Aparecida do Norte
Located in the valley of the Paraíba River, in the East of the State of São Paulo, the town of Aparecida do Norte attracts millions of pilgrims from all corners of the country all year round. But it is on October 12th that the town is mainly visited by the devotees of Our Lady of Conception Aparecida. On that day alone, more than 200 thousand pilgrims go there to participate in one of the masses that is celebrated in the Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of Conception Aparecida, known as the "New Basilica", and in the National Basilica of Aparecida, known as the “Old Basilica.” In a typical year, the town receives the staggering number of seven million visitors.
Tourism and the economic activities of the town gravitate around the religiosity celebrated there, and the area has the presence of more than 50 industries dedicated to the faith-driven religious commerce found there. Culture also has a leading role in that town. Every 12th of October sees plays, exhibitions, and craft courses, filling the town with activities during the whole day. Both the town and the local churches have a full infrastructure to meet the needs of those who go there.
In the National Sanctuary of Our Lady pilgrims have a medical clinic, a bazaar, a christening room, a chapel for penitence, a cafeteria, a nursery, a parking lot, a permanent exhibition, a museum, the room of the promises, and a pilgrim support centre, where the religious commerce is rather diverse. Besides the two main churches, Aparecida do Norte has nine other churches for the needs of the local population. The town also has a theme park, with rides, as well as religious and cultural activities.
National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Conception Aparecida
Having had its construction started in 1955 that new temple is the largest church in Aparecida and was projected aiming at receiving the growing number of pilgrims that visit the town. That church was consecrated by the Pope John Paul II in 1980 and, four years later, the National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil officially declared Aparecida's New Basilica the National Sanctuary. Built in neo-romantic style, the temple has four aisles, forming a cross. It is there that the image of Our Lady of Conception Aparecida is, in a marble and gold niche, which is known as its high altar. The Basilica has walls of nude bricks, and a total capacity of 45 thousand people.
Basilica Mother Church of Our Lady of Conception Aparecida
Known as the Old Basilica, the Basilica Mother Church of Our Lady of Conception Aparecida is connected to the Old Mother Church by a 500-meter (1,640.42-ft.) long footbridge. Its Baroque style is marked by two towers and bells. The stone steps of the entrance of the temple are worn and marked by the feet of the millions of believers who visit the place every year. The temple has already been renovated and expanded, on occasions which have been marked by the many dates engraved on its imposing external walls. Inside the Church both its high altar and the retable were sculpted in Carrara marble, in Italy. The pulpits and the ornamented carvings were sculpted in cedar.
Chapel of the Candles
The Chapel of the Candles is located in the Old Basilica. The amount of flickering flames forms an amazing show, which moves those who arrive there. There are candles of all sizes and shapes, representing both the prayers and the gratitude of the followers.
Room of the Miracles
The room of the Miracles and Promises is in the underground of the New Basilica and is one of the most visited places of the National Sanctuary. The atmosphere was created to receive and expose the pieces given by the followers, such as the pictures that completely cover the walls of the room.
Footbridge of the Faith
The Footbridge of the Faith was inaugurated in 1972 to connect the Old Basilica to the New One. The construction takes that shape of an “S” to pay homage to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Aparecida. (S for Senhora, in Nossa Senhora, in Portuguese). The footbridge is definitely one of the must-go destinations for those visiting the town, especially on Sundays, when, during masses, the footbridge gets filled with visitors. The Footbridge of the Faith is 500 m (1,640.42 ft) long. From the highest part of the Footbridge it is possible to have a panoramic view of the whole town.
One of the busiest areas of Aparecida, the Historical Centre is the cultural-tourist and leisure centre of the town. Located around the Old Basilica, in the place there are many bars, restaurants, stores, hotels, and an open-air shopping mall.
Saint Benedict Church
The sculpted angels on the doors and sills of the temple are the largest and most beautiful works of art in Saint Benedict’s Church, which was inaugurated in 1924. The simplicity of its sole tower demonstrates the unaffectedness of the construction.