Sanctuary of Our Lady of Cuapa, Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Cuapa. The Blessed Virgin of Cuapa is a Marian invocation of the Catholic Church venerated among the Nicaraguan Catholic faithful.
The Cuapa Sanctuary is a Nicaraguan sanctuary is located at the entrance to the Cuapa municipality, Chontales. It is the place where the Virgin of Cuapa appeared.
The demonstrations began during the civil war in 1980 – 1990 in the village of Cuapa in the Department of Chontales. It has ecclesiastical approval from the bishops Bosco Vivas Robelo and Pablo Antonio Vega, and the support of the mariologist René Laurentin.
San Francisco de Cuapa is a municipality in the Chontales Department of Nicaragua. This municipality was created July 30, 1997 and is located in the northeast section of Chontales. Before that date, the town was part of the municipality of Juigalpa.
Its area is about 277 kms. The principal business activity is the cattle and agriculture. 99% of the population is Catholic. The first mayor was Manuel Antonio Zelaya Meneses and the vice-mayor was Oscar Velasquez Gonzalez. They were elected in 1997.
Cuapa is a town with a population of 5,000 situated in a small valley in the Municipality of Juigalpa, in Chontales, Nicaragua. Its people are very simple folk, small cattle ranchers who live a rustic lifestyle and raise cattle for family consumption.
This peaceful corner of Nicaragua is where Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, began to manifest herself to one of the local farmers, who received a message from the Queen of Heaven in 1980. Two years later, the Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Managua authorized the publication of the Report on the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cuapa.
History of Our Lady of Cuapa, Nicaragua
With the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, in 1980, Cuapa was visited year after year with thousands of parishioners, since then the Sanctuary that is the temple of veneration is one of the main attractions of the municipality.
13th January 2013, Cuapa was officially declared Sanctuary. The 8th May of 2013, for the first time on the 33rd anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Cuapa, celebrated Mass the Apostolic Nuncio Fortunatus Nwachukwu.
Church sacristan Bernardo Martinez entered an old chapel and observed a supernatural light illuminating from a statue of the Blessed Virgin. On another day, the Virgin appeared clothed in white (similar to the statue in the church) and asked for the daily Rosary with Biblical citations and have the First Saturday Devotions renewed. She also warned of future sufferings for Nicaragua if the people didn’t change.
Not wanting further problems, he ignored the Virgin’s request to spread the message, and when he avoided the location of the apparition, the Virgin appeared to him a few days later in a pasture promising him help.
Architecture of Our Lady of Cuapa, Nicaragua
Old Chapel is a structure built in 1906, with colonial influence. Inside, the image of the Illuminated Virgin of Cuapa is preserved, as well as the phrases that the Virgin said to Bernardo in his apparitions. There is also information regarding the apparitions and their messages. Bernardo Martínez, who became a priest and great devotee of the Virgin Mary, was buried in the center of the temple.
La new church It is the Catholic temple in use today. Its construction is modern and was erected in 1990.
La chapel of san Francisco, It is a hermitage located on the private property of the Marín Guardado family, who have a family tradition of more than three centuries of keeping the image of Saint Francis that was brought with his novenas from France, as a gift from the son of Manuela Sequeira, who was in France studying priesthood. The image has performed miracles such as providing water to the territory.
The Sanctuary of the Apparitions of the Virgin Cuapa was declared as such in 2013 and was built in the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to the peasant Bernardo Martínez in 1980. The apparitions of Cuapa are recognized by the Nicaraguan episcopal conference and the place of the apparitions is a national sanctuary and was indulgenced during the jubilee of the year 2000. On January 13, 2013, it was declared by Pope Benedict XVI Diocesan Sanctuary, with the name of Sanctuary Mariano de Cuapa.
On May 8 this place receives thousands of pilgrims from all over Nicaragua. In addition to its religious importance here you can do camping. It is located 10 minutes from the town center.
