I returned last Thursday from my 10-day trip to Costa Rica, but of course, the blog runs on its own time (that is, severely delayed.) Because of this, you can expect a handful more Costa Rica posts hitting the e-press in the next week.

All five of us (David at the wheel, Kirk riding shotgun, and me, Natalia and Sofia [in her car seat] squeezed three across the back) took off for a day trip to Cartago. Our first stop: Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles.

Every August, over 1.5 million people make a pilgrimage to this Catholic church in celebration of Virgen de los Angeles Day (The Day of the Virgin).

According to Wikipedia, the story behind the construction of the basilica goes like this:

In Cartago… [a] little girl found the small statue [of the Virgin Mary carrying the infant Jesus] on a rock and took it home. The next morning she found that the statue was not there but back at the rock, so she took it to the priest and he locked it in a small box. The next morning the statue was back at the rock. During the construction, the church was destroyed by earthquakes so many times, it was finally decided to move it to the location where the statue was found and they were able to finish construction. Many people think that the earthquakes were signs that the Lady of Los Ángeles wanted the basilica built there.

The original statue is kept in a golden shell inside the basilica. An official decree declared the Virgin of the Angels the official patron of Costa Rica.

In the picture above, you can see the statue encased in an elaborate display.

Venturing down into the airy basement of the church, we found many display cases full of tiny metal hands, noses, ears, hearts, pelvises and every other body part and organ. When struck with an ailment, a devout Tico Catholic may leave here a tiny metal likeness of his or her afflicted organ or limb in hopes that God will soon heal it.

One need not be a Catholic or even have the slightest religious inclination to appreciate the beautiful architecture of the Basílica.

Finished with our exploration of the church, we all piled back into the mini-SUV. Next stop: the jungle. ☼