Our Lady of Copacabana
Our Lady of Copacabana
The Virgen de Copacabana is the patron saint of Bolivia. She is venerated in Bolivia during her feast day of February 2, the day of the Purification of Mary, or feast of the Virgen de la Candelaria. She is also venerated on August 5 with her own liturgy and popular celebration. Copacabana is a Bolivian town located on a peninsula at the southeastern shore of Lake Titicaca. It is close to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna, islands sacred to the Aymara and Quechua.
Francisco Tito Yupanqui, an amateur sculptor, decided to create an image of the Madonna, believing it would influence the local people. Using clay Francisco created the image of the Virgin. The sculpture was placed at the side of the altar by the priest, Father Antonio de Almedio. After Father Antonio left Copacabana, a new priest Antonio Montoro took over. Unhappy with the look of the coarse and disproportionate sculpture, he ordered that it be removed from the altar and be placed in a corner of the sacristy. Francisco Tito was humbled by this setback. Advised by relatives, he went to Potosi which had outstanding teachers of sacred image sculpting. With this skill, he resolved to create an improved image of the Candelaria. He looked through the churches of Potosí for an image of the Virgin which could serve as a model, finally finding the best one in the Convent of Santo Domingo to the Virgen del Rosario. He studied it closely to remember it before starting his new piece and held a Mass in honor of the Holy Trinity as a divine blessing for his work. From its beginning, the image gained a reputation for being a miracle.
The body of the image is carved in maguey wood and is gold laminated. The clothes are that of an Inca princess. The form is covered with luxurious robes and dresses, and wears a wig of long, natural hair. The image measures a little over four feet. It holds a child in a peculiar position, as if about to fall. In her right hand, she holds a basket, and a baton, a gift and souvenir of the visit in 1669 from the viceroy of Peru. The original image never leaves the sanctuary; a copy is used for processions. Those leaving the shrine walk backwards with the intention not to turn their backs on the Virgin.