With 12 million visitors every year, the sanctuary houses the image of Our Lady of Aparecida, a clay statue found in a nearby river by local fishermen in the 18th century. Over the years, the image became a national object of devotion and a city was created around the ancient church of Aparecida. The modern basilica began to be built in the 1950s.
From all parts of Brazil, devotees of Aparecida visit the sanctuary every year to fulfil a vow made to the Virgin Mary or to thank her for a much-needed grace. Packed buses and thousands of cars fill up the parking lots. Visitors usually congregate in large numbers in order to see the statue, to light a candle, or to buy a devotional medal. The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything this year.