Basilica Nuestra Senora de La Altagracia

The Basilica Nuestra Senora de La Altagracia can be found on the city of Higuey in the Dominican Republic. This monumental cathedral is one of the most important icons of the Altagracia province. As you may have noticed, this amazing masterpiece has a very profound religious meaning and is considered the most renowned religious monument in the whole Dominican Republic. Our Lady of Altagracia is considered the protector mother of the country. The basilica was built to replace an old sanctuary of Our Lady of Altagracia which existed around the year 1572. The construction of the Basilica started around 1954 under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and was designed by the architects Pierre Dupre and Andre-Jacques Dunoyer de Segonzac.

Our Lady of La Altagracia - Basilica

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The Basilica Nuestra Senora de La Altagracia was inaugurated in 1971 by the former president of the Dominican Republic Joaquin Balaguer. In the same year the Pope John Paul II declares it Minor Basilica. Sometime later he blessed it from Rome.

The construction of the Catholic monument is quite interesting; it is shaped as a Latin cross and its main door is made of bronze. The very same door has a 24 karat gold plating. The place has 45 bells which are also made of bronze. The total area of this breathtaking church is around 4600 square meters. The huge and perfectly designed arches rise over 80 meters in the air giving the impression of praying hands.

Origins of the painting

The architecture of the Basilica is quite impressive but the painting of the Virgen de La Altagracia is something to admire as well. The encased painting in the altar of the church attracts many pilgrims each year. Most people use the occasion to ask for special favors. The portrait has the following measurements: 33 centimeters wide by 45 centimeters tall and is estimated to originate from the late 15th or the beginning 16th century.

The illustration found at the Basilica Nuestra Senora de La Altagracia is a painting that depicts the birth of Jesus: you can see at the center of the picture the Virgin Mary gently looking at baby Jesus. In the painting the Blessed Virgin Mary has a blue robe with many stars and a golden crown; Saint Joseph is looking at them from a distance. The crown wasn’t initially part of the portrait but was added later.

The frame is said to have been made with gold and many precious stones by an unknown artist at some point in the18th century.

There are many tales of how the painting got there. 

One of the stories talks about a sick little girl giving a man food and a place to stay in the city of Higuey Punta Cana. In gratitude the man healed her and left her the portrait.

There is an old story that talks about a child that was sick. This child was approached by the Virgin Mary. It is said the place where she appeared is the current location of the Basilica. At that place there was an orange tree and the tale indicates that it was under that tree that the picture was found by the child. That child would take the painting to her house every day but it always disappeared from her house and reappeared at the tree; for that very reason the Basilica Nuestra Senora de La Altagracia was built on that location where the portrait remains to this day.

The previously mentioned story is not the only one that has been said over the time. There is another one where the daughter of a merchant desired a portrait of Nuestra Senora de La Altagracia. The merchant went to Santo Domingo looking for any information about the painting. After a while he gave up and went back to Higuey. As soon as he arrived he decided to stay at the house of a friend. The merchant mentioned to his friend the disappointment about not finding the painting in Santo Domingo. At that moment an old man was passing by; overheard their conversation.

He gave the merchant the very same painting that he was trying to find. As a reward the merchant and his friend allowed the old man to spend the night. When the morning came, the old man was already gone. The merchant presented the painting to his daughter; then she proceeded to hang it on the wall. Every day the portrait disappeared from the house and reappeared outside. A one point they decided to donate the painting to the church.

Each year on January 21 there is a celebration for the day of Nuestra de Senora de La Altagracia where people from different areas visit the Basilica located in Higuey.

If you want to enter the Basilica you should wear appropriate clothing when visiting there or any other Catholic place. 

For example, you can use shirts or blouses that are conservative. Also dresses, skirts and pants (jeans, etc.) that cover the knees. 

Don't wear any open front, back or "see-through" clothing, as it is not respectful.

Contact Information:

Telephone Number: +1 809-554-2291 

                           +1 809-554-2790

Mass Hours

Saturdays: 06:00 pm


06:30 am
08:30 am
10:00 am
12:00 m
05:30 pm

Interesting Catholic sites:

  1. Catholic Action

  2. Divine Mercy Devotion

  3. Submit your petitions to Our Lady -

  4. Prayer for graces - Mother of the Sorrowful Heart (Spanish: La Madre del Corazón Doloroso)

  5. Mtep - Mission to Empty Purgatory

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