The Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago, Costa Rica, is a pivotal religious and cultural landmark. It is the home of the “La Negrita” stone, a miraculous effigy that has significant theological and historical relevance. This article aims to uncover some of the fascinating facts surrounding this revered Catholic institution and its miraculous relic, providing a scholarly exploration of its history, significance, and impact on the Catholic faith.
Fact 1: Origin of the Basilica and “La Negrita”
The Tale of the Indigenous Girl
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels was established due to the miraculous events involving “La Negrita,” a small black stone statue of the Virgin Mary. As the tale goes, in 1635, an indigenous girl found the statue on a rock. Despite several attempts to move the statue to a local church, it miraculously reappeared back on the same rock. The event was interpreted as the Virgin Mary’s desire to have a chapel built on that spot.
The phenomenon of an apparition or miraculous item expressing a location for a shrine or church is not unique. In Lourdes, France, and Fatima, Portugal, similar miraculous events have been reported. These occurrences align with the Catholic understanding of miracles and divine intervention, as elaborated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability ‘are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all’; they are ‘motives of credibility’ (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is ‘by no means a blind impulse of the mind'” (CCC 156).
Fact 2: Architectural Splendor of the Basilica
Byzantine and Colonial Influences
The Basilica itself is a beautiful example of Byzantine and colonial architectural styles, reflecting the interplay of various cultural influences in Costa Rica. The current structure was completed in 1939 and has become an epitome of historical grandeur and religious sanctity.
Theological Implications of Architecture
The Basilica’s architecture can be seen as a physical manifestation of the “communion of saints,” which the Catholic Church venerates. As the Catechism states, “After confessing ‘the holy catholic Church,’ the Apostles’ Creed adds ‘the communion of saints.’ In a certain sense, this article is a further explanation of the preceding: ‘What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?'” (CCC 946).
Fact 3: The Feast of Our Lady of the Angels
An Annual Pilgrimage
Every year on August 2nd, millions of pilgrims visit the Basilica to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels. The tradition consists of walking—often barefoot—as a sign of devotion and humility, reflecting the theological virtue of faith as a “response to God who reveals himself” (CCC 26).
The annual pilgrimage is not just a Costa Rican tradition but a significant event for Central America and other parts of the world. Pilgrims often carry back bottles filled with water from the rock upon which “La Negrita” was discovered, believed to possess miraculous healing properties.
Fact 4: The “La Negrita” Stone and Its Many Copies
Veneration of Copies
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While the original “La Negrita” is kept in a golden shrine within the Basilica, numerous copies are venerated in homes and churches throughout Costa Rica and beyond. This practice echoes the Catholic tradition of venerating relics and effigies, not as idols, but as “sacramentals” that “prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it” (CCC 1670).
The veneration of “La Negrita” copies can be contextualized within the broader Catholic understanding of Marian devotion. As Pope Paul VI pointed out in his encyclical Marialis Cultus (1974), the Virgin Mary is honored “with special reverence,” which is “firmly rooted in the revealed word” and has been “solemnly taught by the Magisterium” (Marialis Cultus, 56).
Fact 5: Cultural Impact on Costa Rica
“La Negrita” is not just a religious artifact but also a symbol of Costa Rican national identity. Its influence transcends religious boundaries, highlighting the Virgin Mary’s universal role as a motherly figure.
The cultural impact of “La Negrita” underlines the Catholic Church’s teaching on the universal call to holiness. The Catechism states that “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (CCC 2013).
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels and the “La Negrita” stone are significant in both a religious and a cultural context. Their stories offer insights into Catholic theology and tradition, while also standing as powerful testaments to the faith and devotion of millions. Whether it’s through the annual pilgrimage, the veneration of “La Negrita,” or the architectural splendor of the Basilica itself, these elements collectively represent a multifaceted jewel in the crown of Catholicism in Costa Rica.
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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.