South America


The Dominicans and Our Lady of Chiquinquirá


For a brief history of the conquest of Colombia, click here.

Antony de Santana, the Spanish conquistador of New Granada (Colombia and the surroundings), was a worshipper of Our Lady of the Rosary. He resided in Tunja, where the Dominicans had their priory and the church of Santo Domingo, and possessed a hacienda in Sutamarchan and in Chiquinquirá. 

In 1555 he domiciled in Suta, nearby Chiquinquirá, and built a chapel.

In 1562 he ordered Alonso de Narváez, Spanish painter inTunja, to create a painting of the Virgin of the Rosary as a present for the Dominican Andreas de Jadraque, who lived in Tunja. De Narváez painted in pigments from the soil, herbs and flowers of the region of Colombia, and his canvas was a rough 125x110 cm cloth woven by Indians.


The image of Mary is about one meter high, and stands above a half moon. She has a little, sweet smile, both her face and the Child's are lightly coloured, and she looks as if she's about to take a step. She wears a white toque, a rose-coloured robe and a sky blue cape. A rosary hangs from the little finger of her left hand, and she holds a sceptre in her right. She holds the Christ Child cradled in her left arm, and looks toward him. Christ has a little bird tied to his thumb, and a small rosary hangs from his left hand. To the sides of Mary stand Saint Anthony of Padua with on the book the Christ-child, the patron saint of Don Antonio de Santana, and Saint Andrew the Apostle, the patron saint of the Dominican Andreas de Jadraque. 


In 1562 the canvas portrait was placed in a rustic chapel. It was exposed to the air, the roof leaked, and soon the damage caused by the humidity and sun completely obscured the image. In 1565 the vicar, who served this chapel, gave this painting back to Antonio de Santana. After his death, his widow stored the damaged painting in a shepherd's hut, nearby Chiquinquirá in 1577.

When captain García Arias Maldonado died in 1588, he bequeathed part of his properties to the Dominicans for the building of their priory of Santo Domingo and for a chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary. Meanwhile the condition of the painting got worse. In 1585 Maria Ramos, a pious woman from Seville, a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, looked after the small chapel, and mended  a little the canvas. Though the image was in terrible shape, she loved to sit and contemplate it.
On Friday 26 December 1586, she was there with her little sun of four years and the Indian lady Isabella. When after their prayer they came outside, the little boy told that a clear light was visible in the chapel. Maria Ramos quickly walked back, and also saw the light, and that the damaged image was suddenly restored. It's colours were bright, the canvas cleaner, the image clear and seemingly brand new.

In 1587 the painting of Chiquinquirá was carried round in Tunja with the entreaty that the plague  and the scarlet fever should stop.

After the ecclesiastical examination of the miraculous phenomenon, the Archbishop of Santa Fé de Bogotá laid the foundation stone of a church in Chiquinquirá in 1588. After the completion in 1608, the painting was placed above the main altar. From 8 August 1633 till 1635 the painting passed around through the region, because of a violent  epidemic of the plague.

In 1636 the Dominican Archbishop of Santa Fé de Bogotá, Cristóbal de Torres (1573-1653), handed the painting, now officially named Virgen del Rosario y La Doctrina de Chiquinquirá, forever over to the Dominicans of Chiquinquirá. At the same time they got the care of the parish on 30 Mai 1636.

In 1796 the Dominicans began the building of the new church, which was completed in 1801. Meanwhile the preparations for independence of Colombia from Spain were in full swing. On 20 July 1810 M. Gamica y Dojuela, O.P., prior of the convent of Bogotá, signed the deed of independence from Spain. But the struggle against Spain was not ended. The liberator Simon Bolívar (24 July 1783-10 December 1930) had to fly to Curaçao, but returned, defeated the Spanish army and occupied Caracas in 1813. On 20 January 1815 the Dominicans of Chiquinquirá delivered him money and jewels, given to Our Lady of The Rosary, to afford his campaign for the liberation of Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia (1819-1824).

