|The Bell Tower|
|Entry to the Basilica|
|Our Guide Telling Us Some Of The History of the Bell Tower|
When we got off the bus, we were met by a tiny Mexican nun who was our guide. She talked for quite awhile on the steps of the church and then took us inside. She was very knowledgeable about the history of the church but somehow she made me feel like she was trying to convert all of us at the same time. She was so cute and likeable that it really didn't matter.
|The Main Altar - The Statue of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle is located in the center of the circle|
|Stained Glass Beside the Altar Represents the parts of the Rosary.|
|Stained Glass at the Ceiling Level|
In 1949 when Rev. Jose Maria Azpiazu became the pastor of the parish of St, John the Baptist in San Juan, he decided that fostering the devotion of the Virgin Mary would draw the people together. He received permission from the Bishop to commission an artist in Guadalajara, Mexico to make a reproduction of the statue that was venerated at San Juan de Los Lagos. The small statue in the main altar is this same statue. It was saved during the burning of the first church. The Mexican people so loved the Virgin Mary that they contributed whatever they had to build the Shrine that now exists here in San Juan.
The basilica was dedicated in 1980 and the shrine was designated as a National Shrine in 1998. This church was built after the first church was destroyed in a fire in 1970. What is amazing is that this area should not be able to support this type of facility. The basilica was paid for by some of the poorest of the poor in the United States. The congregation here is very active. The basilica has 2030 seats and Sister told us that all Masses are full. They have Spanish, Bilingual and English Masses on Saturday and Sunday. Besides the congregation, the basilica gets around 20,000 visitors each week (that's a million each year).
While we were there several Mexican families and individuals came in to light candles for their loved ones behind the altar. They use so many candles each week that the basilica has a Candle Room. On the weekends, all the candles are lit each day and they transfer them into the Candle Room where they allow them to burn down all the way.
|A man lighting a candle behind the altar|
|On Weekends There are so many flowers and |
lit candles that it is just amazing!
There is also a Miracle Room which was very interesting. There is a woman who keeps the Miracle Room cleaned up. It sounds like that is quite a job. People bring in mementos of the miracles in their lives. There was a wall with a couple of graduation gowns, some baby clothes, and crutches. There were several bowls and vase full of pieces of papers with requests or thanks for miracles. There were also a lot of small little trinket looking parts of the body that people put into jars or small envelopes. I believe the parts are to request help for a leg, arm, head or whatever else a person was requesting a miracle for.
|Our Guide Talking In The Miracle Room|
|Our Lady of Sorrows|
After we saw the Miracle Room, Sister took us outside to get a better look at the mosaic "Christ Presents His Mother" which was dedicated in 1995. We look at this mosaic each time we drive through San Juan on Highway 83. Looking at it up close is really amazing. This enormous mosaic is made up of millions of tiny pieces. The pieces are all Murano Glass from Italy. The artists did the work in Italy and then it was brought here in pieces and reassembled.
|Mosaic of "Christ Presents His Mother"|
|This is what we see from Highway 83|
|A closeup of the individual pieces of Murano Glass|
After the tour, we were free to look around. The complex is on 60+ acres. There is a wonderful walkway with the Stations of the Cross that I want to return to one of these days when we have the time to go to them all. There are 14 stations and they are on a 3/4 mile walk around the basilica. We stopped at a couple of them just to take some pictures.
|The 1st Station of the Cross|
|The 2nd Station of the Cross|
|Another View of the Basilica|
|Jesus Being Condemned to Death|
Then we wandered over to the Gift Shop where you could spend a lot of time. I don't know where we've seen so many statues, rosaries and Christian books.
|The Gift Shop and Book Store|
After that we headed over to the little restaurant that they have which is attached to their hotel. The hotel is for pilgrims, visitors or tourists who want to visit the basilica. We had a very nice lunch at the restaurant. It was Italian Day so there was pizza, spaghetti, another chicken and pasta dish, rolls, vegetable soup and desserts.
|This Palm Tree Was Near the Cafe|
|Is this a type of fruit hanging from it?|