Religion and Culture in Historic Dominican City

The city of Higϋey, on the Dominican Republic’s easternmost region, is rich in colonial treasures and history.

The city, situated some 30 minutes from Punta Cana – one of the region’s most important tourism destinations – features one of the oldest churches built in the Americas.

The Church of San Dionisio, built between 1569 and 1572, is a true symbol of Dominican religious culture. It was in this church where worshippers first began their devotion to Our Lady of Altagracia, the country’s patron saint.

Today, the city’s Basilica is the center of all devotion to the Virgin of Altagracia.

The Trejo brothers were among the first Spaniards to found the city of Higϋey.

When they arrived in what is now the eastern region’s most important city, they brought with them a canvas of the Virgin.

Once the town’s first Catholic church was built, the Spanish-born brothers donated the painting to the church. The building’s pure colonial style is inspired by the religious buildings of the Mediterranean​​.

In contrast to the old colonial church is the Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia, built between 1947 and 1971 and designed by the French architect Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac. The Basilica is the Dominican Republic’s most visited place of worship.

On January 21 Dominicans celebrate the day of Our Lady of Altagracia.

The celebrations and rituals that take place around the figure of the Virgin bring both Dominicans and international visitors into contact with some of the country’s most important cultural and religious traditions.

Another important date is August 14, when the faithful travel to the Basilica to thank the Virgin for the favors granted throughout the year.

Adolfo López
Environmental consultant

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