A statue of Our Lady with a miraculous origin. It stands about 16 inches high, the head is made of baked clay covered with a polished coat of fine white powder, possibly rice paste, and until recently was covered with several layers of paint. She stands on a moon that has silver clouds at either end and three golden-winged cherubs beneath it. She cradles the Christ Child in her left arm, and holds a gold crucifix in her right. The Child raises one hand in blessing, and in the other hand he holds a golden globe. The image’s original robes were white, but as usual, the figure is covered by a heavy ornate cloak with gold and silver embroidery, including the Cuban national shield. It hides the body and gives the statue a triangular shape.
Around 1608 two brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and a ten-year-old slave boy named Juan Moreno, left Santiago del Prado (modern El Cobre, named after the copper mines), Cuba in search of salt to preserve meat for the copper miners. Halfway across the Bay of Nipe they put in for the night to wait out a strong storm. The next morning a small white bundle floated across the water toward them. It turned out to be the statue of Our Lady. It was attached to a board, was completely dry, and bore the inscription I am the Virgin of Charity. A shrine was built immediately, and instantly became a pilgrimage destination.
At the request of the veterans of the War of Independence, Our Lady of Charity was declared the patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916. Then image was solemnly crowned in the Eucharistic Congress at Santiago de Cuba in 1936. Pope Paul VI raised her sanctuary to a basilica in 1977. Pope John Paul II solemnly crowned her again in 1998.
During this celebration we will crown the image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. From her shrine, not far from here, the Queen and Mother of all Cubans — regardless of race, political allegiance or ideology — guides and sustains, as in times past, the steps of her sons and daughters towards our heavenly homeland, and she encourages them to live in such a way that in society those authentic moral values may reign which constitute the rich spiritual heritage received from your forebears. With gratitude, we turn to her, as did her cousin Elizabeth, and say: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). In these words lies the secret of the true happiness of individuals and peoples: to believe and proclaim that the Lord has done marvellous things for us and that his mercy is from generation to generation on those who are faithful to him. This conviction is the force which inspires men and women to commit themselves selflessly, even at the cost of sacrifice, to the service of others. Mary’s example of readiness to serve shows us the path to take. With her, the Church fulfills her own vocation and mission, proclaiming Jesus Christ and exhorting us to do what he says, building a universal brotherhood in which every person can call God “Father”. – Pope John Paul II in his homily at Santiago de Cuba, 24 January 1998
- “Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre“. CatholicSaints.Info. 31 December 2008. Web. 25 April 2015. <>