The predominant Dominican Republic Religion has deep roots in
country. The first
Roman Catholic church in the nation was established in 1500s and has
strong throughout the centuries. Today,
Catholicism is the official religion of the nation and it
is estimated that 95% of country's citizens consider themselves
Catholic, even though many do not faithfully attend mass.
Catholic churches are quite important in the country. Some of
the buildings are
merely historic remains, having been built in the 1500s and are of
interest to religious people, tourists and history
enthusiasts. Others are modern buildings
that can amaze many.
Probably one of the best known churches is the Basilica Nuestra Señora de La Altagracia that is located in Higuey, near Punta Cana and is considered the one of the country's most important religious monument. In fact, the Basilica in Higuey is considered to be one of the most unique churches in the world. It is a place of worship and reverence, a monument, a pilgrimage site and a tourist destination all rolled into one. It houses the altar of La Virgen de La Altagracia, who is the Patron Saint of the Dominican Republic. The church towers above the town is adorned by a beautiful painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Visitors to the Dominican Republic count Catholic churches such as Santa Maria La Menor Cathedral (located in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo), Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes (situated in the capital as well) and the Basilica Nuestra Señora de La Altagracia in Higuey as important religious destinations and locals pilgrimage to them on annual feast days.
Saints play prominently in the practice of Roman Catholicism in the Dominican Republic religion and are the subject of feasts and celebrations throughout the year. The most important religious celebration of the year (aside from Christmas and Dia de Los Reyes) is El Dia de La Altagracia. This patron saint is so beloved that nearly one in twelve people in the Dominican Republic are named after her. Around 800,000 people take part in the annual pilgrimage to Higuey on this national holiday on January 21.
El dia de Las Mercedes is another
important religious celebration in the Dominican Republic religion that
been made a national holiday. This day is set aside to honor Our Virgin
many devotees make a pilgrimage to her shrine on this day. Each town in
the Dominican Republic has a patron saint, so in addition to
celebrating the official Catholic feasts, each village has a
celebration for its own saint that often includes music, food that
lasts an entire weekend or longer.
There are several Catholic missions that operate in this country with the purpose of spreading their faith and offering various services to disadvantaged citizens. Missions serve to keep the religion strong even in remote areas, they provide volunteer opportunities so people from other countries can visit and give their talents in areas such as teaching or community building.
Some of the notable Roman Catholic missions in the Dominican Republic include Scarboro Missions operating in Bani, Matanzas and Ocoa. Also Varsity Catholic Mission Camp in Banica and the St. Peter's Mission located in the bateyes.
The churches and missions scattered across the country are living examples of the Catholic heritage that runs deep and lives strong.