Our Lady of Charity

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Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Basilica of El Cobre, Cuba
Feast September 8
Patronage Cuba

Our Lady of Charity also known as Our Lady of El Cobre or La Virgen de la Caridad is the patroness of Cuba, whose basilica named, Basílica Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre (National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre) built in 1926 is situated in village El Cobre, near Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. The feast day of Our Lady of Charity is September 8.[1]


The story behind the La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, began around 1612. Two Native American or Indian brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and a black slave child, Juan Moreno, set out to the Bay of Nipe for salt.[2] They are traditionally called the "three Juans". They needed the salt for the preservation the meat at the Barajagua slaughter house, which supplied the workers and inhabitants of Santiago del Prado, now known as El Cobre. While out in the bay, a storm arose, rocking their tiny boat violently with ongoing waves. Juan, the slave, was wearing a medal with the image of the Virgin Mary. The three men began to pray for her protection. Suddenly, the skies cleared, and the storm was gone. In the distance, they saw a strange object floating in the water. They rowed towards it as the waves brought it towards them. At first they mistook it for a bird, but quickly saw that it was what seemed to be a statue of a girl. At last they were able to determine that it was a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the child Jesus on her left arm and holding a gold cross in her right hand. The statue was fastened to a board with an inscription saying "Yo Soy la Virgen de la Caridad" or "I am the Virgin of Charity." Much to their surprise, the statue remained completely dry while afloat in the water.

Preserved in the General Archive of the Indies of Seville, a testimony of Juan Moreno, says the following:

"Having camped in the French Key, which is in the middle of the Bay of Nipe, waiting for a good time to leave for the Wabba mines, being a morning of calm seas, they left the French Keys, before daybreak. The aforementioned Juan y Rodrigo de Hoyos and myself, embarked in a canoe, headed for the Wabba mines, and far from the French Key we saw something white above the foam of the water, which we couldn’t distinguish. As we got closer, birds and dry branches appeared. The aforementioned Indians said, 'It looks like a girl.' While they were discussing, they saw an image of Our Lady, the Holy Virgin, on top of a small wooden plank, holding the baby Jesus in her arms. On this small tablet, was written in large letters, which read , 'I am the Virgin of Charity.' Looking at her clothes, they realized that they were not wet."

Overjoyed by what they had discovered, they hurried back to Barajagua. They showed the statue to a government official, Don Francisco Sánchez de Moya, who then ordered a small chapel to be built in her honor. One night, Rodrigo went to visit they statue, but discovered that the image was gone. He organized a search party, but had no success in finding Our Lady of Charity. Then, the next morning, she was back on the altar, as if nothing had happened. This was inconceivable as the chapel had been locked. This event happened three times. The people of Barajagua came to the conclusion that she wanted to be in a different spot, so they took her to El Cobre. She was received with much joy in El Cobre, and the church there had its bells ring on her arrival. It was at this point that she became known as "Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre" or "Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre". Much to the dismay of people in El Cobre, the disappearance of the statue continued to happen.

One day, a young girl named Jabba was playing outside, pursuing butterflies and picking flowers. She went towards the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, where she came across the statue on top of a small hill. There were those who did and those who did not believe the little girl's testimony, but in the end, the Virgin was taken to the spot of her discovery, where a church was erected for her. The story circulated around the island quickly. Many feel that the Virgin purposely chose to have her sanctuary in El Cobre because it is located in Oriente; the natural beauty there is the most stunning in Cuba, with its mountains, beaches, rivers, and thick forests. It was in Oriente that the first settlement in Cuba was made, Baracoa; it was in Oriente where the slaves were set free for the first time in 1868; it was in Oriente where Cubans first began to revolt against the Spaniards.


The original statue is about 16 inches tall; the head is made of baked clay covered with a polished coat of fine white power. Her feet rest on a brilliant moon, while angels spread their golden wings on a silver cloud. The child Jesus raises his right hand as in a blessing, and in his left hand he holds a golden globe. A popular image of Our Lady of Charity includes a banner above her head with the Latin phrase “Mater Caritatis Fluctibus Maris Ambulavit” (Mother of Charity who walked on the road of stormy seas).[3]


At the request of the veterans of the War of Independence, Our Lady of Charity was declared the patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916.[3] Pope Paul VI raised her sanctuary to the category of Basilica in 1977.

There is a Chapel of Our Lady of Charity in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.[3]

Our Lady of Charity in other countries[edit]

United States[edit]

On September 8, 1961, the Archdiocese of Miami celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Charity with 30,000 Cuban exiles at Miami Stadium. On the same day, a 16-inch replica of the statue of Our Lady of Charity was smuggled out of Cuba and arrived at the stadium.

Five years later, during the 1966 feast, the Archdiocese announced the construction of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity. Construction was begun on the shrine, known as La Ermita de la Caridad, the following year on the shores of Biscayne Bay in the Coconut Grove section of Miami. The shrine was completed in 1973, built almost entirely with dollar bills, pennies, and other coins donated by new Cuban arrivals.[4]


In the Philippines, Our Lady of Charity is known as Apo Caridad in Ilocano language. Enshrined at the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in Agoo, La Union is the Apo Caridad ng Agoo. Apo Caridad ng Bantay is enshrined at the Church in Bantay, Ilocos Sur in Northern Luzon.


United States[edit]

  • Our Lady of Charity, Cicero, Illinois
  • La Ermita de la Caridad, Miami, Florida
  • Our Lady of Charity, Buffalo, New York


  • Our Lady of Charity Parish Church in Quezon City, Metro Manila
  • National Shrine of the Our Lady of Charity - Agoo, La Union
  • National Shrine of the Our Lady of Charity - Bantay, Ilocos Sur


  1. ^ Our Lady of Charity: Nuestra Señora del la Caridad del Cobre
  2. ^ Rozett, Ella. "Historian". Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity of Cobre). Interfaith Mary Page. Retrieved 9/8/2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Our Lady of Charity", Knights of Columbus, September 1, 2007
  4. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (Sep 9, 2012). "400 Years Later, Still Revered in Cuba (and Miami)". New York Times. p. A15. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 

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