On Tuesday of this week we visited a nearby volcano called Irazú. It is outside the city of Cartago which is very close to San Jose with local buses going there many times a day. Cartago was the initial capital of Costa Rica, and for many years was the only city of size within the country. However, because the volcano is active, its eruptions kept causing problems for the city, and eventually the capital was moved to San Jose. The last time Irazú erupted was the day John F. Kennedy arrived to Costa Rica for a visit. The volcano is over 11,000 feet in elevation, and it is reported that on clear days you can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. We were all impressed with the view, the clear blue sky, and the volcanic ash that looked like a desert near the rim.
On our way back from Volcán Irazú we stopped in Cartago to visit the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles. This church holds a black madonna statue called La Negrita or Reina de Cartago. From Wikipedia:
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels is consecrated to the Virgin of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, a small representation of the Virgin Mary carrying the infant Jesus, said to have been discovered by a peasant girl in Cartago. The story goes that the little girl found the small statue on a rock and took it home. The next morning she found that the statue was not there but back at the rock, so she took it to the priest and he locked it in a small box. The next morning the statue was back at the rock. During the construction, the church was destroyed by earthquakes so many times, it was finally decided to move it to the location where the statue was found and they were able to finish construction. Many people (one being Andrea Meszaros, a local expert on religious affairs) think that the earthquakes were signs that the Lady of Los Ángeles wanted the basilica built there.
There are also ruins of a of the Santiago Apóstol Parish that was intended to be built in Cartago. Multiple churches have been built on this site, but eventually after all were destroyed or partially destroyed by earthquakes, attempts to build on the site stopped. Follow the link above to read about the construction and legends surrounding these ruins.