The Santuario Nacional de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Lady Caridad del Cobre’s National Basilica and Sanctuary) is a minor basilica of the Catholic Church devoted to the Holy Virgin Mary and located in Santiago de Cuba. It was built in 1926 in the town El Cobre (Copper) nearly 12 miles west of Santiago de Cuba.
It is a church isolated on the hill “Cerro de la Cantera” (Quarry’s Hill) and it is linked with the locality by a staircase of 254 steps. It has a central belfry and two lateral towers crowned by red brick domes. The basilica is under the circumscription of the Roman Catholic Archdioceses of Santiago de Cuba.
It was opened on September 8th, 1927 and it has an altar made of solid silver and other ornaments of great value. Below the Lady Chapel you can find the so-called Chapel of Miracles, a small enclosure where believers lay their dissimilar offerings.
Anything can be found there: jewels, athletes’ medals, awards given to well-known figures, among which it stands out Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize in Literature; crutches; Saint Anna necklaces that belonged to the members of Cuba’s Rebel Army that fought on Sierra Maestra mountain range; offerings of high-ranking officials… it is about keeping the most representative and curious offerings so those who visit the place can take a look at them. In this Chapel, devotees and visitors light a candle to the saint. If you can bring yourself to it, take yours too.
On January 24th, 1998, Pope John Paul II personally crowned the Virgen de la Caridad on Antonio Maceo Square in the city of Santiago de Cuba, where he called her “Queen of Cubans” and in 2015, Pope Francis paid a visit to the place during his trip to Cuba.
To get to the Sanctuary you must do a short climb. On the way you will be able to see the small town, whose inhabitants have conditioned their lives to the incessant comings and goings of pilgrims and tourists. Thus, all of a sudden, you will find yourself in a labyrinth of artisans that flank the streets all the way to the temple, offering flowers – especially sunflowers-, candles, copper stones, virgins of all sizes and materials…
It is customary among pilgrims to take with them tiny stones from the mine, on which copper particles shine, and then keep them in their homes in glasses of water, pockets or bags, as protection against evils or maybe as a good light for the personal and family future.
By the Sanctuary you can find the Seminary Saint Basil the Great and a modest guesthouse looked after by members of a religious order. There you can stay overnight if you wish or have some food.
Text: Naryara García Costa
Translation: Beatriz Rodríguez