To many people throughout Mexico and Latin America, the Basilica de Guadalupe, or Basilica of Guadalupe in English, is considered to be the holiest site in all of Mexico. The idea to build the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe first came about when, on December 9, 1531, a man named Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin claimed that he saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. His bishop, Juan de Juan de Zumárraga, didn’t believe him and asked for evidence. On December 12, Diego had a second vision. Knowing that the bishop was unlikely to believe his claims, Juan Diego asked the Virgin Mary how he could prove the visions. She instructed him to collect roses and put them in his cloak. He then returned to see the bishop. When he unfolded his cloak, the image of the Virgin Mary was burned onto his cloak.
The bishop, now convinced that the visions were genuine, ordered a church to be built atop Mount Tepeyac, the place where Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin experienced the visitation. Upon the church’s completion, the Virgin Mary’s image on the cloak was framed in gold and hung for all to see.
As centuries passed, devout Catholics from all
over Mexico and the neighboring Latin American countries
such as Belize and Costa
Rica came to worship at the church. Eventually, the
church was unable to accommodate the crowds of visitors
that gathered at the church on their knees and it was
decided that a new, larger basilica should be built. The
Basilica of Guadalupe was then designed by Pedro Ramírez
Vazquez, who is also the architect of the National Anthropology
Museum in Mexico City’s Chapultepec
Today, visitors to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe can see the actual cloak where the Virgin Mary was emblazoned. It hangs right above the altar behind inches of thick bulletproof glass. To assure that everyone has a chance to see the cloak, a moving walkway passes right in front of it. You can also learn more about the story of the visitation as well as the history of the Basilica De Guadalupe itself at the visitor information center and museum. You can also buy postcards and books at the Basilica of Guadalupe gift shop.
A good time to travel Mexico City to see the Basilica De Guadalupe is on December 12th when a huge festival is held to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe. The carnival-like atmosphere outside of Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe consists of dancing, performances, prayers, and other celebrations.