The World's Story is Yours to Tell
The Basilica of Our Lady Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre was built in Palma Soriano, near Santiago de Cuba , commissioned for construction by Pope Pius XI, following the honorary visit of the Holy See Pope Benedict XV in 1916, when His Holiness declared Our Lady Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre, Sovereign Patroness Saint of Cuba . Cuban architect Félix Cabarrocas designed the new Catholic church in an architectural style reminiscent of the Revival of the Spanish Neocolonial movement, the same as the Catholic Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in La Habana, Cuba . Concurrently, in 1916, the same year of Pope Benedict XV’s visit, Mr. Woodrow Wilson was re-elected as President of the United States of America .
During the 20th century, the U.S.A. hosted the Exposition California-Pacific for Religious Architecture in San Diego , sponsored by Mr. Bertran Goodhue, a respected American architect for churches in the United States of America due to this architectural model pavilions which created momentum for the “revival of the Spanish Neocolonial Architectural movement” in North America , within the next two decades. Bertran Goodhue’s architectural design for the Episcopalian Cathedral of the Santísima Trinidad in La Habana (which no longer exists) was one of the very first models of the style in Cuba and boasted of having an ornate, decorated entry in the architectural style of Spanish “churrigueresque” design, which would be imitated later in the following buildings, including non-religious structures. At the time, the influence of the Episcopalian Church also arrived in Cuba from the United States and acquired a neutral, non-political stand. From the first historic military occupation of the United States in Cuba at the turn-of-the-century, the Episcopalian Church had a stronger presence in Cuban and the new architectural constructions by Episcopalian Protestant Christians reflected Cuban-U.S.A. connections clearly.
In addition, the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba is the fourth one built over the same foundation and reconstructed with a Neoclassical façade in 1922, during the term of Pope Pius XI, who succeeded Pope Benedict XV at the Holy See in Rome , Italy .
The Basilica of Our Lady Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre was also honored by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, who made the historical pilgrimage in 1998 from the Vatican in Rome, and crowned the statue of the Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre at the Basilica Sanctuary during his memorable visit to Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre, in Palma Soriano, Cuba.
During the Spanish revival of religious architecture in Cuba , from 1898 through 1959, “the Republican era of Cuban history”, the architectural model of the basilica imitated the building of St. Peter’s Basilica as documented and reported by author and writer R.A. Scotty in his publication, St. Peter’s Basilica, reconstructed in 1506 at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of this Roman religious relic in 2006.
The etymology of the world “basilica” in Latin comes from Ancient Greek “basilike”, (stoa), which literally means “royal hall (portico, court)” from “basileus”, “king”.
In architectural terms, a ‘basilica” is defined as an oblong building of Ancient Rome, Italy which has two rows of columns dividing the interior into a nave and two (2) side aisles, used as court or place of assembly. A basilica is a church or cathedral accorded certain ceremonial rights by the Pope. It is a Roman Catholic Apostolic Church with certain ceremonial privileges, like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Holy See at the Vatican in Italy—erected in the year 330 Anno Domini and pulled down in the year of Our Lord 1506 to be reconstructed as the new cathedral known as St. Peter’s Basilica today by the many Christian, Catholic faithful pilgrims and parishioners who gather for Sunday mass services and gather during religious holidays. At Easter Sunday, last April 15th, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI held an outdoor gathering at the end of the Easter Sunday Mass for more than a million Christian Catholics and visitors at St. Peter’s Plaza in Rome to pray for peace during times of war and violence around the world.
Coincidentally, Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 84th Anniversary birthday on April 16th, 2011, within the religious Easter holiday time.
The Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI both have expressed Christian Catholic interest, concern, and support for Cuba , its people as Cuban Roman Catholic and Apostolic faithful, and the Cuban churches who are devoted to their religious practices as Catholic Christians and worshipers of the faith. In 2005, the Basilica Sanctuary of Our Lady Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre was blessed to receive a gift from Pope Benedict XVI, a new set of bells for the church bell tower on September 8th, 2005, the anniversary of the apparition of the Patroness Saint of Cuba, sponsored by the Salesian Missions Order of Rome at the Vatican in Italy.
