The New Basilica of Guadalupe is thus called to distinguish it from the older and still very much loved Old Basilica Building, now called the Expiatory Temple of Christ the King. To the west of the Atrium of the Americas, it’s an un-mistakable symbol of the overall Basilica complex, and to the faith of followers.
The building was necessary after years of earthquakes and subsidence put the old building in danger of structural failure. The old building was also simply unfit for the ever-increasing number of pilgrims.
This new basilica building was designed by five architects working together, José Luis Benlliure, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Alejandro Schoenhofer, Fray Gabriel Chávez de la Mora, and Javier García Lascuráin. Construction began in 1974 and took until October 12, 1976. A solemn procession then delivered the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the new sanctuary. The circular shape is intended to symbolize the tent housing the Ark of the Covenant on its march through the desert. The reinforced concrete circular structure is the only thing supporting the roof. This is covered in copper sheets which have resulted in the characteristic green color. The building also relies on 344 control piles pounded deep into the earth.
Because the interior is round and free of pillars, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe can be seen from almost anywhere. The image is behind the altar, and beneath a cross. A moving walkway was built before the altar such that the devout can be moved quickly along allowing more of them the chance to see it.
Inside, you’ll also find a 1980 mural titled “The gift of the Resurrection” by Pedro Medina Guzmán. A number of other murals depict Juan Diego and apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The building has seven entrances. In the front is an open-air chapel, recalling the church atriums of the 16th century.
This site has been visited by heads of state, athletes, politicians, artists and Catholic church leaders among some other religious leaders. Pope John Paul II visited in 1979, in 1990 for the beatification of Saint Juan Diego, in 1999 at the close of the Synod of Bishops of America, and in 2002 for the canonization of Saint Juan Diego. Pope Francis said a mass here in 2016.
The New Basilica of Guadalupe is the second most visited religious place in the world and receives about 30 million devout and 10 million non-religious visitors each year. The annual feast day on December 12 is one of the most celebrated in the City. 10,000 people can fit inside the main basilica building. These are usually surrounded by many times that number outside.