Basilica de Guadalupe: Planning Your Visit

The exterior of the Basillica de Guadalupe

 Jorge Castro / TripSavvy

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Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Address
Fray Juan de Zumárraga No. 2, Villa Gustavo A. Madero, Gustavo A. Madero, 07050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone +52 55 5118 0500

The Basilica of Guadalupe is a Catholic shrine on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City that is devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe (the Blessed Virgin Mary and the patroness of Mexico). This important pilgrimage destination is one of the most visited churches in the world and a must-see site on any trip to Mexico City. The Basilica was built in 1974 in the spot where the aspirations of the Virgin were said to have appeared. A trip inside takes you to a display of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe impressed on the cloak of Saint Juan Diego. Each year, approximately 10 million people travel to this shrine, making it one of the largest Catholic pilgrimages in the world. The biggest crusade happens each year on December 12, the feast day of this manifestation of the Virgin Mary. 

History

Our Lady of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, in Spanish) is sometimes referred to as Our Lady of Tepeyac or the Virgin of Guadalupe, and is a manifestation of an apparition of the Virgin Mary that first appeared on a hill outside Mexico City. A native Mexican peasant named Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was said to have had his first sighting in 1531. The apparition asked him to speak to the bishop and tell him that she wished a temple be built in her honor. He immediately went to the bishop who required some sort of sign as proof. So, Juan Diego returned to the aspiration and she told him to pick roses, carry them in his tilma (cloak), and take them to the bishop. He did so, and when he opened his cloak and the flowers fell out, all were astounded to see an image of the Virgin miraculously imprinted on his garment.

After that, a simple shrine was built on Tepeyac Hill in 1532, and it soon became a pilgrimage site. A new shrine was erected in 1622, and a more elaborate one in 1709, which was designated a basilica in 1904. The church eventually became inadequate for the number of people who visited the shrine, and the grand basilica that stands today was then erected in the 1970s. Juan Diego's tilma, with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is displayed inside the Basilica of Guadalupe, situated over a moving walkway behind the altar, allowing people to view it up close.

Architecture

The Basilica de Guadalupe's architecture was inspired by other 17th century churches in Mexico. When the basilica was completed, some visitors made disparaging remarks about its design, likening it to a circus tent. However, the particular design was purposeful, as the soft subsoil on which it is built required this type of lightweight construction. The basilica's circular floorplan—100 meters or 328 feet in diameter—was thoughtfully arranged to allow views of the Virgin from any spot inside the building. To guarantee that the new church would not sink, as the old structure did due to unstable land, the new basilica was built with a central 42-meter (137-foot)-high pylon.

The Old Basilica

Upon your visit, you will see that the church is divided into two sections, the old basilica, and the modern basilica. The old part of the building was built between 1695 and 1709, and is located on one side of the main basilica. Inside the old basilica are marble statues of Fray Juan de Zumárraga, the archbishop at the time of the original construction, and Juan Diego, the peasant who saw the apparition. In 1921, a bomb planted by a terrorist caused great destruction to the inside of the basilica, but did not harm the cloak. Today, a cross stands in display in memory of this incident. Behind the old basilica lies a museum of religious art, as well as steps leading to the Capilla del Cerrito, the "hill chapel," which was built on the exact spot at the top of the hill where the Virgin is believed to have appeared to Juan Diego.

The New Basilica

Built between 1974 and 1976, the new basilica, constructed on the site of the 16th century "old basilica," was built when the older church's foundation began to sink. Designed by Pedro Ramirez Vasquez (an architect who also designed the National Museum of Anthropology), the new church has a circular floor plan that can accommodate up to 10,000 people. The main floor consists of a choir space, located between the congregation and the altar, and two chapels (a small space containing its own altar) on either side. The upper floor contains nine chapels, and the basement houses the church's crypts, 15,000 niches, and 10 chapels. Additionally, the immense plaza in front of the basilica has room for 50,000 worshipers. On December 12, the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe), thousands of people use this space to gather outside.

Visiting Basilica de Guadalupe

  • Best Time to Visit: If you want to avoid crowds, the best time to visit the basilica is on a weekday during non-holiday times. However, if you're up for people-watching, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe and Día de la Candelaria, February 2, will provide you with the full experience. The grounds are so expansive that, even during a crowded holiday, you can still find a quiet spot to check out. Watch the weather and opt for a cool day to visit, so that you can wander around the grounds free from the oppressive heat.
  • Location: The basilica is located at Fray Juan de Zumárraga No. 2, Villa Gustavo A. Madero, Mexico City, Mexico.
  • Hours: The basilica is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday, and closed on Mondays.
  • Tours: Several third-party tour groups conduct tours of the Basilica de Guadalupe. You can book a combined tour for under $50 USD per person, and see the Teotihuacan archeological site, and the site of the Tlatelolco massacre, as well.

Getting There

The Basilica de Guadalupe is located in the northern part of Mexico City, approximately 7 miles from downtown, in an area called Villa de Guadalupe Hidalgo, or simply "la Villa." From downtown Mexico City, you can take the Line 7 bus for a 17-minute ride, and then walk approximately 1,190 feet to the church. You can also take the Line 4 subway for a 33-minute ride, and then walk north two blocks along Calzada de Guadalupe. Lastly, hire a taxi for a 10-minute jaunt to Basilica de Guadalupe, costing you no more than $5 USD.

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Basilica de Guadalupe: Planning Your Visit