Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe (Spanish: Virgen de Guadalupe), is a Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a series of five Marian apparitions in December 1531, and a venerated image on a cloak enshrined within the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The basilica is the most-visited Catholic shrine in the world, and the world's third most-visited sacred site.
|Our Lady of Guadalupe|
|Location||Tepeyac Hill, Mexico City|
|Date||December 12, 1531 (on the Julian calendar, which would be December 22 on the Gregorian calendar now in use).|
|Witness||Saint Juan Diego|
|Approval||October 12, 1895 (canonical coronation granted by Pope Leo XIII)|
|Shrine||Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Tepeyac Hill, Mexico City, Mexico|
The Americas (October 12, 1945)
Cebu (2002 by Ricardo Vidal)
|Attributes||A pregnant woman, eyes downcast, hands clasped in prayer, clothed in a pink tunic robe covered by a cerulean mantle with a black sash, emblazoned with eight-point stars; eclipsing a blazing sun while standing atop a darkened crescent moon, a cherubic angel carrying her train|
Pope Leo XIII granted the image a decree of a canonical coronation on 8 February 1887 and it was ceremoniously crowned on 12 October 1895.
Catholic accounts provide that the Virgin Mary appeared four times to Juan Diego and once more to his uncle, Juan Bernardino. The first apparition occurred on the morning of Saturday, December 9, 1531 (Julian calendar, which is December 19 on the (proleptic) Gregorian calendar in present use), when it is said that an indigenous Mexican peasant named Juan Diego experienced a vision of a young woman at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac, which later became part of Villa de Guadalupe, in a suburb of Mexico City. According to the accounts, the woman, speaking to Juan Diego in his native Nahuatl language (the language of the Aztec Empire), identified herself as the Virgin Mary, "mother of the very true deity". She was said to have asked for a church to be erected at that site in her honor. Based on her words, Juan Diego then sought the Archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, to tell him what had happened. Not unexpectedly, the Archbishop did not believe Diego. Later the same day, Juan Diego again saw the young woman (the second apparition), and she asked him to continue insisting.
The next day, Sunday, December 10 (Julian calendar), Juan Diego spoke to the Archbishop a second time. The latter instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill and to ask the woman for a truly acceptable, miraculous sign to prove her identity. Later that day, the third apparition occurred when Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac; encountering the same woman, he reported to her the Archbishop's request for a sign, which she consented to provide on the next day (December 11).
By Monday, December 11 (Julian calendar), however, Juan Diego's uncle, Juan Bernardino, became ill, which obligated Juan Diego to attend to him. In the very early hours of Tuesday, December 12 (Julian calendar), Juan Bernardino's condition having deteriorated overnight, Juan Diego journeyed to Tlatelolco to get a Catholic priest to hear Juan Bernardino's confession and help minister to him on his deathbed.
To avoid being delayed by the Virgin and ashamed at having failed to meet her on Monday as agreed, Juan Diego chose another route around Tepeyac Hill, yet the Virgin intercepted him and asked where he was going (fourth apparition); Juan Diego explained what had happened and the Virgin gently chided him for not having made recourse to her. In the words which have become the most famous phrase of the Guadalupe apparitions and are inscribed above the main entrance to the Basilica of Guadalupe, she asked "¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?" ("Am I not here, I who am your mother?"). She assured him that Juan Bernardino had now recovered and told him to gather flowers from the summit of Tepeyac Hill, which was normally barren, especially in the cold of December. Juan Diego obeyed her instruction and he found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, blooming there.
The Virgin arranged the flowers in Juan Diego's tilma, or cloak, and when Juan Diego opened his cloak later that day before Archbishop Zumárraga, the flowers fell to the floor, revealing on the fabric the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The next day, December 13 (Julian calendar), Juan Diego found his uncle fully recovered as the Virgin had assured him, and Juan Bernardino recounted that he also had seen her, at his bedside (fifth apparition); that she had instructed him to inform the Archbishop of this apparition and of his miraculous cure; and that she had told him she desired to be known under the title of 'Guadalupe'.
