The massive event is an annual pilgrimage for Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day where the Basilica serves as the culmination point for millions who travel from all over the country and world. Along the way, devotees serve penance or make sacrifices, while gathering and celebrating together. One of the most visited Roman Catholic attractions in the world, the beautifully designed venue welcomes more than five million people on this day and over 20 million throughout the year.
Located on the foot of Tepeyac Hill, the legend of the Basilica states that the Virgin of Guadeloupe (Virgin Mary) appeared to an indigenous farmer Juan Diego in 1531, when she asked him to build a shrine for her. When Juan Diego told the bishop about the apparition and he didn’t believe him, Juan Diego gathered flowers in his cloak at the top of the hill, which the Virgin had asked him to, and showed them to the priest. When the flowers fell out of his cloak, the Virgin Mary’s image remained imprinted as evidence. That day was December 12th. With this, her memorial was built and today, that same cloak is displayed at the altar at the Basilica as a reminder of the miracle that took place years ago. In 1990, Juan Diego was beatified and in 2002, he was canonized by Pope John Paul II.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is an important symbol in Mexico as well as the country’s patron saint and December 12 is a national holiday. With nearly 90% of the population being Catholic, many are devoted to the Virgin Mary and her image is proudly displayed throughout the city – in markets, homes, museums and more. The Virgin of Guadalupe has been a symbol throughout Mexico’s history, including during the battle for the country’s independence as well as the Revolution.
The Basilica that currently stands was built in 1976 and was designed by famed Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. This modern structure replaced the previous Basilica that was built in 18th century at the same location. The building is best known for its unique circular shape that allows for views of the Virgin from any vantage point.
Providing an expansive landscape for religious attractions, Mexico City is often ranked among the top religious destinations in the world, surpassing even the Vatican in Rome.