Basilica Menor de la Virgen de Monserrate
When touring the city of Hormigueros in Puerto Rico, be sure to stop off at one of its most elegant and awe-inspiring attractions: the Basilica Menor de la Virgen de Monserrate. Its exact date of construction has not been determined, but radiocarbon testing and studies have estimated the year 1570 CE. Don Gerardo Gonzales was a wealthy land owner who commissioned the construction of the basilica, which was a dedication to the Virgin of Montserrat.
The building began as a single hermit, and its architecture is romantic and detailed, with elements of Arabic design also being visible. There is a bell tower at the Basilica Menor de la Virgen de Monserrate, and in the year 1969, a guest house was added to the basilica. It is known as the Pilgrims House, Casa de Peligrinos, and it is said that the very first bishop of Puerto Rico, Juan Alejo de Arizmendi, became ill here after travelling the island on his pastoral visits. It was his desire to be buried here, but in 1814 he passed away in Arecibo, and his wishes were never fulfilled. Today, the Pilgrims House is used as the basilica’s rectory.
On the 8th of September each year, the people of Hormigueros gather around the Basilica Menor de la Virgen de Monsterrate to pay tribute to the Virgin of Monserrat. The Virgin of Monserrat is a statute that is seen as one of Europe’s black Madonnas, and is a carving of the Virgin Mary and of Christ. Many believe that the original statue was carved in Jerusalem. In 1975, both the guest house and church were recognised as having historical value and were added onto the National Register of Historic Places. The Church of Our Lady of Montserrat was honored by Pope John Paul II in 1998, giving it the status of Basilica Menor. The Basilica Menor de la Virgen de Monserrate now carries the same status as the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, and is a place of pilgrimage for locals, as well as a breathtaking attraction for visitors.