The Archbishop kept Juan Diego's mantle, first in his private chapel and then in the church on public display, where it attracted great attention. On December 26, 1531 a procession formed to transfer the miraculous image back to Tepeyac Hill where it was installed in a small, hastily erected chapel. During this procession, the first miracle was allegedly performed when a native was mortally wounded in the neck by an arrow shot by accident during some stylized martial displays performed in honor of the Virgin. In great distress, the natives carried him before the Virgin's image and pleaded for his life. Upon the arrow being withdrawn, the victim fully and immediately recovered.
Juan Diego's tilma has become Mexico's most popular religious and cultural symbol, and has received widespread ecclesiastical and popular veneration. In the 19th century it became the rallying cry of the Spaniards born in America, in what they denominated 'New Spain'. They said they considered the apparitions as legitimizing their own indigenous Mexican origin. They infused it with an almost messianic sense of mission and identity, thereby also justifying their armed rebellion against Spain.
Origin and early history
The shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Spain was the most important Marian shrine in the medieval kingdom of Castile. It is one of the many dark or black skinned Madonnas in Spain and is revered in the Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe, in the town of Guadalupe in Extremadura of Spain. Numerous Spanish conquistadors, including Hernán Cortés, came from Extremadura. The name is believed to be derived from the Arabic phrase وادي اللب, "Wad-al-lubb" ("hidden river"), because the river narrows down as it flows near to the town of Guadalupe.
The shrine houses a statue reputed to have been carved by Luke the Evangelist and given to Saint Leander, archbishop of Seville, by Pope Gregory I. According to local legend, when Seville was taken by the Moors in 712, a group of priests fled northward and buried the statue in the hills near the Guadalupe River. At the beginning of the 14th century, the Virgin appeared one day to a humble cowboy named Gil Cordero who was searching for a missing animal in the mountains. Cordero claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to him and ordered him to ask priests to dig at the site of the apparition. Excavating priests rediscovered the hidden statue and built a small shrine around it which became the great Guadalupe monastery.
Following the Conquest in 1519–1521, the Marian cult was brought to the Americas and Franciscan monks often leveraged syncretism with existing religious beliefs as an instrument for evangelization. What is purported by some to be the earliest mention of the miraculous apparition of the Virgin is a page of parchment, the Codex Escalada, which was discovered in 1995 and, according to investigative analysis, dates from the sixteenth century. This document bears two pictorial representations of Juan Diego and the apparition, several inscriptions in Nahuatl referring to Juan Diego by his Aztec name, and the date of his death: 1548, as well as the year that the then named Virgin Mary appeared: 1531. It also contains the glyph of Antonio Valeriano; and finally, the signature of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun that was authenticated by experts from the Banco de Mexico and Charles E. Dibble.
A more complete early description of the apparition occurs in a 16-page manuscript called the Nican mopohua, which was acquired by the New York Public Library in 1880 and has been reliably dated in 1556. This document, written in Nahuatl, but in Latin script, tells the story of the apparitions and the supernatural origin of the image. It was probably composed by a native Aztec man, Antonio Valeriano, who had been educated by Franciscans. The text of this document was later incorporated into a printed pamphlet which was widely circulated in 1649.
In spite of these documents, there are no written accounts of the Guadalupe vision by Catholic clergymen of the 16th century, as there ought to have been if the event had the Christian importance it is said to have had. In particular, the canonical account of the vision also features archbishop Juan de Zumárraga as a major player in the story, but, although Zumárraga was a prolific writer, there is nothing in his extant writings that can confirm the indigenous story.
The written record that does exist suggests the Catholic clergy in 16th century Mexico were deeply divided as to the orthodoxy of the native beliefs springing up around the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with the Franciscan order (who then had custody of the chapel at Tepeyac) being strongly opposed to the outside groups, while the Dominicans supported it.
The main promoter of the story and those native believers was the Dominican Alonso de Montúfar, who succeeded the Franciscan Juan de Zumárraga as archbishop of Mexico. In a 1556 sermon Montúfar commended popular devotion to "Our Lady of Guadalupe", referring to a painting on cloth (the tilma) in the chapel of the Virgin Mary at Tepeyac, where certain miracles had also occurred. Days later, Fray Francisco de Bustamante, local head of the Franciscan order, delivered a sermon denouncing the native belief and believers. He expressed concern that the Catholic Archbishop was promoting a superstitious regard for an indigenous image:
The devotion at the chapel... to which they have given the name Guadalupe was prejudicial to the Indians because they believed that the image itself worked miracles, contrary to what the missionary friars had been teaching them, and because many were disappointed when it did not.
