The Virgin of Tocoroma – Myths & Legends in the Colombian Hills

The Virgin of Tocoroma - Could The Virgin Mary really have been found in a piece of wood?

The image of The Virgin Mary miraculously appearing in a chopped piece of wood. Could it be true? According to the Colombian folklore, it really is!

Display of The Virgin of Tocoroma
The display outsie the church shows the moment it all happened

On 16th August 1711, whilst out chopping wood with is sons in the forest of Torcoroma, Melo Rodriguez swung his axe. It revealed a sight he couldn’t believe. In the centre of a tree was an invocation of The Virgin Mary. Perplexed by the finding Melo and his sons raced home to inform the family and tell the town. Word spread and many marched to see this phenomenon.

The Virgin of Tocoroma hangs at the church altar
The Virgin of Tocoroma hangs at the church altar

On the outskirts of Ocana, up a long and winding hill sits the ‘Santuario Agua de La Virgen de Torcoroma’. In 1716 with the permission of the Lord Vicar, a church erected. At the small altar, surrounded by a gold plaque with sapphire and ruby stones, the original piece of wood is displayed bearing The Virgin Mary’s ‘effigy’.

To reach this spectacle from the road, worshippers must make the pilgrimage up steep steps through the forest. The most faithful of whom do it on their knees.

Church where the effigy of The Virgin of Torcooma is kept
The Santuario Agua de La Virgen de Torcoroma

The Virgin of Tocoroma is a designated National Monument of Colombia. Even Pope Benedict XVI gave mass to Our Lady of Graces Torcoroma in 2011.

In Ocana the central park pays homage to this legend. In the trunk of a tree, there’s a large replica of the Virgin Mary carving. Albeit, this has some extra detail added. The original invocation takes a little more imagination. Do you remember the story about Jesus Chris in a piece of toast? I’ll leave you to Google that one. Although of course, people can find happiness in whatever they like and that’s cool by me!

The Virgin of Tocoroma as displayed in Ocana's central park
The Virgin of Tocoroma as displayed in Ocana’s central park

Along with the image, the central park is Ocana is is also a good place to relax, people watch and feed the many pigeons that occupy the surrounding bird houses.

How to get to Santuario Nuestra Señora de las Gracias de Torcoroma

Even if you’re not going to worship, it’s still possible to visit Santuario Nuestra Señora de las Gracias de Torcoroma. From Ocana there are irregular buses in the morning from the central park, or you can take a taxi for $10,000 – 15,000 COP ($ USD). The journey takes 15 minutes. The earlier you are in the day, the more chance you have of catching a taxi back. Or, you can try and hitch a ride to Ocana with some friendly locals.

Santuario Agua de La Virgen de Torcoroma inside
Inside the Santuario Agua de La Virgen de Torcoroma

Ocana is off the beaten track, but can be reached on a direct bus from Bucaramanga in around four to five hours. Bucaramanga is on the route from Bogota, heading north all the way to Santa Marta, so many buses stop there. Another option to reach Ocana is to travel by Collectivo or taxi from Aguachica. This journey through winding hills takes one hour and will cost around $20,000 COP ($ USD) per person.

The Virgin of Tocoroma Effigy
The Virgin of Tocoroma Effigy

The world is full of incredible sights, but some of the most interesting are those in off the beaten path places, full of folkloric tradition. If in the area, Santuario Agua de La Virgen de Torcoroma is well worth a piece of your time.

Where to stay in Ocana

We can recommend Hotel Marialu. If you’ve been backpacking on a budget, this place will make a welcome change.


Santuario Agua de La Virgen de Torcoroma - Pinterest

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