The San Jacinto archaeological site, on the farm of the same name, is the largest of its kind in the area. Dozens of mounds and other indigenous structures can be seen at 1 km, west of the town center.
The Cueva de los Duendes, in the remote community of El Tule, preserves cave paintings, a rare indigenous art in Chontales.
Monument to Lorenzo Marin. It is a half-length sculpture in honor of the person who donated the land for the installation of public institutions in the urban area of Cuapa.
The monument to the fallen ones. It is a work in the form of a book on which the names of the heroes and martyrs from Cuapa who fell in defense of the Sandinista popular revolution are written. It is located next to the road about 2 kms. before reaching the town.
El Municipal park It has recreation and leisure areas, children’s games and rest benches.
El Raul Ruiz Baseball Stadium and municipal barrier. They are two very crowded public spaces in this municipality.
Apparition of Virgin Mary
His name was Bernardo and he was the sacristan of the town. From his childhood he had helped clean the chapel, wash the altar linens, ring the bells for the recitation of the Rosary in the evening… All this he did with sincere desire to serve God, in spite of those who made him a laughing stock.
Everything began the night of April 15, 1980. While he was in the chapel, Bernardo saw the image of Our Lady – which he was especially fond of – radiating light. The light radiated out from the image, which he saw was more beautiful than ever and let off enough light for him to walk at a normal pace without tripping.
This led Bernardo to make an examination of conscience. In doing so, he recalled certain divisions he had recently caused in the town, as he was a man with a bad temper. He decided to tell the people what had happened, after the recitation of the Rosary, and publicly ask their forgiveness. News of the story soon spread throughout the town of Cuapa and many laughed at him for claiming to have seen the image of Our Lady clothed in light. Yet, it was obvious that Our Lady was preparing him for what was to come, seeing his change of heart and public apology.
First Vision : May 8, 1980
Bernardo was struggling with personal problems at the time. One restless night, seeing as he was unable to sleep he decided to go fishing. Around noon, he started praying the Rosary. He felt immersed in a profound peace and the hours flew by. At three o’clock, he was surprised to see flashes of lightning in the sky, although there were no signs of rain. He then saw Our Lady on a pure white cloud, above one of the nearby trees. Squinting, he realized that the image he was seeing was a real person that blinked. Our Lady opened her arms and rays of light came forth from them.
That was when Bernardo finally decided to ask her, her name. She told him in a sweet voice, “I come from Heaven; I am the Mother of Jesus.” Then, Bernardo asked her what she wanted and she responded, “I want the Rosary to be prayed every day.” The farmer interrupted her, saying that this was something they already did in the town. However, she insisted, “I do not want them to pray it during the month of May alone. I want them to pray it always in their families… from the moment the children reach the age of reason.
They should pray it at a set time that does not enter in conflict with the daily tasks of the home.” She explained that the Lord is not pleased with prayers done without thinking or rattled off mechanically, and recommended that they pray the Rosary accompanied by a reading of the corresponding Biblical passages and with an effort to live according to the Word of God. She then added, “Love one another. Carry out your duties. Make peace. Do not ask the Lord for peace, for if you all do not make peace there will be no peace.”
Our Lady announced that Nicaragua would suffer greatly if the people did not change. At first, he was reluctant to say anything about this to the people, thinking that that way he would avoid problems. However, he finally told everything to the people in the town and the priest. As Our Mother had told him, some believed and others did not.
Our Lady of Cuapa
On June 8, Our Lady appeared to Bernardo in a dream. Bernardo asked her, “What do you wish, my mother?” She repeated her same message. Then, he made her many petitions on behalf of the people. Our Lady replied, “Some of these will come to pass; others will not.”
She pointed to a certain place. He looked in that direction and saw what seemed like a movie… First, a large group of people dressed in white, walking towards the eastern horizon (where the sun rises), in a clear light, joyful as they went singing on their way. It seemed like a heavenly banquet. They were the first Christians, many of them martyrs. Then, he saw another group dressed in white with rosaries shining in their hands.