The next day Archbishop Montúfar opened an inquiry into the matter. At the inquiry, the Franciscans repeated their position that the image encouraged idolatry and superstition, and four witnesses testified to Bustamante's statement that the image was painted by an Indian, with one witness naming him "the Indian painter Marcos". This could refer to the Aztec painter Marcos Cipac de Aquino, who was active at that time. But "if he did, he apparently did so without making a preliminary sketches – in itself then seen as a near-miraculous procedure... Cipac may well have had a hand in painting the Image, but only in painting the additions, such as the angel and moon at the Virgin's feet", says Prof. Jody Brant Smith (referring to Philip Serna Callahan's examination of the tilma using infrared photography in 1979).
Ultimately Archbishop Montúfar, himself a Dominican, decided to end Franciscan custody of the shrine. From then on the shrine was kept and served by diocesan priests under the authority of the archbishop. Moreover, Archbishop Montúfar authorized the construction of a much larger church at Tepeyac, in which the tilma was later mounted and displayed.
The report of this 1556 inquiry is the most extensive documentation concerning the Virgin of Guadalupe from the 16th century, and it makes no mention of Juan Diego, the miraculous apparition, or any other element from the legend.
In the late 1570s, the Franciscan historian Bernardino de Sahagún denounced the cult at Tepeyac and the use of the name "Tonantzin" or to call her Our Lady in a personal digression in his General History of the Things of New Spain, in the version known as the Florentine Codex.
At this place [Tepeyac], [the Indians] had a temple dedicated to the mother of the gods, whom they called Tonantzin, which means Our Mother. There they performed many sacrifices in honor of this goddess ... And now that a church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is built there, they also called her Tonantzin, being motivated by those preachers who called Our Lady, the Mother of God, Tonantzin. While it is not known for certain where the beginning of Tonantzin may have originated, but this we know for certain, that, from its first usage, the word refers to the ancient Tonantzin. And it was viewed as something that should be remedied, for their having [native] name of the Mother of God, Holy Mary, instead of Tonantzin, but Dios inantzin. It appears to be a Satanic invention to cloak idolatry under the confusion of this name, Tonantzin.
Sahagún's criticism of the indigenous group seems to have stemmed primarily from his concern about a syncretistic application of the native name Tonantzin to the Catholic Virgin Mary. However, Sahagún often used the same name in his sermons as late as the 1560s.
In the 16th century and probably continuing into the early 17th century, the image was modified by then adding the mandorla-shaped sunburst around the Virgin, the stars on her cloak, the Moon under her feet, and the angel with a folded cloth supporting her—as was determined by an infrared and ocular study of the tilma in 1979.
First printed accounts
One of the first printed accounts of the history of the apparitions and image occurs in Imagen de la Virgen Maria, Madre de Dios de Guadalupe, published in 1648 by Miguel Sánchez, a diocesan priest of Mexico City.
Another account is the Codex Escalada, dating from the sixteenth century, a sheet of parchment recording apparitions of the Virgin Mary and the figure of Juan Diego, which reproduces the glyph of Antonio Valeriano alongside the signature of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún. It contains the following glosses: "1548 Also in that year of 1531 appeared to Cuahtlatoatzin our beloved mother the Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Cuahtlatoatzin died worthily"
The next printed account was a 36-page tract in the Nahuatl language, Huei tlamahuiçoltica ("The Great Event"), which was published in 1649. This tract contains a section called the Nican mopohua ("Here it is recounted"), which has been already touched on above. The composition and authorship of the Huei tlamahuiçoltica is assigned by a majority of those scholars to Luis Laso de la Vega, vicar of the sanctuary of Tepeyac from 1647 to 1657. Nevertheless, the most important section of the tract, the Nican Mopohua, appears to be much older. It has been attributed since the late 1600s to Antonio Valeriano (c. 1531–1605), a native Aztec man who had been educated by the Franciscans and who collaborated extensively with Bernardino de Sahagún. A manuscript version of the Nican Mopohua, which is now held by the New York Public Library, appears to be datable to the mid-1500s, and may have been the original work by Valeriano, as that was used by Laso in composing the Huei tlamahuiçoltica. Most authorities agree on the dating and on Valeriano's authorship.