On 21 April 1816 the General of the patriots, Manuel Roergas de Serviez, took the painting of Our Lady of the Rosary to Cáqueza, but the city was reconquered by the Spanish troops on 7 Mai 1816, and the painting was again exposed in Chiquinquirá on 3 July. In 1821 the General Simon Bolívar visited Chiquinquirá to thank the Dominicans and Our Lady of the Rosary for their assistance in the struggle of liberation.

After the completion of the church (1824) Pope Pius VIII (1829-1830) declared Our Lady of Chiquinquirá patroness of Colombia in 1829, and granted "La Chinita," as her people call her, a special liturgy. Later she became patron of the Venezuelan National Guard.  On 9 Mai 1841 the painting went to Bogotá and Tunja, with the entreating to end the epidemic of the plague, and returned to Chiquinquirá.

For 300 years the painting was unprotected, and thousands of objects were touched annually against the frail cotton cloth, sometimes with rods or canes in order to reach it, which should have destroyed it. Since 1897 a thick glass protects the picture from severe weather conditions and the  pilgrims' fervent excesses.  On 9 July 1919 Our Lady of the Rosary was canonically crowned on the occasion of the National Marian Congress as Queen and Mother of all the Colombians. On 18 August 1927 the church in Chiquinquirá was raised to basilica minor.

On 9 July 1944, the silver jubilee of the coronation (9 July 1919) the Dominicans and the people of Colombia gave Our Lady a silver sceptre, and on 9 July 1969, the fiftieth anniversary of the coronation, a silver half a moon (Apocalypse 12).






    Timbre Ecclesiástico.

    Our Lady of Chiquinquirá.

     Colombia ca. 1880-1910. Local stamp.







Colombia 1954, Mi 703 (brown), Sc C262.

                                 1957, Mi 704 (lilac), Sc C291.

                                 1959, Mi 848 =704, Sc 686 with overprint.







    Pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II to Colombia, praying

    at Our Lady of Chiquinquirá.


     Colombia 1986, Mi Bl 39, Sc C784.




Department of Boyacá: altar of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá.

Colombia 2006, Mi 2435,  Sc     On order



'Nuestra Señora de la Chiquinquirá ' in Venezuela.
Church in the city of Maracaibo.


"An old lady named Maria Cárdenas made a living by washing other people's clothes, a job she did every morning at the shores of the lake. On November 18th 1709 she took a bulk of clothes, and as usual, went to the lake to start washing them. This old lady was at her chores when she saw a small wooden slab floating towards her. She picked it up thinking that it might be of some use. When she finished her work, she went home carrying the clothes, the wooden slab and a small vase with fresh water. She then placed the board on top of the vase. Then, she noticed a small figure in the board but couldn't tell what it was.

On Tuesday, November 18, 1709, Maria Cardenas was busy running her household chores and grinding cocoa when she heard, in three occasions, the knocks that came from the place where she kept the wooden slab. Feeling curious about this, she went directly to see what was happening and found the slab glowing with a bright light to later find the image of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá.

Surprised and filled with a strong emotion, she immediately ran out of her house located on the 2nd avenue, screaming and shouting the words “Miracle! Miracle!” Her neighbours went where the woman was to find out that the apparition of the Virgin Mary was real. From that day on, the faith of the zulians found their Queen in the “Chinita”. As it has been expressed by many people, “She is the way that leads to Jesus”.

Since that day the street where she lived was renamed "El Milagro" which means Miracle in Spanish, and to this day it is one of the most important streets in the neighbourhood of "El Slidell" in the city of Maracaibo. To this day the wooden slab with the image on it can still be seen in the Basilica in Maracaibo.

legend has it that the government decided that the wood with the image belonged in the capital city, Caracas. So they ordered it moved. As the soldiers following the order carried the image away from Maracaibo it got heavier and heavier until finally no one could lift it. They returned it to the basilica in Maracaibo where it has remained with the belief that no one can remove it.

