The Story of the Black Madonna Statue 

Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida


A fishing session in the river Paraiba

On 12 October 1717, when Brazil was still a Portuguese colony, three fishermen (Domingo Garcia, Joao Alves u Filipe Pedroso) went out fishing in the river Paraiba, situated between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, because Governor Dom Pedro de Almeida was due to pay a visit to that area.

For this occasion the people of this small fishing village wished to offer a good meal of fish to the governor and to those who accompanied him.

These three fishermen were catching very few fish that day. They prayed much to the Madonna for her intervention. Joao Alves did not give up and he again threw a net into the river and, amazingly, they caught a large number of fish. Interestingly, together with the fish in the net, they found a headless statue of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They were stunned and they placed the statue in their boat. Later on they continued fishing and this time, again amazingly, in the net along with a large number of fish, they found the head of the statute.

Joao Alves and his fellow fishermen did not look upon this finding of a small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a normal event but that Our Blessed Lady wanted something from them. Therefore, Filipe Pedroso took it to his humble home and, together with him, a group of persons used to pray and recite the rosary daily in front of the statue. Filipe’s house became too small to accommodate so many persons the number of which was always increasing.

With the help of other villagers, in 1734, a small chapel was built and the statue of the image of the Madonna Aparecida (as she then became known) was placed there so as to be available for prayer and devotions also by people from surrounding areas.

With the passage of time some miracles started happening:

  1. The miracle of the candles, whenever candles were placed in front of the statue, these were lit and extinguished by themselves.
  2. The miracle of the slave, this man escaped from his master who had treated him very badly, With great wonder, when he fled, the slave entered the chapel and prayed before the Madonna Aparecida to be released from his chains. A short while later the chains fell off on their own from his hands and feet.
  3. The miracle of the blind girl, this girl went in front of the Madonna praying that she would be able to see. A little later this girl regained her sight in both eyes.
  4. The miracle fo the horse, these was man who did not believe in God nor in the Church. Once, so as to make a mockery of the devotion towards the Madonna Aparecida, he decided to enter, together with his horse, on the people then in the chapel. Amazingly, the horse knelt down on one leg and refused to enter the chapel.

With the passage of time, devotion towards the Madonna Aparecida continued to grow and, at the same time, the number of pilgrims increased daily.

Over time, this chapel became too small as the number of people wishing to pray there continued to grow. In1834, a much larger church started to be built so as to accommodate more and more pilgrims that were attending from cities and villages more distant in Brazil.

In 1888 this church was completed but still this Marian sanctuary remained too small for the thousands of people and pilgrims that attended daily especially at week-ends.

Patroness of Brazil

Fifty years after the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, on 8 December 1904, Pope Pius X declared the Madonna Aparecida as the Queen/Patroness of Brazil, and gave permission to the Cardinal of Rio de Janiero for the statute to be crowned.

In 1931, Brazil was consecrated to the Madonna Aparecida.

The sanctuary there is at present

In1955, it was decided to build a very much larger sanctuary. The idea was that this would accommodate about 45,000 persons. In fact, this sanctuary is the second in size after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and it is the largest in Latin America.

What was a tiny village for fishermen nowadays has become a large city where there are a number of hotels, churches, convents, a hospital, shops, restaurants and so many other things. The Redemptorist Fathers who are responsible for this sanctuary have a radio station and a TV station. Also situated there is the Seat of the Episcopal Conference of Brazil.


It is estimated that during special feasts of the Madonna, such as the feast day of the Madonna Aparecida on12 October, there will be about one million pilgrims taking part in this feast of the Patroness of Brazil. During the year about 750,000 persons visit this sanctuary . Year after year the number of visitors to the Black Madonna continues to increase.

Dark Shadow

Although Brazil is considered to be a Catholic country, with the passage of time various other religions , including Protestantism, started entering the country. These, as we know, do not accept devotion to the Madonna nor to the saints.

An interesting fact happened on 16 May 1978 when a member of the Protestant Church entered the Church, after Mass had ended, with the intention of stealing this small statue of the Madonna Aparecida. As soon as he grabbed it in his hands he was seen by an attendant who was guarding the Church and, as he went to apprehend him, in that instant the statue fell from the hands of that man and broke in many pieces (the statue is made of clay).  The pieces were gathered together and sent to the Vatican in Rome where there ar experts capable of repairing this type of statue. After many months of patinet work, they managed to repair the statue so much devoted and loved by the Brazilian people of the Madonna Aparecida.

Popes who visited this sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida:

On 4 July1980, Pope St. John Paul II visited this sanctuary during an official visit to that country. On 12 May 2007 Pope Benedict XVI, in the course of his visit, offered a golden rose to the Madonna Aparecida. On 24 July 2013, Pope Francis visited this statue when in Brazil for the World Day of Youths.

Interesting Information

This statue is 15 inches high and made of clay. It is black in colour because it spent a long time at the bottom of the river. In those days, this type of small statue was found in the chapels of Portuguese sailing vessels.

Fr Mario Abela osa

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