On the other hand, in 1666, the scholar Luis Becerra Tanco published in Mexico a book about the history of the apparitions under the name "Origen milagroso del santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe," which was republished in Spain in 1675 as "Felicidad de Mexico en la admirable aparición de la virgen María de Guadalupe y origen de su milagrosa Imagen, que se venera extramuros de aquella ciudad." In the same way, in 1688, Jesuit Father Francisco de Florencia published La Estrella del Norte de México, giving the history of the same apparitions.
Two separate accounts, one in Nahuatl from Juan Bautista del Barrio de San Juan from the 16th century, and the other in Spanish by Servando Teresa de Mier date the original apparition and native celebration on September 8 of the Julian calendar, but it is also said that the Spaniards celebrate it on December 12 instead.
With the help of the Informaciones Jurídicas de 1666, a Catholic feast day in name of Our Lady of Guadalupe was requested and approved, as well as the transfer of the date of the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe from September 8 to December 12, the latest date on which the Virgin supposedly appeared to Juan Diego. The initiative to perform them was made by Francisco de Siles who proposed to ask the Church of Rome, a Mass itself with allusive text to the apparitions and stamping of the image, along with the divine office itself, and the precept of hearing a Catholic Mass on December 12, the last date of the apparitions of the Virgin to Juan Diego as the new date to commemorate the apparitions (which until then was on September 8, the birth of the Virgin).
In 1666, the Church in México began gathering information from people who reported having known Juan Diego, and in 1723 a formal investigation into his life was ordered, where more data was gathered to support his veneration. Because of the Informaciones Jurídicas de 1666 in the year 1754, the Sacred Congregation of Rites confirmed the true and valid value of the apparitions, and granted celebrating Mass and Office for the then Catholic version of the feast of Guadalupe on December 12.
These published documental accounts of the origin of the image already venerated in Tepeyac, then increased interest in the identity of Juan Diego, who was the original recipient of the prime vision. A new Catholic Basilica church was built to house the image. Completed in 1709, it is now known as the Old Basilica.
The crown ornament
The image had originally featured a 12-point crown on the Virgin's head, but this disappeared in 1887–88. The change was first noticed on February 23, 1888, when the image was removed to a nearby church. Eventually a painter confessed on his deathbed that he had been instructed by a clergyman to remove the crown. This may have been motivated by the fact that the gold paint was flaking off of the crown, leaving it looking dilapidated. But according to the historian David Brading, "the decision to remove rather than replace the crown was no doubt inspired by a desire to 'modernize' the image and reinforce its similarity to the nineteenth-century images of the Immaculate Conception which were exhibited at Lourdes and elsewhere... What is rarely mentioned is that the frame which surrounded the canvas was adjusted to leave almost no space above the Virgin's head, thereby obscuring the effects of the erasure."
A different crown was installed to the image. On February 8, 1887, a Papal bull from Pope Leo XIII granted permission a Canonical Coronation of the image, which occurred on October 12, 1895. Since then the Virgin of Guadalupe has been proclaimed "Queen of Mexico", "Patroness of the Americas", "Empress of Latin America", and "Protectress of Unborn Children" (the latter two titles given by Pope John Paul II in 1999). Under this title, she was also proclaimed "Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines" on July 16, 1935 by Pope Pius XI both witnessed and signed by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, a designation he later rescinded on September 12, 1942 upon becoming Pope Pius XII.
On March 25, 1966, Pope Paul VI presented a Golden Rose to the sacred image. Finally, under Pope John Paul II the move to beatify Juan Diego intensified. John Paul II took a special interest in non-European Catholics and saints. During his leadership, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared Juan Diego "venerable" (in 1987), and the pope himself announced his beatification on May 6, 1990, during a Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, declaring him "protector and advocate of the indigenous peoples," with December 9 established as his feast day.
At that time historians revived doubts as to the quality of the evidence regarding Juan Diego. The writings of bishop Zumárraga, into whose hands Juan purportedly delivered the miraculous image, did not refer to him or the event. The record of the 1556 ecclesiastical inquiry omitted him, and he was not mentioned in documentation before the mid-17th century. In 1996 the 83-year-old abbot of the Basilica of Guadalupe, Guillermo Schulenburg, was forced to resign following an interview published in the Catholic magazine Ixthus, in which he was quoted as saying that Juan Diego was "a symbol, not a reality", and that his canonization would be the "recognition of a cult. It is not recognition of the physical, real existence of a person." In 1883 Joaquín García Icazbalceta, historian and biographer of Zumárraga, in a confidential report on the Lady of Guadalupe for Bishop Labastida, had been hesitant to support the story of the vision. He concluded that Juan Diego had not existed.
