Exterior of the Basilica
According to legend, the adoration of the Virgin of Ocotlán began with a miraculous event in 1541, about twenty years after the fall of the Aztec Empire. This event occurred at a time of great trouble for the indigenous people of Tlaxcala. After their initial alliance with the Spanish against the Aztecs, many Tlaxcaltecas became disillusioned with their new overlords. This was exacerbated when Spanish priests attempted to eradicate the old religions and, in the process, turned children against their parents. Revolts were followed by savage repression by the Spanish. In addition, a series of disastrous plagues began to ravage the indigenous people, who had no resistance to Spanish diseases. Between the beginning of the Conquest in 1519 and approximately 1650, the Tlaxcalteca population plummeted by 90%.
built between 1760 and 1790. The estipite columns are part of the Churrigueresque style found throughout the Basilica. The facade teems with sculptures, including the Twelve Apostles, the four theological Doctors of the Church, the seven Archangels, and San José (Jesus' father) and San Francisco de Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order. Before Juan Diego left the spring, the woman told him that her image would be found within the grove of ocotes. She directed that it should be taken to the chapel of San Lorenzo, atop the hill above the spring. The chapel had been built over the ruins of a pre-hispanic temple. When he hurried home to his sick relatives, Juan Diego discovered that the spring water worked as advertised. The next day, he went to the nearby Convento Franciscano (monastery) where he worked and served as an altar boy. Juan Diego told the friars of his miraculous encounter, the positive effects of the spring water, and the mysterious woman's directions about the image in the grove. They believed him, possibly because of his service at the Convento, but they may also have had other motives (more on this later).
Legend has it that the chapel's sacristan (an official in charge of a sacred items in a church) waited until the friars had left and then set aside the Virgin's statue and moved San Lorenzo back to his niche. Angels then switched the statues again. This happened three times before the sacristan gave up and left the Virgin in the central place of honor. Reports of all this spread and the chapel and its statue soon became a shrine which attracted many visitors.