The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic church, minor basilica and National Shrine of Mexico in the north of Mexico City. The shrine was built near the location where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, a 16th-century indigenous Native American. The new basilica houses the original tilma (or apron) of Juan Diego that shows the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This site is also known as La Villa de Guadalupe or, in a more popular sense, simply La Villa. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Catholicism and is visited by several million people every year, especially around December 12, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast day. The Basilica has sitting space for 10,000 people.
The Juan Diego’s cloak was housed in the old church from 1709 to 1974. In 1921 a bomb planted in a flower vase near the altar by an anticlerical activist exploded causing great damage to the interior of the building. In memory of this incident, the New Basilica holds in a showcase an iron crucifix called “the attempt Christ”. The cloak survived the incident largely undamaged.
Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine since 1530s. In the latter years there was a shrine at the foot of Tepeyac Hill which served for ninety years, and still, in part, forms the parochial sacristy. In 1622 a rich shrine was erected and a newer one, much richer, in 1709. Other 18th-century structures connected with it are a parish church, two chapels, a convent and church for Capuchin nuns.
Officially known as the “Templo Expiatorio a Cristo Rey”, the construction of the old basilica began in 1531 and was not finished until 1709. About 1750 the shrine got the title of collegiate, a canonry and choir service being established. It was aggregated to the Basilica of St John Lateran in 1754; and finally, in 1904 the church was granted basilica status by Pope Pius X. The old basilica was sinking as a result of the weakness of the ground, as the city was built on a former lake. As a consequence a new, more spacious, basilica was built. The old one was closed for many years and repairs have recently been finished. It is now open to the public again and perpetual adoration is held there.
The major architect was Pedro de Arrieta. The edifice is characterised by its Doric interior and marble statues of Juan Diego and Fray Juan de Zumárraga, which appear in the altarpiece that originally held the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That altarpiece matches a similar one in the chapel above the hill, which instead of Juan Diego and Juan de Zumárraga, features archangels Gabriel and Michael.
The modern basilica was built between 1974 and 1976 by the Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez who was also the architect of the Aztec Stadium and the National Anthropology Museum. It is a circular building constructed in such way as to allow maximum visibility for the image to those inside. The structure is supported by a major pylon that prevents the shrine from sinking in the unstable subsoil.