Patroness of the Dominican Republic and Haiti
Our Lady of Altagracia (also referred to as "Our Lady of la Altagracia" and "the Virgin de la Altagracia") is the Patroness of the island of Hispaniola, the island containing the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic (some sources list her as the Protector of the Dominican Republic, rather than Patroness). As such, she is the Patroness (Protector) of the Archdiocesan Sister Parish, La Sagrada Familia, located in the Azua region of the Dominican Republic. The image shown (at right) is from a stained glass window in the main parish chapel in La Sagrada Familia.
History of the Image:
The image of the Virgin de la Altagracia “Virgin of Highest Grace” has long been venerated in the Extremadura region of Spain. It has existed on the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola since the early 1500’s, when two Spanish brothers carried her image with them to their new home in Higuey, located in the southeastern corner of the island.
The enthusiastic Dominican devotion to her, however, grows out of a popular legend. The story goes that an old mysterious man gave the image, in an almost miraculous way, to a father for his daughter who had requested it. The image later disappeared from the house and reappeared in a blossoming orange tree. This occurred several times. These events were interpreted to mean that the image did not belong to one family, but to all Dominicans and should be displayed publicly in the local parish. A larger temple was dedicated in 1572 and the current Basilica in 1972 to display the image of the “Highest Grace” or Divine Maternity.
The image, encompassing the Holy Family, is the Nativity scene:
• Jesus in the manger (naked and poor in his humanity; asleep, but he will rise)
• Mother Mary with a ray of light “white as snow” (adorned with stars and crowned; veiled as the virgin bride) with hands in prayer, clearly plays the central role
• Saint Joseph with a candle (in the background as he is only the adopted father of Jesus; haloed for his sanctity; offering light as a service)
• The star of the Magi (God; light; guide) and
• The dark, cave-like background (the world in sin).
According to the current bishop of Higuey, the holy image is an icon, a book of symbols and colors, rich in wisdom, in which the Dominicans can read the truths of their faith.
The Basilica in Higuey is the site of great pilgrimages by worshippers of Our Lady of Altagracia, who come yearly on January 21, her feast day, to the shrine in search of physical health as well as spiritual well-being. Every day many witnesses of the extraordinary divine action of Altagracia arrive at the Basilica to thank her. Even greater numbers come to make a “promise,” a pact where they will perform a particular form of penance if the Virgin will answer their prayer.
In the diocese of San Juan de la Maguana where our sister parish is located Bishop José Grullon asks that all families prominently display this image in their homes.
For more information, or to request an image of our Lady of Altagracia, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.