Virgen de la Altagracia/ Virgin of the Highest Grace. Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, Patrona de La República Dominicana.
The country’s official patron saint and Queen Protector of the heart of Dominicans.
The story of Our Lady de Altagracia dates back to when Spain first colonized the island of Hispaniola. Two men, Alonso y Antonio de Trejo, brought a painting of the Virgin to Hispaniola from their home in Placencia, in the region of Extremadura in 1502.
The legend states that the image of the Virgin mysteriously disappeared from the house of the brothers Trejo. The painting later reappeared in an orange bush. The location of this bush is where the first church of Higuey was built.
Now thousands of devoted visitors make the trek here to deposit offerings and to ask favors of the Mother of Christ. Dominicans pray to her for miracles and cures and for intercession for whatever troubles them. Las Noches de Vela/ the Nights of Prayer is celebrated the night before Altagracia Day.
The painting (shown here) of the patron saint of Dominican Republic that is found in the Basilica in Higuey (see the picture slide show of La Basilica de Higuey). It is said to have been painted in the late 15th century in Spain. It was mysteriously delivered by a shrouded old man who dropped the painting and disappeared. This painting shows the scene of the birth of Jesus. The frame is made from Dominican gold and inlaid with fine enamels, precious stones and jewels. The painting has been completely restored.
Another miracle story is about how Dominican soldiers appealed to the Virgin to help them win victory over the French in the 1691 battle in La Limonade, near Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti. They won the battle.
Virgen de la Altagracia was crowned the spiritual mother of Higuey by pontificate of Pius XI in August 15, 1922. The ceremony was held in Santo Domingo at the Puerta del Conde. It was declared that Día de la Altagracia celebrated on January 21st would be a National holiday by the President of the Dominican Republic, Doctor Joaquin Antonio Balaguer Ricardo. Many important people of the Catholic Church attended this ceremony.
This celebration is now a blend of African religions and Catholicism. Dominicans recite prayers, play African influenced music, sing hymns and dance.
Englsih: “The hour is, then, causes so that we swear on the foot of this Basilica, in the presence of the Delegate of his Sanctity, His Eminence the Cardinal Jose Humberto Quintero, who from today and onward we will work together by the good of the Mother country and the union and the concord of the national family”
Spanish: “La hora es, pues, propicia para que juremos al pie de esta Basílica, en presencia del Delegado de Su Santidad, Su Eminencia el cardenal José Humberto Quintero, que desde hoy en adelante trabajaremos juntos por el bien de la Patria y por la unión y la concordia de la familia nacional” proclaimed Balaguer, when giving the Basilica to the Ecclesiastical authorities.
See our picture collection of the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia located in Ciudad Colonial.
Did You Know?
*1 in every 12 Dominicans are named Altagracia in honor of the patron saint.
*Every year more than 800,000 people make the pilgrimage to the Basílica of Altagracia in Higuey.
*Pope John Paul II visited the Basilica in Higuey when he came to the island January 25, 1979,
See the dates of all the Patron Saint celebrations throughout Dominican Republic