Families sponsor many of Chile's informal roadside shrines to Virgin, Christ, and saints

  • Sanctuary at Alcones, O'Higgins region, Chile.
  • Sanctuary at Alcones, O'Higgins region.
  • The Cristo de Tabalango, built in the 1940s by a pious couple at an intersection inland from Viña del Mar, Chile.
  • A large statue is the centerpiece of the shrine of the hermitage of St. Alberto Hurtado, the recently canonized Chilean Jesuit founder of Catholic action, youth shelters, and hero of the poor.
  • Ex votos in a corner of the simple chapel at the desert hermitage shrine of St. Alberto Hurtado.
  • Visitors and ex votos at the base of the statue at the hermitage of Fr. Hurtado in the desert off the highway near Canela, Chile.
  • A roadside shrine dedicated to San Lorenzo de Tarapacá, a feast centered in a town 24 hours' drive north of this little shrine, which is near Ovalle, Chile.
  • At the shrine of San Lorenzo de Taracapa. The box on the right is typical of roadside shrines, which have some pace to put candles so they are protected from the wind, even if they are not visible.
  • A roadside shrine, off the PanAmerican highway on the Pacific at Palo Colorado, honors the Virgin. The site is flanked by an unusual number of Chilean flags.
  • Some of the dozens of ex-votos at the shrine of the Virgin of Palo Colorado, Chile.
  • Inside the sanctuary at the shrine of the Virgin of Palo Colorado, Chile.

Chile is home to a significant number of “official” pilgrimage and devotional sites like the Church of Our Lady of Andacollo, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Tirana, the Church of the Immaculate Conception Lo Vásquez, and Santiago’s National Basilica to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. 

Occasionally one also encounters large roadside shrines to the Virgin, Jesus crucified, or a canonized saint, set up by pious families, often with a parish’s blessing. These shrines have a more informal, transitory or populist feel than the officially constructed pilgrimage sites. They serve to mark Chile in public ways as a Catholic place, and signal accessibility, even a sort of “ownership” of the Virgin, for all. While the photos below might suggest that such shrines are very common in Chile, one can easily travel a hundred kilometers without coming across one.

On the highway from La Serena to Ovalle, a big, fairly new roadside shrine to the Virgin of Andacollo allows visitors to stop by and pay their respects without having to go the 20 km route up the mountain to the main church. The shrine is active and dotted with ex voto plaques. Other shrines, visible in photos here, honor the recently canonized Chilean Jesuit St. Alberto Hurtado, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus’ crucifixion.