Our Lady of Coromoto
Patroness of Venezuela
Feasts: on February 2 and September 8 and 11.
Each Latin American country has a special image of the Virgin Mary it venerates as its national patron saint. These images of Our Lady are venerated with a deep love tied closely to national identity, and the traditions and legends that have arisen around these images often reflect the historical journeys, sorrows and the hopes of the Latin American people. The patron saint of Venezuela is the Virgin of Coromoto.
When the Spaniards arrived at the region of Guanare, around 1591, a group of Indians of the Coromoto tribe decided to abandon their land and flee towards the Tucupido River, since they did not want to have anything to do with the white men or with the religion they brought with them. Fifty years later, still maintaining their independence, the Indians lived in a small village not far from the Spaniards' town. Both groups lived in peace, but remained isolated from each other until 1651, when the chief of the Coromotos and his wife experienced an extraordinary vision: in the ravine of the Tucupido River. Upon the waters, a beautiful lady looked at them with a loving expression on her face; the small child she carried also smiled amiably. The mysterious lady summoned the Indian chief and told him: "Leave the forest with your people and go to the white men in order to receive the water on the head so as to be able to enter heaven."
Impressed by what he has seen and heard, the chief decided to obey the beautiful lady and led his tribe to be schooled in the Christian religion. But the Indian, used to the freedom of the forests, cannot become accustomed to the new way of life and he returns to his village with his family. The lady appeared again, this time at the Indian's humble hut. Although the Virgin presented herself surrounded by a luminous aura, whose rays filled the hut with fire, she did not succeed in moving the chief, who, annoyed, tried to throw her out and even took his weapons in hand with the intention of threatening the inopportune lady. When he stretched out his hand angrily to catch her, she disappeared before his eyes. A small holy card, where the image of the Lady was printed, was left in the Coromoto Indian's closed fist.
The Virgin of Coromoto is a tiny relic that measures 27 milimeters high and 22 wide. The holy card's material could be parchment or tissue paper. The Virgin is painted seated, and on her lap sits the Child Jesus. It seems to have been drawn with a fine pen, sketched as a portrait done in India ink with dots and dashes. The Virgin and Child are looking straight ahead; their heads erect with royal crowns upon them. The back of the throne which supports them has two columns joined together by an arch. The Virgin's shoulders are covered by a crimson cloak with dark purple reflections, and a white veil falls symmetrically over her hair. She wears a straw colored tunic and the Child a white one. The image is kept inside a richly adorned monstrance where it is presented for the veneration of the faithful. At the request of the nation's bishops, on October 7, 1944 Pius XII declared her "Patroness of the Republic of Venezuela" and her canonical coronation was celebrated on the third centenary of her apparition, on September 11, 1952. His Eminence Cardinal Manuel Arteaga Betancourt, Archbishop of Havana, representing Pope Pius XII, crowned the sacred image of Our Lady of Coromoto. The Venezuelans celebrate their patroness each year on three different occasions: on February 2 and September 8 and 11. The National Sanctuary of the Virgin of Coromoto, meeting place of great pilgrimages, was declared a Basilica by Pope Pius XII on May 24, 1949.
Beautiful Lady Mary, Virgin Mother of the Redeemer, with you we praise and glorify the Father in the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. We beseech you that, just as in Coromoto you guided the steps of the Indians towards the baptismal grace, you may now capture the heart of the Venezuelans, and bring them to the renewal of their faith.
Virgin of Coromoto, patron of Venezuela, bless the evangelistic action of the Church in our Country so that she might be fortress and defense of the faith of your children, and beginning of a renewal of the Christian customs.