In 1995, Father Xavier Escalada, a Jesuit whose four volume Guadalupe encyclopedia had just been published, announced the existence of a sheet of parchment (known as Codex Escalada), which bore an illustrated account of the vision and some notations in Nahuatl concerning the life and death of Juan Diego. Previously unknown, the document was dated 1548. It bore the signatures of Antonio Valeriano and Bernardino de Sahagún, which are considered to verify its contents. The codex was the subject of an appendix to the Guadalupe encyclopedia, published in 1997. Some scholars remained unconvinced, one describing the discovery of the Codex as "rather like finding a picture of St. Paul's vision of Christ on the road to Damascus, drawn by St. Luke and signed by St. Peter."
In the earliest account of the apparition, the Nican Mopohua, the Virgin de Guadalupe, later called as if the Virgin Mary tells Juan Bernardino, the uncle of Juan Diego, that the image left on the tilma is to be known by the name "the Perfect Virgin, Holy Mary of Guadalupe."
The Virgin of Guadalupe is a core element of Mexican identity and with the rise of Mexican nationalism and indigenist ideologies, there have been numerous efforts to find a pre-Hispanic origin in the cult, to the extreme of attempting to find a Nahuatl etymology to the name. This explains why the original Our Lady of Guadalupe, Extremadura, whose cult had been important in Spain in the 16th century and had been brought to the New World with the Spanish conquest, is rarely mentioned or discussed in Mexico.
The first theory to promote a Nahuatl origin was that of Luis Becerra Tanco. In his 1675 work Felicidad de Mexico, Becerra Tanco said that Juan Bernardino and Juan Diego would not have been able to understand the name Guadalupe because the "d" and "g" sounds do not exist in Nahuatl.
He proposed two Nahuatl alternative names that sound similar to "Guadalupe", Tecuatlanopeuh [tekʷat͡ɬaˈnopeʍ], which he translates as "she whose origins were in the rocky summit", and Tecuantlaxopeuh [tekʷant͡ɬaˈʃopeʍ], "she who banishes those who devoured us."
Ondina and Justo González suggest that the name is a Spanish version of the Nahuatl term, Coātlaxopeuh [koaːt͡ɬaˈʃopeʍ], which they interpret as meaning "the one who crushes the serpent," and that it may seem to be referring to the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl. In addition, the Virgin Mary was portrayed in European art as crushing the serpent of the Garden of Eden.
According to another theory the juxtaposition of Guadalupe and a snake may indicate a nexus with the Aztec goddess of love and fertility, Tonantzin (in Nahuatl, "Our Revered Mother"), who was also known by the name Coatlícue ("The Serpent Skirt"). This appears to be borne out by the fact that this goddess already had a temple dedicated to her on the very Tepeyac Hill where Juan Diego had his vision, the same temple which had recently been destroyed at the behest of the new Spanish Catholic authorities. In the 16th century the Franciscans were suspicious that the followers of Guadalupe showed, or was susceptible to, elements of syncretism, i.e. the importation of an object of reverence in one belief system into another (see above).
The theory promoting the Spanish language origin of the name says that:
- Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino would have been familiar with the Spanish language "g" and "d" sounds since their baptismal names contain those sounds.
- There is no documentation of any other name for this Marian apparition during the almost 144 years between the apparition being recorded in 1531 and Becerra Tanco's proposed theory in 1675.
- Documents written by contemporary Spaniards and Franciscan friars argue that for the name to be changed to a native name, such as Tepeaca or Tepeaquilla, would not make sense to them, if a Nahuatl name were already in use, and suggest the Spanish Guadalupe was the original.
The venerated image as artifact
- The image features a full-length representation of a girl or young woman, delicate features, and straight, unbraided hair simply parted in the middle framing her face.
- The subject matter is in a standing posture showing in contemplative prayer with hands joined and little finger separated and head slightly inclined; she gazes with heavy-lidded eyes at a spot below and to her right, and to left in viewpoint of the observer.
