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How Everything Started:


When the portuguese get into the Guanabara Bay, they were impressed with the natural beauty of Rio de Janeiro. Until today, the city of Rio de Janeiro is called “Wonderful City”.


The neighborhood called Penha is not a point out of the curve. The visitors of the Shrine are impressed with the landscape that they can behold on the place where Our Lady choose to drop her Mother's blessings under the habitans of Rio and all those who are visiting her Shrine.


The devotion to the Holy Virgin under de title of Our Lady of Penafrancia started in Europe on the 15th century. Priest Colunga, in his book “Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia”, tells that the french pilgrim, Simon Vela, in May 19th 1434, discovered in Penafrancia, a mount located in the mountain  range with the same name, near Salamanca, the statue of Our Lady, so important for the Christian Culture.


There is a popular tradition that says that the pilgrim Simon Vela, resting in a franciscan convent in the village of Puy, always had listened, during your ecstasys, a voice saying: “Simon, vela y non dormes” (spanish for Simon, wake up and be on watch). Later, in this reason, Simon changes his surname for Vela. Simon goes and after five years, discovered the image that were left by french soldiers, hiding the statue from the muslins, who they were in conflict.


Is told that the first miracle occurred in the place where the statue was discovered., when a group of fugitives were pursued by criminals. After they make praises to Our Lady of Penafrancia, their enemies had gone. That fact became very famous and really fast. The echo crosses boundries arriving at Guimarães, city of Minho, in Portugal, where the image passes to be venerated. The king of Portugal, Dom Sebastião, when he have achieved the cure of a great disease, by the intermediation of Our Lady of Penha, ordered to build a church in her grace in Lisbon, as a sign of gratitude and devotion to the Mother of God and our Mother. Today, is one of the great parish of the portuguese capital.


In Brazil, different sources says that the first hermitage praising to Our Lady of Penha was constructed in Vila Velha, old captaincy of Espirito Santo. Between the years 1558 and 1570, by Frei Pedro Palacios, from Spain, lay brother of The Franciscan Order, that was a great devotee of Our Lady.


The second hermitage was constructed after the creation of Fazenda Grande or Fazenda de Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, near Irajá, in Rio de Janeiro. Everything started in the beginning of 17th century. Near the year of 1635, when the Capitan Baltazar de Abreu Cardoso was climbing the Penhasco (portuguese for a big rock) to see their plantations, once that he was the owner of all the territory that is around the Shrine. Suddenly, a big snake attacked him. Baltazar, that was a great devotee of Our Lady, when he saw that he was alone and unable to defend himself, praised to Our Lady, screaming: “My Our Lady, protect me!” In that moment appeared a lizard, enemy of the snakes, and a deadly battle started between then. Baltazar didn’t lost time and run away.


Recovering from the incident, Baltazar recognized that the lizard appeared exactly in the moment that he asked for the protection of the Holy Virgin. Thankful for that big maternal act, Baltazar build a small chapel where he put a statue of Our Lady. If Baltazar climb the rock to see his plantations before, now he climbs to thanks the beautiful and absolute gesture of affection that the Madonna made with him. As him, also his realtives, friends, neighbors, even curious people, that saw the small chapel from distance, passed to climb the rock (in Portuguese rock is pedra, and from there the word penha) ones to praise and others to thanks the achieved graces by Our Lady from the top of the rock mediation. However, the name Our Lady of Penha is, besides the fact that the name of the neighborhood is Penha, because many people said: “Vamos a Penha visitar Nossa Senhora!” (Portuguese for: Let’s go to Penha visit Our Lady.) that it becames “Vamos visitar Nossa Senhora da Penha” (Portuguese for: Let’s go visit Our Lady of Penha).


The devotion to Our Lady of Penha was spreading and the number of people who were visiting this holy and lovely place was increasing impressively. Ones to thanks her mediation and other to ask for it.


The Capitan Baltazar donate everyone of his properties to Our Lady of Penha, but there was the necessity that, someone, with credit, should administer responsibly the goods. So, was created the Venerable Brotherhood of Our Lady of Penha, in the year of 1728, that took care with all the zeal and dedication. After, they demolish the old chapel, because it was too small, and build another one, bigger, with a tower where they place two small bells.


Later, in the year of 1870, this chapel was demolished and was build a new temple: a church (that is bigger than a chapel) with a new tower and new bells. Near the year 1900, there was a new intervention: they enlarge the temple, winning two new towers, which, later, was installed a carillon with 25 bells with a Portuguese origin, acquired in The National Exposition of the 1st Centenary of The Day of Independence. This carillon has his inauguration in 27th September 1925 with the blessing of the Apostolic Nuncio Dom Henrique Gasparri.


The Stairway:


In the year of 1817, was climbing the rock a merciful couple when the bride, Mrs. Maria Barbosa, talked to her husband that she asked to Our Lady of Penha to ask for God for a child, whereas they were married since some years and they didn’t have any sons.


Mrs. Maria Barbosa trusted, asked and promised that if they had a child, she would order to carve in the rough granite of the big rock, a stairway to make the access of the devotees of Our Lady of Penha to the Shrine easier. In the following year, the couple was gifted with a beautiful son and in the year of 1819, the stairway was done. The stairway has 382 steps carved in the rock itself. It’s more steps than the number of days in an entire year.


The Shrine Today:


Placed in the city’s entrance, with the smile of the Mother to those who come, be from the Brazil Avenue or the Red Line. Or maybe from the Rio-Niteroi Bridge, even from the Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport, or Tom Jobim International Airport, or Galeao International Airport, the Shrine of Our Lady of Penha is, by excellence, the throne that Mary, Mother of God, choose in Rio de Janeiro, to be the center of her devotion by all of us. Thousands of pilgrims, from different parts of the Brazil and the World, come to this Shrine, to bring their thanks by the achieved graces, or to ask for her mediation. As we climb the holy cliff, we feel that the environment is becoming even more religious. Many are the people who climb the stairway praying, especially the chaplet pray.


In 15th June 1935, by a decree of His Holiness, the Pope Pius XI, the Church of Our Lady of Penha was aggregated to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, in Rome.


In 15th September 1966, The Cardinal Archbishop Jaime de Barros Camara, the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro in that time, elevated the holy temple of Our Lady of Penha to the category of Perpetual Shrine.


In 31st May 1981, the Cardinal Archbishop Eugenio de Araujo Sales, serving the wishes of His Holiness, the Pope John Paul II, elevated the Shrine of Our Lady of Penha to the category of Archdiocesan Marian Shrine.


Old Photographs:



Largo da Penha, 19 - Penha

Rio de Janeiro, RJ

ZIPCODE: 21070-560

Phone: 3219-6262

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2016 © Archdiocesan Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Penha - All Rights Reserved



Largo da Penha, 19 - Penha

Rio de Janeiro, RJ

CEP: 21070-560

Telefone: 3219-6262

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2020 © Basílica Santuário Arquidiocesano Mariano de Nossa Senhora da Penha de França - Todos os direitos reservados