Blanco Hill and the church of the Virgin of Montserrat

The Black Madonna which is housed intact on the hill is the patron saint of Chilean criminals, a very curious patronage...

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Blanco Hill and the church of the Virgin of Montserrat

The little vineyard.

There are some uncertainties about the origins of the name of the hill, but many historians note that the name is due to the existence of an old white stone quarry which was used widely in the 18th century for many buildings, among them the Palacio de La Moneda (the Chilean President's residence). However, the white stone was not used to build the Virgin of Montserrat church which is built on the hill and is said to be the first Catholic place of worship founded in the country at the request of Inés de Suárez, from the region of Extramadura in the West of Spain, who participated in the founding of Santiago with Pedro de Valdivia. The shrine was built in 1545, though the current building was constructed in 1834, after the previous versions had been destroyed by various earthquakes. In 1990 it was declared a Listed Building and today it is still customary to make a pilgrimage there and spend the day around the hill. Its idilic placement next to leafy vineyards led locals to call it "La Viñita" (the Little Vineyard), and it is now more commonly know by this name than its original one. Inside, the image of the Dark-skinned Virgin, intact since 1574, has become the unofficial patron saint of the criminals of Santiago. Indeed many who are released from prison go to pray to her and as a result the icon is also know as the "Virgen de los lanzas" (lanza is Chilean slang for a thief or criminal).

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