Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) is a Roman Catholic church, minor basilica and National Shrine of Mexico in the north of Mexico City. The shrine was built nearby the place where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. This site is also known as La Villa de Guadalupe or, in a more popular sense, simply La Villa.

The new Basilica houses the original tilma (or apron) of Juan Diego that shows the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Catholicism and is visited by several million people every year, especially around December 12, Our Lady of Guadalupe's Feast day.


Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost uninterruptedly since 1531-32. In the latter year there was a shrine at the foot of Tepeyac Hill which served for ninety years, and still, in part, forms the parochial sacristy. In 1622 a rich shrine was erected; a newer one, much richer, in 1709. Other structures of the eighteenth century connected with it are a parish church, a convent and church for Capuchin nuns, a well chapel, and a hill chapel. About 1750 the shrine got the title of collegiate, a canonry and choir service being established. It was aggregated to the Basilica of St. John Lateran in 1754; and finally, in 1904 it was created a basilica.

Old basilica

Officially known as the "Templo Expiatorio a Cristo Rey," the construction of the old basilica began in 1531 and was not finished until 1709. The mayor architect was Pedro de Arrieta. It is characterized by its doric interior and marble statues of Juan Diego and Fray Juan de Zumárraga, which appear in the altarpiece that originally held the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (That altarpiece matches a similar one in the chapel above the hill, which instead of Juan Diego and Juan de Zumárraga, features archangels Gabriel and Michael). The church was granted basilica status by Pope Pius X in 1904.

The Juan Diego's cloak was housed in this church from 1709 to 1974. In 1921 a bomb planted in a flower vase near the altar by an anticlerical activist exploded causing great damage to the interior of the building (in memory of this incident, the New Basilica holds in a showcase an iron crucifix called "the attempt Christ". The cloak survived the incident largely undamaged.

The old basilica was sinking as a result of the weakness of the ground, as the city was built on a former lake. As a consequence a new, more spacious, basilica was built. The old one was closed for many years and repairs have recently finished. It is now again open to the public and perpetual adoration is held there. It is a very important place for Mexico City.

Modern basilica

The modern basilica was built between 1974 and 1976 by the Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez who was also the architect of the Aztec Stadium and the National Anthropology Museum. It is a circular building constructed in such way as to allow maximum visibility for the image to those inside. The structure is supported by a major pylon that prevents the shrine from sinking in the unstable subsoil.

The Basilica is considered as the second most important sanctuary of Catholicism (this based upon the number of pilgrims it hosts per year) just after the Vatican City.

The Basilica has sitting space for 10,000 people inside the premises. However, temporary seats are often placed in the atrium that allow up to 40,000 people to take part of the Mass and other ritual celebrations. There are nine chapels in the ground level each able to seat about 200 people.

The Villa

The Basilica is surrounded by several churches, and the whole ensemble is called Villa, which means "Town". It includes

  • the Capuchin nuns' Temple, a Neoclassic building;
  • the Indians' Chapel, or San José de los Naturales chapel, a 16th century building in which Our Lady of Guadalupe was first venerated
  • the Pocito Chapel, which means chapel of the little well, a Baroque hermitage built around a ferrous waters well with healing properties; the chapel was built by Francisco Antonio de Guerrero y Torres);
  • the Saint Michael chapel, a chapel built on top of the Tepeyac hill, devoted to the Archangel Michael, built in the Baroque period but adapted by the 40's of 20th century;
  • the baptistry, a chapel whose floor plan is snail-shaped, designed by José Luis Benlliure.

Building Activity

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