Our Lady of Copacabana

Our Lady of Copacabana, Marian holy cards collection,

ML. 031, circa 1675-2018. Marian Library,

University of Dayton Libraries, Dayton, Ohio.




The town, Copacabana, is in Bolivia on a peninsula on the shore of Lake Titicaca. The Virgin of Copacabana is the patron saint of Bolivia and this also includes the Bolivian Navy. In the year 1576 the image of Our Lady showed in the light during a horrible storm and saved some fishermen from the storm. The title, Virgin de Copacabana, is also known as other titles such as Dark Virgin of the Lake, Patroness of Bolivia, Copacabana Virgin, Queen of Bolivia, La Coyeta, and Virgin of Candelaria. Francisco Tito Yupanqui was one of the fishermen that was saved by the Virgin and decided to create the statue of the Virgin based on his very own sighting of her. Francisco created a statue of the Virgin Mary that is located in the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana in Copacabana since 1949. Francisco began building the statue in 1581, but it took him months to complete his “labor of love” for the Virgin de Copacabana. The statue is about four feet tall and is covered in gold leaf and has jewels on her neck, ears, and hands. The statue is dressed like an Inca Princess and her carved hair is normally always covered by a wig. It was soon after the statue was created that the Church was built for the Mother and her child.

In 1668, the construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana began at the foot of a small steep hill and was not completed until the year 1805. Those who lived far away made the pilgrimage to visit the Basilica and came all the way to donate their jewels to the shrine to show their appreciation for Our Lady of Copacabana. The Basilica is referred to as the Temple of the Sun. Once the Basilica was completed, people who were faithful to Our Lady of Copacabana donated their valuable jewels, gifts, treasures, and other embellishments to the statue. The faith that Bolivians had to the Virgin of Copacabana was a huge attribute to when Bolivia gained their independence in the year 1825. The original statue stays safely in the Basilica, because it is believed that if she is taken outside, then there is a chance that another horrible storm will occur. So, whenever they need the image for processions, they use a copy of the statue. An interesting fact about the jewels and embellishments that were donated to the Shrine of the Virgin was that the President of the Republic of Bolivia, Marshal Antonio Jose de Sucre, used them to make Bolivia’s first coins. In 1949 the image of the Virgin de Copacabana was crowned during the reign of Pope Pius XI.

Bolivians feel the warmth and love that comes from the shrine. When the Bolivians leave the shrine, they walk backwards because they do not want to turn their backs on the Virgin de Copacabana. There are many legends that come from the statue. One of the most popular legends is if you look at her and believe she is beautiful then you are in her favor. But, if you look at the statue and do not view her as beautiful then that means you have an ugly soul. Miracles and cures have also been attributed to the Virgin of Copacabana. Francisco Yupanqui proves that she brought faith to him and to the other millions of Indians that followed in his footsteps. This also includes the rich, the poor, the mighty, and the lowly. This shrine is one of the oldest shrines in the Americas and we have Francisco to thank for that.

Every year at the beginning of February, people travel from all over the world to Lake Titicaca in order to honor the Virgin of Copacabana. This is a fishing village that celebrates with music, eating, dancing, drinking, and time where they practice their Catholic traditions together. This is the location of the celebration because of the local legend from the year 1576, when the Inca fishermen were saved from the dangerous storm and were guided back to shore by the Virgin Mary. The Fiesta de la Virgin de la Candelaria lasts three days and the festivities are celebrated with colorful costumes, traditional Aymara dances, the blessing of new vehicles by priests with beer, and running of the bulls that stampede through the road called Yampupata road.

“Mary in our life” by Nicholas J. Santoro. Atlas of the names and titles of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and their place in Marian devotion. From the University of Dayton Marian Library.






Researched by Abigail A. Schaefer

Popular Devotions

MI031 Marian Holy Card Collection

• To regard with reverential respect, there is a feast on February 2nd, the day of the Purification of Mary

• Virgin of Copacabana is also venerated on August 5th with her own popular celebration

• The Bolivian community in Argentina celebrates the Feast of the Virgin of Copacabana in Buenos Aires in October. She is the Patron Saint of Bolivia

Citation: “Mary in our life” by Nicholas J. Santoro. Atlas of the names and titles of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and their place in Marian devotion. From the University of Dayton Marian Library.



Hail Mary

Dios te salve, María. Llena eres de gracia: El Señor es contigo.

Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres.

Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre: Jesús.

Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores,

ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.


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of the Marian Library at the

University of Dayton.