Tuesday, November 12, 2013

La Virgen Altagracia

In addition to the patronage of Mary under the title Our Lady of Mercy, and Our Lady of Ransom, the Dominican Republic also enjoys the patronage of La Altagracia, Protector and Queen of the hearts of the Dominicans.  The natives refer to her as Tatica from Higuey.   As far back 1502 records honor Our Lady under the title of the Virgin of Altagracia.  Two brothers from Spain, Alfonso and Antonio Trejo, were among the first settlers in the Dominican Republic.  They took an image of the Virgin of Altagracia with them to the New World and toward the end of their lives offered it to the parish in Higuey for a shrine which was completed in 1572.   

In 1971 when the present basilica was consecrated a portrait of Our Lady of Altagracia was sought.  According to the local legend, an old man with a long beard appeared with a knapsack saying, "This is what you are looking for."  Inside was the portrait of the Virgin of Altagracia.  At day break the old man disappeared and no one ever heard from him again. 

 “The portrait of Our Lady of Altagracia is thirty-three centimeters wide by forty-five high. Expert opinion has it that it is a primitive work of the Spanish school, painted towards the end of the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century. The painting, which depicts a Nativity scene, was restored successfully in Spain in 1978, and its original beauty and color can now be appreciated. The rigor of time, candles' smoke and rubbing by the hands of the devotees had so altered the surface of the portrait that it had become nearly unrecognizable. The scene of Jesus' birth is painted on a fine cloth. The Virgin, lovely and serene, occupies the center of the picture; she is looking with tenderness at the child who lies nearly naked on the straw of the manger. A blue cloak sprinkled with stars envelops her and a white scapular closes her garments in front.”