- She is dressed from neck to feet in a pink robe and blue-green cerulean mantle, one side folded within the arms, emblazoned with eight-pointed stars with two black tassels tied at high waist, wearing a neck brooch featuring a colonial styled cross.
- The robe is spangled with a small gold quatrefoil motif ornamented with vines and flowers, its sleeves reaching to her wrists where the cuffs of a white undergarment appear.
- The subject stands on a crescent moon, allegedly colored silver in the past, now having turned dark.
- A feathered cherubic angel with outstretched arms carries the robe on her exposed feet which is uncolored.
- A sunburst of straight and wavy gold rays alternate while projecting behind the Virgin and are enclosed within a mandorla. Beyond the mandorla to the right and left is an unpainted expanse, white in color with a faint blue tinge. The present image shows the 1791 nitric acid spill on the top right side, unaffecting the subject matter's aureola.
The portrait was executed on a fabric support of natural material constituted by two pieces (originally three) joined together. The join is clearly visible as a seam passing from top to bottom, with the Virgin's face and hands and the head of the angel on the left piece. It passes through the left wrist of the Virgin. The fabric is mounted on a large metal sheet to which it has been glued for some time. The image, currently set in a massive frame protected behind bullet-proof glass, hangs inclined at a slight angle on the wall of the basilica behind the altar. At this point, there is a wide gap between the wall and the sanctuary facilitating closer viewing from moving walkways set on the floor beneath the main level of the basilica, carrying people a short distance in either direction. Viewed from the main body of the basilica, the image is located above and to the right of the altar and is retracted at night into a small vault (accessible by steps) set into the wall. An intricate metal crown designed by the painter Salomé Pina according to plans devised by Rómulo Escudero and Pérez Gallardo, and executed by the Parisian goldsmith, Edgar Morgan, is fixed above the image by a rod, and a massive Mexican flag is draped around and below the frame.
The nature of the fabric is discussed below. Its measurements were taken by José Ignacio Bartolache on December 29, 1786 in the presence of José Bernardo de Nava, a public notary: height 170 cm (67 in), width 105 cm (41 in). The original height (before it was first shielded behind glass in the late 18th century, at which time the unpainted portion beyond the Virgin's head must have been cut down) was 229 cm (90 in).
Neither the fabric ("the support") nor the image (together, "the tilma") has been analyzed using the full range of resources now available to museum conservators. Four technical studies have been conducted so far. Of these, the findings of at least three have been published. Each study required the permission of the custodians of the tilma in the Basilica. However, Callahan's study was taken at the initiative of a third party: the custodians did not know in advance what his research would reveal.
- MC – in 1756 a prominent artist, Miguel Cabrera, published a report entitled Maravilla Americana, containing the results of the ocular and manual inspections by him and six other painters in 1751 and 1752.
- G – José Antonio Flores Gómez, an art restorer, discussed in a 2002 interview with the Mexican journal Proceso, certain technical issues relative to the tilma. He had worked on it in 1947 and 1973.
- PC – in 1979 Philip Callahan, (biophysicist, USDA entomologist, NASA consultant) specializing in infrared imaging, was allowed direct access to visually inspect, and photograph, the image. He took numerous infrared photographs of the front of the tilma. Taking notes that were later published, his assistant said that the original art work was neither cracked nor flaked, while later additions (gold leaf, silver plating the Moon) showed serious signs of wear, if not complete deterioration. Callahan could not explain the excellent state of preservation of the un-retouched areas of the image on the tilma, particularly the upper two-thirds of the image. His findings, with photographs, were published in 1981.
- R – In 2002 Proceso published an interview with José Sol Rosales, formerly director of the Center for the Conservation and Listing of Heritage Artifacts (Patrimonio Artístico Mueble) of the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA) in México City. The article included extracts from a report which Rosales had written in 1982 of his findings from his inspection of the tilma that year using raking and UV light. It was done at low magnification with a stereo microscope of the type used for surgery.
Summary, conclusions ("contra" indicates a contrary finding)
- Canvas Support: The material of the support is soft to the touch (almost silken: MC; something like cotton: G) but to the eye it suggested a coarse weave of palm threads called "pita" or the rough fiber called "cotense" (MC), or a hemp and linen mixture (R). It was traditionally held to be made from ixtle, an agave fiber.
