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The Basilica where Francis received baptism

The Basilica Maria Auxiliadora in Buenos Aires is part of the city's religious tourism circuit because Pope Francis was baptized there.

Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires

Like many other descendants of Italian immigrants,  Jorge Mario Bergoglio ,  Pope  Francis , received the first sacrament at Christmas in 1936 in this church of  neighborhood  of Almagro. The same in which, at the beginning of the twentieth century, he sang a Carlos Gardel child as part of a choir, as recalled on a plate.

Ceferino Namuncurá took his first communion there in 1898 (at that time the present temple was not yet built). His altar located on the left nave was blessed in 2007 by the now  Pope  when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Cardinal Primate of Argentina.

At the 70th anniversary of His Holiness's baptism, the church placed in the baptistery a small picture with the copy of the  parish  book that records the administration of the  sacrament  . There you can read that “Jorge Mario, son of Mario Bergoglio and Regina Sívori, sponsored by Francisco Sívori and Rosa Vassallo de Bergoglio, was baptized by Salesian father Enrique Pozzoli”, who would later be its director  spiritual .

History of the temple

Originally it was born as a church of  San Carlos , erected in 1872. Six years later the Salesians took over the temple and, on May 8, 1878, it was constituted as San Carlos Parish.

Given a marked population growth and building in the area, the Salesian congregation raised the need to build a new temple that would serve to improve the spiritual attention of the neighbors. And also unify the different  educational projects  they had planned in Buenos Aires.

Father José Vespignani, Salesian inspector and parish priest of San Carlos, announced on April 1, 1899 its construction in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Help of Christians. The foundation stone was blessed and laid on 24 June 1900.

Ernesto Vespignani, architect and brother of the inspector's father, who arrived especially from Turin, was the design of the Basilica and the direction of the work. He devised a temple that would fulfill with the purpose of receiving the many  faithful  who attended and a space for boarding schools. The Basilica was solemnly inaugurated on 24 May 1910, the feast of  Mary Help of Christians , to whom the altar-camarín was dedicated (on March 23, 1903, the Salesians of Argentina were granted the guardian of that figure of Mary Help of Christians, who had been blessed by St John Bosco. in Turin in 1885).

Architectural data

The temple is Romanic-Lombard style. It has its location in the corner of the complex, a characteristic of  Vespigiani , and is built one and a half meters, above the floor level. It has two well-defined spaces,  the crypt and the temple . This in turn consists of two levels: the central floor for the parishioners and the upper galleries for students (as is the Ginnasio Salesian Lyceum Valsalice in Turin, Italy). Its structure has an area of 1800 square meters. The architect cannot escape the religious conception manifested in all three floors as a clear metaphorical symbology of the stadiums of the church “Purga”, “Militant” and “Triumphant”.

The Pantocrator dominates the front of the temple. In  Byzantine and Romanesque art , this term means the image depicting the Almighty, Father and Son, that is, Creator and Redeemer. Located in one of the usual places to exhibit it in the Romanesque churches: on the eardrums of the covers. In the case of this basilica, it is a sculptural image of white marble, carved in a block by the Salesian artist Quintín Piana, where Christ appears sitting and seconded by two angels.

The Organ

The impressive architecture and perfect acoustics of the Basilica accommodate an interesting and beautiful Italian instrument that combines the classic “ripieno” tradition and the romantic orchestral elements developed by Carlo Vegezzi Bossi, the ultimate exponent of a family dynasty organ builder that began in the 16th century, and became famous for its romantic symphonic instruments.

The original system was pneumatic action and was inaugurated in 1911 by the organist Luis Ochoa. Italian composer Pietro Mascagni was present among other guests for that occasion.

In 1990, a reform was carried out by  Amadini-Weinhold  (Buenos Aires, Argentina) in which the instrument was electrified, which would thereafter have electronic command and a new console. The original console, today disconnected, is preserved in the upper right gallery of the temple. In the dome of the temple, 50 metres from the choir, is the echo organ, which has been electric since its origins

Photo Credit:  @luciacabrera .ph 

Publication Date: 27/07/2020

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