Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

When I planned the trip to Mexico I have four major things that I wanted to do: visit the pyramids, jump in a cenote, go to a beach in the Yucatan peninsula, and make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I managed to do the fourth one on my second day in Mexico City, when I took the trip that includes a visit to Tlalelolco, Tepeyac and Teotihuacan.

A mass was being celebrated when I came in
According to the official Catholic accounts, the Virgin Mary made an apparition to a devout Indian named Juan Diego in 1531, on a hill in Tepeyac, which is just on the outskirts of Mexico City. The Virgin then showed some more signs for Juan Diego, including flowers that were not native in Mexico, and an image of Her in a cloak (called tilma) that survived up to this day.

The old basilica
We arrived in Tepeyac around 10 am. The place was already filled with scores of devotees, among the millions that flock to the site every year. In fact the shrine is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. The veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe was also deeply entwined with the Mexican culture. The appeal of  the Virgin was that she was at first equated by the native to a Nahuan goddess named Tonantzin. Her devotees grew in number to a point that she, and the image in the tilma, became a symbol for the whole of Mexico, and was instrumental in the conversion of the country to Catholicism. Even the rebels and the freedom fighters who fought for Mexico's independence used the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in their standards. [1] The Lady of Guadalupe was also declared "the Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines" in 1935.

Facade of the new basilica
I was seated beside a Brazilian backpacker who became my de facto companion during the trip. After alighting from the bus we went to the complex where the shrine is located. Several shrines and churches were built on the site over the hills, one of which was the Old Basilica, which was constructed starting in 1531 but was completed in 1709. The old basilica used to house the cloak, which survived a bomb attack from a deranged anti-cleric. Because of the sinking land, the old basilica became unstable, so a new, larger basilica was built on the site. The tilma is now displayed in the new basilica.

Devotees inside the shrine
There was a mass going on when I entered the new basilica, but I did not attend it. I went straight to the shrine where the tilma is, located just behind the altar. Protected by a bullet-proof glass, the tilma, according to the guide later on, looked the same as it how appeared to Juan Diego more than 500 years ago. There were several moving walkways in front of where the tilma is, so that devotees can view it without interfering with the others. Several nuns, devotees and monks were there when I entered, some prostate in prayer. I showed my veneration and stayed there for a few minutes, then I got a votive candle and lighted it in offering outside the basilica. I also went to get some relics and rosaries for my mom and aunts back home.

Interior of the old basilica

The Brazilian girl (I forgot her name) and I then went around the complex. I visited the old basilica, which is open to the public now, and also went to the statue of Pope John Paul II, who canonized Juan Diego into a saint in 2002. We met with with the rest of the group just a little before 1 pm, from which we continued to Teotihuacan.

How to Get There
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located in Tepeyac, in the borough of Madero near Mexico City. There are several tour companies in Mexico City that organizes trips to the Shrine, and I would recommend that instead of taking the public transportation on your own. Usually the trip here is paired with a trip to Teotihuacan. I paid around 480 Mexican pesos for the day trip that includes the Shrine and Teotihuacan.


  1. I like how you included the contrast between the new and old basilicas, even the new shrine has a moving walkway. Are the first two photos from the old basilica? =)


    1. Hi, thanks.

      The first 2 photos are from the new basilica.


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