to visit any of these resorts be sure to include a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia.
Address: right in the center of town
GPS coordinates: 18° 36′ 56.0988” N, 68° 43′ 1.1748” W
Photo credit http://www.arrakeen.ch/