One of them was carrying an enormous open book. He read and afterwards, the people meditated in silence. Then, they prayed the Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s… Our Lady explained, “These are the first to whom I gave the Rosary. This is how I want you to pray the Rosary.”
He then saw a third group, dressed in a coffee color vestment, which seemed to him to be Franciscans. They also prayed the Rosary. Lastly, there was a fourth group that was so large that he could not count them all – men and women with rosaries in their hands. Bernardo suddenly felt that he could enter into this group, as they were dressed like him, but he looked at their hands and saw that they were black. However, like the previous groups, their hands radiated light.
He wanted to join them, but Our Lady told him, “No. You still have to tell the people what you have seen and heard.” And she added, “I have shown you the glory of the Lord and this is what you will all obtain if you obey the Lord and the Lord’s Word…if you persevere in praying the Holy Rosary and in putting the Word of the Lord into practice.”
The Child Mary : September 8th
Bernardo went back to the site of the apparitions accompanied by a group of people, praying the Rosary. Once again, Our Lady appeared above the tree, this time as a 7-year-old girl. She repeated the same message. Bernardo told her of the church that the people wanted to build in her honor.
There was already a man who had given the first donation to pay for it. She said, “No. The Lord does not want material churches. He wants living temples, which is what all of you are. Restore the Lord’s sacred temple. The Lord takes all His delight in you.” She continued, saying, “Love one another. Love each other. Forgive one another. Make peace. Do not only pray for peace, make peace.”
Our Lady told him not to accept a single cent in donations, for any use whatsoever.
Our Lady Weeps : October 13th
Our Lady appeared once more in the same place and Bernardo insisted that she let herself be seen by the other people, so they would believe. He told her that the people said that it was the devil who appeared to him and that Our Lady was dead, dead as the dust like any other mortal being.
With that, Our Lady was saddened and started to cry. Bernardo thought that it was his fault and told her, “My Lady, forgive me for what I said. You must be very angry with me. Forgive me. Forgive me.” But, Our Lady told him, “I am not angry, nor do I get angry. I am saddened by these people’s hardness of heart. You must pray for them, that they may change.” Bernardo started to cry. He was filled with sadness at seeing Our Lady in this state.
While Bernardo cried, Our Lady gave him this message: “Pray the Rosary. Meditate the mysteries. Listen to the Word of God spoken in them. Love one another. Love each other. Forgive one another. Make peace. Do not pray for peace without making peace, otherwise it will be useless that you pray for it. Carry out your duties. Put the Word of the Lord in practice. Try to please God. Serve your neighbor, for that is pleasing to Him.”
Bernardo told her that he had a lot of things to ask of her on behalf of the people. She answered, “They ask me for things of no importance. Ask for faith, to have the strength for each one to carry his cross. They cannot be spared the sufferings of this world. Sufferings are the cross that you all must carry. This is how life is. There are difficulties with your husband, your wife, your children, your siblings… dialogue, speak with one another in order to resolve your problems in peace. Do not resort to violence. Never resort to violence. Ask for faith, so as to obtain patience.”
Then, she told him that she would return no more. In reply, Bernardo began to shout, “Do not leave us, my Mother! Do not leave us, my Mother! Do not leave us, my Mother!” Our Lady calmed him with her words: “Do not be troubled. I am with you, even though you can’t see me. I am the mother of all of you sinners. Love one another. Forgive one another. Make peace, because if you all do not make peace, there will be no peace. Do not resort to violence. Never resort to violence.
Nicaragua has suffered much since the earthquake and it will continue suffering if you all do not change. If you all do not change, the third world war will arrive sooner than anticipated. Pray, pray to my Son for the entire world. The world is threatened by serious dangers. A mother never forgets her children and I have not forgotten what you suffer. I am the mother of all of you sinners. Call upon me with these words: “Blessed Virgin, you are my Mother, the Mother of all of us sinners.”
