Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia

Punta Cana & the Southeast

From the outside, this basilica is a strange mixture of the sacred and the profane. A utilitarian concrete facade, not far removed from a military bunker, is topped by an elongated arch reaching high into the sky. But it’s one of the most famous cathedrals in the country because of the glass-encased image of the Virgin of Altagracia housed inside amid a trippy kaleidoscopic altar of stained-glass glow.

According to the story, a sick child in Higüey was healed when an old man thought to be an Apostle asked for a meal and shelter at the city’s original church, the Iglesia San Dionisio. On departing the following day, he left a small print of Our Lady of Grace in a modest frame. Since that day the 16th-century image has been revered by countless devotees, upon whom the Virgin is said to have bestowed miraculous cures. Originally housed in the handsome Iglesia San Dionisio, the image of the Virgin has been venerated in the basilica since the mid-1950s. Designed by Frenchmen Pierre Dupré and Dovnoyer de Segonzac, and completed in 1956, the long interior walls consist mostly of bare concrete and approach each other as they rise, connecting at a rounded point directly over the center aisle. The entire wall opposite the front door consists of stained glass and is quite beautiful, especially in the late afternoon when the sunshine casts honey-colored shadows across the floor.

The Museo de la Altagracia on the grounds of the basilica is an extremely well-done and modern museum tracing the history of religion and culture in the DR back to the 18th century.