For reference, “the same old bells which rung throughout the centuries used to call the copper miners and the faithful to worship at the Basilica of Our Lady Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre, and a call to praise God, our Lord Jesus Christ, his Son, and the Holy Spirit”. These church bells have rung in proclamation of each new Pope, Bishops, Archbishops, and Cardinals of Santiago de Cuba during religious festivities and great national events heralding a new era of freedom, hope, and news, for instance, the historical world response to the proposal by the late British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and U.S. President Mr. Frank D. Roosevelt who wished to include the Vatican in peace agreements at the end of the Second World War.
On the 84th Anniversary of the building of the Basilica Sanctuary of Our Lady Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre built in 1927, we must recall the apparition and the finding of the statue of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child at sea, in the Bay of Nipe, floating on Cuban waters, near El Cobre and Santiago de Cuba.
In the year 1608, the story relates how Our Lady Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre was found as a statue floating on stormy waters near the Bay of Santiago de Cuba by Los Cayos when the brothers Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, along with a 10-year-old slave boy, Juan Moreno, returned from collecting sea salt to preserve meat for the residents of Santiago del Prado, known today as El Cobre, near Palma Soriano and Santiago de Cuba. These (3) three seafarers in Cuban waters rowed their wooden boat safely back to land, in spite of the high tide of the waves and the strong gusts of wind blowing through the Windward Passage along the Greater Antilles, on their return to Santiago del Prado.
The mining town of El Cobre was founded in the 16th century, 1550 Anno Domini, as Santiago del Prado, established by Spaniards and inhabited by native Caribbean Indians, also known as “Ciboneyes and Caribes”, as well as slaves. According to anecdotes and oral history narratives, one day in the year 1608, Juan and Rodrigo de Hoyos, two native Caribbean Indians, and Juan Moreno, a slave boy, found a small statue of the Virgin Mary carrying the Christ Child in her right arm and a gold cross in her left arm, wrapped in swaddling clothes, not wet by the storm over the waves at the Bay of Nipe in Cuban waters. The statue of the Virgin Mary and Child was floating on a wooden plank bearing the inscription, “I am the Virgin of Charity”—in Spanish, “Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad”.
If 1608 A.D. were the year that Our Lady of Charity, Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre appeared, then in 2008 would be the 400th Anniversary of the apparition in Cuban waters and a tribute to the wonders of her miraculous works documented as votes of faith at the Basilica Sanctuary of El Cobre in Palma Soriano, Cuba. Visitors mention that the Mother of Mr. Fidel Castro and Mr. Raúl Castro left a small golden guerrilla fighter at the feet of the Virgin as her sons battled the government of Fulgencio Batista ahead of the Cuban Revolution…
In the 17th century, the original church at El Cobre was dedicated to Santiago de Compostela, also known as St. James, one of the twelve apostles who preached the gospel in Spain , region of Galicia , and who is honored as a patron saint on July 25th annually. During the Middle Ages, St. James, also known as Santiago in Spanish, was the patron saint of pilgrims and the Knights of the Crusades. St. James was the powerful saint of the Spanish Conquest. So, the statue of the Virgin Mary and Child was placed in a thatched hut, like a stable, instead of in the church. But, on three (3) successive nights, the statue of the Virgin Mary and Child, Our Lady of Charity disappeared from the hut and was found on top of the hill above El Cobre in Cuba .
The Virgin of Charity and the Christ Child resided in several small shrines until 1630, when the copper mine at Santiago del Prado, in El Cobre was closed down and the slaves were freed. Then Our Lady, Virgin of Charity and the Christ Child took St. James’ place above the high altar in the church, a symbol of the triumph of the Cuban people over the Spanish conquerors. In 1731, when an attempt was made to reintroduce slavery, Our Lady of Charity, Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre became a symbol of emancipation for one of Cuba ’s largest slave insurrections. In the end, the slaves were declared to be free. This action for freedom spread devotion further to Our Lady, Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, Virgin of Charity.
On the first day of the month of April in the year one thousand six hundred and eight-seven (1687), Juan Moreno at the age of 85 years reported this narrative in oral history as a notarized sworn statement, certified by ecclesiastical officials and archived for the record at the Archivo de Indias , Legajo 363, in Seville , Spain . (Source: www.ermitadelacaridad.org from the Shrine of the Virgin of Charity in Miami , Florida , U.S.A.)