These were Our Lady of Cuapa’s last words. Her message was a very simple one, yet one we so urgently need to live: spread peace and forgiveness, carry out our duties, accept our cross each day, love one another, and pray from our hearts, living out the Word of God. We know that she is always with us.
The apparition site of Our Lady of Cuapa was declared a Diocesan Shrine on January 13, 2013 by His Excellency Socrates Rene Sandigo, Bishop of Juigalpa and President of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference. Bishop Sandigo celebrated Mass on the site, accompanied by Bishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Apostolic Nuncio of Nicaragua, and His Eminence Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, on May 8th of the same year.
1880 – Fr. Andres Rongier, SJ, a Jesuit missionary from Mexico, prophesied that Cuapa would be a famous future site of a Marian apparition.
Aug 20, 1931 – Bernardo Martinez is born.
April 15, 1980 – Bernardo discovered that the statue in the chapel was supernaturally lighting up on its own.
May 8, 1980 – The Virgin appeared clothed in white (similar to the statue in the church) and asked for the daily Rosary with Biblical citations and have the First Saturday Devotions renewed. She also warned of future sufferings for Nicaragua if the people didn’t change. Not wanting further problems, he ignored the Virgin’s request to spread the message.
May 16, 1980 – Not wanting further problems, he ignored the Virgin’s request to spread the message, and when he avoided the location of the apparition, the Virgin appeared to him in a pasture promising him help. The next morning, an inner peace filled his soul which allowed him to tell what happened with no fear of ridicule.
June 8, 1980 – The Virgin gave him a nighttime vision (a ‘movie in the sky’) which moved from the early church to men in white (likely Dominicans) praying the Rosary, then Franciscans, and finally ordinary people with Rosaries whose example he was told to follow.
July 8, 1980 – An Angel appeared and told him and foretold several events which shortly took place (including the death of a cousin which could have been prevented had he listened to Bernardo’s warnings).
Sept 8, 1980 – The Virgin appeared as a child and told him to not raise funds for a new Church: “The Lord does not want material churches. He wants living temples which are yourselves.”
Oct 13, 1980 – The Virgin Mary appeared in a big luminous circle forming over the ground and allowed everyone (50) there to witnessed. When her form appeared he pleaded with her to allow herself to be seen by the others for they didn’t believe. Her face turned pale and her garments grey as she became visibly saddened by their hardness of heart. As Bernardo apologized profusely, she instructed him to pray the Rosary, turn from violence, pray for the world, and make peace. She tells him that he will no longer see her in that place and vanishes.
1982 – Bishop Bosco M. Vivas Robelo, Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Managua, authorizes “the publication of the narration of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cuapa.”
Nov 13, 1982 – Pablo Antonio Vega Mantilla, Bishop of Juigalpa, (the diocese of the apparitions) declares that he has “an obligation to assure the authenticity of the events in order to be able to assist in discerning the true value of the alluded to message.”
Bernardo Martinez is ordained a priest.
Piedra de Cuapa
The Piedra de Cuapa (Rock of Cuapa) or Monolito de Cuapa (Monolith of Cuapa) is a prominent landmark in San Francisco de Cuapa. According to a Nicaraguan folk-tale, it is inhabited by a duende, or perhaps a whole family of duendes. According to the legend, a duende fell in love with a young woman named Flor, and stole her family’s donkey, which they placed on top of the Piedra. Eventually, the family was able to defeat the duendes by playing loud music.
Other local folklore includes a tree that is said to shed tears from its branches at midnight, and the legend that any man who bathes in a particular place will marry a woman from the area and never leave.
Feast Day - 8th May
Annual Feast Day of Our Lady of Cuapa, held on 8th May.
National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Cuapa,
San Francisco de Cuapa,
How to reach the Sanctuary
Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport ACS in Managua, Nicaragua is the nearby airport to the Sanctuary.
To get to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Cuapa, board a bus at the El Mayoreo market terminal to Juigalpa, from 06:00 am to 07:00 pm, get off at the Cuapa junction and wait for a bus to take you to the center of the municipality.