From The New York Times:
The earth shook and the steeple fell, taking most of the bell tower with it. A white facade gave way, leaving the pews open to the street.
But amid the wreckage at the basilica, one object remained untouched: Our Mother of Monserrate, the statue of the Virgin Mary for which the church was named.
Dressed in gold robes and wearing a tiny crown, she is only about three feet tall. But the statue, which landed on these shores from Spain in the 16th century, has long played an outsize role in the history of Montecristi.
She survived bombardment by pirates and became a rallying point for Catholics when a secular government expelled priests generations later. Every November, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims trek from acrossEcuador for nine days of festivities in her honor.
Now, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake upended the nation last weekend, the survival of Our Mother of Monserrate has become a symbol of the persistence of this hillside town.
“She is the mother who has taken care of us through this earthquake,” said the Rev. Ángel Toaquiza, the priest who looks after the broken church. “And I think a sign of this is that she suffered no damage that day.”
That she stands at all, he said, was no less than a miracle.
Photo: Meridith Kohut for The New York Times