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Catholic Dictionary




The principal Marian shrine of Bolivia, on the Peruvian border. This shrine to Our Lady, dating from 1592, is located in the mountains near Lake Titicaca. The site marked the location of an Inca temple to the Sun God. The legend of Mary and her Son goes back to 1576, when she appeared to some Inca fishermen and led them to safety in a violent storm on the nearby lake. In gratitude they built a small shrine in 1583 for a four-foot-high statue of wood and stucco carved by a descendant of Inca nobility. On feast days the Madonna is clothed in costly embroidered robes that scintillate with a thousand precious jewels. Her mid-August feast day pilgrimages usually last ten days, sometimes more. At these celebrations groups perform their Indian dances to drums, pipes, and flute, re-enacting events from their history. Daily processions pass along the lake roads carrying a replica of their Bolivian Queen of Heaven as she blesses the boats offshore. The original statue never leaves the basilica, for there is a popular legend that "Our Lady does not want to be outside," and when they disturb her "violent storms will occur."