Our Lady of Altagracia (High Grace)
The story of Our Lady de Altagracia dates back to when Spain first colonized the island of Hispaniola (today, Dominican Republic and Haiti). 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 are celebrated the night before Altagracia day.
The painting is found in the Basilica in Higuey and 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.
Virgen de la Altagracia was crowned the spiritual mother of Higuey in the pontificate of Pius XI in August 15, 1922. The ceremony was held in Santo Domingo at the Puerta del Conde. It was declared that January 21st would be a National holiday by the President of the Dominican Republic, Doctor Joaquin Antonio Balaguer Ricardo. This ceremony was attended by many important people of the Catholic Church. On January 26, 1979, John Paul II personally crowned her again when he visited the Dominican Republic.
Like the famous of Lourdes in Francia, Monserrate, Our Lady of the Pilar in Spain, the Madonna of Pompei in Italy, Our Lady of Guadalupe in México and others, Our Lady of Altagracia is very popular, and every year for her feast day , many pilgrims come to visit her.