High atop a little hill in Aruba, surrounded with cacti and breath-taking views of the ocean, sits a tiny little chapel filled with Aruban history. The Alto Visto chapel. While the chapel that now stands is not the original, the story behind the first church in Aruba is filled with a rich history, and remains an important part of Aruban culture.
The Chapel, which is also known as 'Pilgrims Chapel', was originally built in 1750 by a Venezuelan Missionary named Domingo Antonio Silvestre. Silvestre was on a mission to convert the local population of Caquetio people to the Catholic Christian faith. He was so dedicated to achieving the conversions that he funded the building of the Chapel himself.
But 26 years after the chapel was built, the plague swept through the village killing many. It is said that many of the survivors fled to escape the plague, leaving behind the little chapel for many decades, allowing it fall into disrepair and ruins.
The story of how the chapel came to be rebuilt is one of much determination, similar to Silvestres' quest those many years before. During the 1940's, a local school teacher named Francisca Henriques Lacle, took her students on a hike near the site of the ruins of the chapel. During their exploration, they found an Alter of sorts with a painting of the Virgin Mary and was surrounded by flowers and candles. Evidence that this was still a place of importance to the Aruban people.
Francisca appealed to the Bishop of Curacao for funds to rebuild the chapel. Unfortunately, her request was denied. Francisca was not deterred. She organized picnics to raise funds for a statue of the Virgin Mary. When she had raised the 5000 Florins to pay for the statue, it was sent over from the Netherlands. Shortly after it's arrival, the Bishop of Curacao gave his blessing for the chapel to be reconstructed. In 1952, the project was completed as it stands now.
Through much determination, this little chapel on the hill was built, not once, but twice. As a result, you can now enjoy the beauty and the solitude that it provides for all. The chapel is still active and regularly hosts Baptisms and Weddings. Every Tuesday the chapel has a mass where everyone of any faith is welcomed. You can even participate on Good Friday, as locals go on a pilgrimage up to the chapel, passing by the Stations of the Cross which are posted along the road to the chapel.
I encourage you to make it a priority to visit the Alto Vista chapel on your next visit to Aruba. The little sanctuary and the Peace Labyrinth which is located behind the chapel are sure to provide you some peaceful time for meditation and some spectacular scenery as well. Be sure to go early in the day or late in the afternoon to avoid tour groups.
Lizzie McKay is an avid traveler with a special Love for Aruba. She loves exploring new places and trying out new things, and sharing those adventures with you. She writes articles and takes photographs for All Around Aruba website and is a contributing writer for various blogs.
She is available for writing assignments throughout Aruba. Contact her here for more Information.