Feast of the Divina Pastora in Barquisimeto Date in the current year: January 14, 2024

Feast of the Divina Pastora in Barquisimeto On January 14, the residents of Barquisimeto (Venezuela) celebrate the feast of the Divina Pastora, the patron saint of the city. Every year, millions of pilgrims come to Barquisimeto to participate in a festive procession. The government of Venezuela has even declared it a bank holiday so that as many people as possible can honor the Divina Pastora.

The Divina Pastora (Divine Shepherdess) is one of the many titles of the Virgin Marry. The tradition of venerating the mother of Jesus as the Divina Pastora is believed to have come from the Spanish city of Seville. Once a Capuchin friar saw an image of the Divine Shepherdess in a dream. He described his vision to the artist Alonso Miguel de Tovar who created a painting based on his description.

The painting portrayed the Virgin Mary in a blue mantle and a pastoral hat, with the Christ Child in her left hand and a lamb in her right hand. De Tovar called her Divina Pastora de Almas, the “Divine Shepherdess of Souls”. Some years later, the sculptor Francisco Ruiz Gijón made a statue of the Divina Pastora to be carried in festive processions.

Venezuelans began to honor the Divina Pastora in 1736. It all started when a parish priest in Santa Rosa commissioned a statue of the Immaculate Conception. For some reason, the sculptor made the sculpture of the Divina Pastora instead. It portrayed the Virgin Mary as a shepherdess, with a shepherd’s crook in her right hand, the Christ Child in her left hand, and a lamb at her feet. The priest was unable to return the sculpture, and the whole town took at as a sign that it was fate.

The faith in the Divine Shepherdess as the patron saint of Lara state was strengthened after two events that took place in the 19th century. After the 1812 Caracas earthquake, the statue remained undamaged, event though the temple where it was held had been destroyed. Fourth-three years later, a terrible outbreak of cholera stopped due to the intercession of the Divina Pastora. In addition to being the patron saint of Barquisimeto, the Divine Shepherdess is the patron of the National Bolivarian Militia of Venezuela.

Every year, the statue of the Divina Pastora is dressed in new attire created by a local designer. The money for her gown is donated by those who want to pay penance. On January 14, the statue is removed from its shrine in the Church of the Divina Pastora in Santa Rosa and carried through the main streets of Barquisimeto to the Barquisimeto Cathedral. The route is about 7.5 km long, and the procession lasts nearly 7 hours. The celebration ends with the Mass and various cultural events.

The feast of the Divine Shepherdess is one of the world’s biggest celebrations devoted to the Virgin Mary; every year, over 2 million pilgrims participate in the procession. Interestingly, in most mass Marian celebrations, the image of the Virgin Mary doesn’t leave its temple, but this one is an exception. After the procession, it travels from one parish of Barquisimeto to another, arriving back in Santa Rosa by Palm Sunday.

Photo by Napaspa, Wikimedia Commons

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