The Wooden Slab, the Crown and the Square
Since the wooden slab depicting the image of the Virgin Mary arrived to the shores of Maracaibo 298 years ago, the Marian faith has grown exponentially. It was first taken to a small sanctuary built to honor San Juan de Dios and later, under the rule of the governor Francisco de la Roche Ferrer, a bigger chapel was erected to venerate the newly found Virgin of Chiquinquirá. The wooden slab remained in there for the next generations until the final stage of the Basilica was completed in 1858.

The wooden slab is relatively small. The dimensions are: 26 centimetres wide by 25 centimetres long with 3 millimetres deep. If you look at it, you will find the image of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus in her left arm. To her left, there is Saint Andrew holding an open book and to her right there is Saint Anthony holding a chastity lily in his right hand. The slab was restored and preserved, and 18-karat gold was engraved to magnify its beauty.

The crown weighs 10 kilograms and it was made of 18-karat gold, donated by all parishioners who had a strong devotion towards the Virgin. Its inner arch measures 27 centimetres by 44 centimetres and a number of precious stones were embedded. It is indeed one of the most highly prized relics in all of Zulia. By the time the crown was made it cost around 250 thousand Bolívars.

By the year 2004, the local government inaugurated the “Square of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá”, an open sanctuary reminiscent of the old times when the Saladillo existed. The great monument of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá is located exactly where Maria Cardenas’ house once was. The total area of the square is 30 thousand square meters whose epicenter is a 15-meter-high allegorical statue of the Virgin Mary. There are also three mirror-like fountains as well as a smaller square devoted to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Maracaibo.

Annual Celebration .
The people of Maracaibo celebrate the Chinita's fair in November with an all-night party. One of the main city avenues, Bella Vista, is closed for several blocks and the city puts lights along the whole avenue. The lights stay up for months, until after Christmas. There are stages set up, sponsored by the government and businesses around the city. There are firework shows and street vendors, and hundreds of thousands of people line the streets and celebrate all night.

The Chinita’s fair officially begins on October 27th when the Virgin is taken down from the altar in which she rests. She tours all over the Zulia State and returns to the Basilica to start all the religious festivities. Around October 2nd, Bella Vista Avenue sees itself lit up by all the Christmas decorations and the local government promotes a series of public concerts with national and international artists to begin the “real” fair. Crowds of people flock together to the different stages or platforms devised to house such concerts.

Other cultural activities are held during the fair. Expo-Zulia is a temporary marketplace where the zulians show a great deal products that characterize our region. Many merchants, stores, companies and artisans offer their products at reasonably low prices. The Bullfights are also popular and a number of these are held in our bullring. The “Toros coleados” is another event that people don’t usually miss. Many “gaiteros” gather in front of the basilica to sing their best gaitas to please the patron virgin of our people putting an end to the “gaita season”.

The 17th and 18th of November.
The last two days of the Chinita’s fair are the most special ones. It is during these days when all the great parties around the city are held. By the afternoon of the 17th, many people enjoy the multiple concerts and gaita bands that sing in the different pubs, clubs and discos of our city. The party begins on the 17th and lasts way into the wee hours of the 18th, having fun in the “Gaitero Daybreak”. A lot of people usually go to the Chinita’s baseball game right after this traditional party and to the “Toros coleados” in the afternoon."

Total from wikipedia




The virgin of Chiquinquirá.


                           Venezuela 1970, Mi 1851, Sc 972.




     <<<<<<  Venezuela 1985, Mi 2296, Sc 1338 b.  






                              Venezuela 1988, Mi 2553, Sc 1425 b.  >>>







Pope John Paul II with a working man.

In the left corner the statue of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá.


Venezuela 1996, Mi 2978, Sc 1533 h.







The basílica of 'Nuestra Señora de la Chiquinquirá ', original dedicated to San Juan de Dios, was built in 1686. 

'La Chinita' is today the patron of the city of Maracaibo.



Cathedral of 'Nuestra Señora de la Chiquinquirá' in Maracaibo.

Venezuela 2004, Mi 3672, Sc  -      






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