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Roadside Shrines to the Virgin, Christ, and the Saints

Chile is home to a significant number of “official” pilgrimage and devotional sites like the Church of Our Lady of Andacollo, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Tirana, the Church of the Immaculate Conception Lo Vásquez, and Santiago’s National Basilica to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. 

Occasionally one also encounters large roadside shrines to the Virgin, Jesus crucified, or a canonized saint, set up by pious families, often with a parish’s blessing. These shrines have a more informal, transitory or populist feel than the officially constructed pilgrimage sites. They serve to mark Chile in public ways as a Catholic place, and signal accessibility, even a sort of “ownership” of the Virgin, for all. While the photos below might suggest that such shrines are very common in Chile, one can easily travel a hundred kilometers without coming across one.

On the highway from La Serena to Ovalle, a big, fairly new roadside shrine to the Virgin of Andacollo allows visitors to stop by and pay their respects without having to go the 20 km route up the mountain to the main church. The shrine is active and dotted with ex voto plaques. Other shrines, visible in photos here, honor the recently canonized Chilean Jesuit St. Alberto Hurtado, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus’ crucifixion.