A wealthy landowner of Catalan origin, Giraldo González, erected a chapel on this site in honor of the Virgin of Monserrate, who, it was said, saved him from an attack by a bull. According to legend, a short time later the Virgin saved the landowner's daughter, who had been lost in the forest for fifteen days.
The news of these miracles spread throughout the island and many devoted Catholics began making pilgrimages to the sanctuary. The chapel was declared a National Sanctuary in 1720 by Bishop Fernando de Valdivia y Mendoza. Because of the long tradition of pilgrimages, the walls of the temple were covered with offerings that have been left over the years by visitors.
The current structure was built in 1775 - 1776 and, during the 19th century. It underwent various repairs and additions. The rectangular church has three naves and a cupola above the main chapel. The octagonal bell tower was built in the 18th century. The altar, designed by José Campeche, also dates to that period, as do three paintings, of the Virgin of Monserrate, Saint Joseph, and Saint Anthony. There is also a carved figure of the Virgin, created between 1740 and 1770, which is attired according to the festivals being celebrated. The baptismal basin is made of marble and dates to 1826.
The Pilgrim's House, which dates to the same era as the church, is a good example of the rural structures of the 17th century. It is located to the rear of the sanctuary and served as housing for the faithful who made pilgrimages to the church. It consists of a rectangular masonry structure with a roof with two gables. Although it has been restored on many occasions, the floor, the walls, the brick staircase, and some other details remain original. Today, it is the parish priest's house. Both the Pilgrim's House and the church have been listed on the United States Department of the Interior's National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
Adapted by the PROE Editorial Group
Original source: Catalog of Properties, National Register of Historic Sites, State Office of Historic Conservation, Office of the Governor, 1995.
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: February 01, 2010.