On August 10, 1685, Bernardino Rodríguez de León “saw a great and unusual radiance that was not the natural light of day” in the peaks east of Bogotá. On drawing near, he realized the light was coming from an image of an angel, the Virgin and Child, and St. Joseph, outlined in the living rock. News of the discovery soon spread through the capital, and after an investigation, the Archbishop authorized construction of a chapel on the mountain and public veneration of the images on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday of 1686. The thatched chapel collapsed in 1714, and a sturdier stone one took its place.
Mysteriously, people began to see Our Lady’s face change expression at times: sad, tearful, joyous. On May 8, 1716, the left wall of the chapel collapsed to its foundation, after only 150 days. It was decided to move the images from the mountain. In early June, stonemason Luis de Herrera began separating the images from the underlying rock. Legend relates that when he finished, a bird flew out. The images were cleaned, polished, and touched up to make the figures and clothing more distinct. They still weighed 750 pounds.
In November, men carried them on their shoulders to the plain, where they were greeted with rejoicing and dancing. Another straw shelter protected the statues until completion of a new chapel in 1722. Now a national monument, Our Lady of the Rock (Virgen de la Peña) is still an active church and an archdiocesan sanctuary.
“Santuario Nuestra Señora de la Peña,” Arquidiocesis de Bogotá, www.arquibogota.org.co/?idcategoria=2922
“Historia de la Parroquia – Parroquia La Peña,” Arquidiocesis de Bogotá, www.arquibogota.org.co/?idcategoria=22269 (picture, detail)
Beatriz Caballero, “El Santuario de la Peña,” Boletín Cultural y Bibliográfico, Número 11. Volumen XXIV – 1987, Banco de la República de Colombia, www.lablaa.org/blaavirtual/publicacionesbanrep/boletin/boleti3/bol11/santuario.htm (quote from Juan Agustín Matallana, Historia metódica y compendiosa del Santuario, 1815)