- Ground, or primer: R asserted (MC and PC contra) by ocular examination that the tilma was primed, though with primer "applied irregularly." R does not clarify whether his observed "irregular" application entails that majorly the entire tilma was primed, or just certain areas—such as those areas of the tilma extrinsic to the image—where PC agrees had later additions. MC, alternatively, observed that the image had soaked through to the reverse of the tilma.
- Under-drawing: PC asserted there was no under-drawing.
- Brush-work: R suggested (PC contra) there was some visible brushwork on the original image, but in a minute area of the image ("her eyes, including the irises, have outlines, apparently applied by a brush").
- Condition of the surface layer: PC reports that the un-retouched portions of the image, particularly the blue mantle and the face, are in a very good state of preservation, with no flaking or peeling. The three most recent inspections (G, PC and R) agree (i) that additions have been made to the image (gold leaf added to the Sun's rays—which has flaked off; silver paint or other material to depict the Moon—which has discolored; and the re-construction or addition of the angel supporting the Marian image), and (ii) that portions of the original image have been abraded and re-touched in places. Some flaking is visible, though only in retouched areas (mostly along the line of the vertical seam, or at passages considered to be later additions).
- Varnish: The tilma has never been varnished.
- Binding Medium: R provisionally identified the pigments and binding medium (distemper) as consistent with 16th-century methods of painting sargas (MC, PC contra for different reasons), but the color values and luminosity are in good condition.
- The technique of painting on fabric with water-soluble pigments (with or without primer or ground) is well-attested. The binding medium is generally animal glue or gum arabic (see: Distemper). Such an artifact is variously discussed in the literature as a tüchlein or sarga. Tüchlein paintings are very fragile, and are not well preserved, so the tilma's color values and state of preservation are very good.
Religious imagery of Our Lady of Guadalupe appears in Roman Catholic parishes, especially those with Latin American heritage. In addition, due to the growth of Hispanic communities in the United States, religious imagery of Our Lady of Guadalupe has started appearing in some Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist churches. Additionally, Our Lady of Guadalupe is venerated by some Mayan Orthodox Christians in Guatemala.
The iconography of the Virgin is fully Catholic: Miguel Sánchez, the author of the 1648 tract Imagen de la Virgen María, described her as the Woman of the Apocalypse from the New Testament's Revelation 12:1, "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." She is described as a representation of the Immaculate Conception.
Virgil Elizondo says the image also had layers of meaning for the indigenous people of Mexico who associated her image with their polytheistic deities, which further contributed to her popularity. Her blue-green mantle was the color reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl; her belt is interpreted as a sign of pregnancy; and a cross-shaped image, symbolizing the cosmos and called nahui-ollin, is inscribed beneath the image's sash. She was called "mother of maguey," the source of the sacred beverage pulque. Pulque was also known as "the milk of the Virgin." The rays of light surrounding her are seen to also represent maguey spines.
Symbol of Mexico
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe became a recognized symbol of Catholic Mexicans. Miguel Sánchez, the author in 1648 of the first published account of the vision, identified Guadalupe as Revelation's Woman of the Apocalypse, and said:
... this New World has been won and conquered by the hand of the Virgin Mary ... [who had] prepared, disposed, and contrived her exquisite likeness in this, her Mexican land, which was conquered for such a glorious purpose, won that there should appear so Mexican an image.
Throughout the Mexican national history of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Guadalupan name and image have been unifying national symbols; the first President of Mexico (1824–1829) changed his name from José Miguel Ramón Adaucto Fernández y Félix to Guadalupe Victoria in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Father Miguel Hidalgo, in the Mexican War of Independence (1810), and Emiliano Zapata, in the Mexican Revolution (1910), led their respective armed forces with Guadalupan flags emblazoned with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1999, the Church officially proclaimed her the Patroness of the Americas, the Empress of Latin America, and the Protectress of Unborn Children.
In 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla initiated the bid for Mexican independence with his Grito de Dolores, with the cry "Death to the Spaniards and long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!" When Hidalgo's mestizo-indigenous army attacked Guanajuato and Valladolid, they placed "the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which was the insignia of their enterprise, on sticks or on reeds painted different colors" and "they all wore a print of the Virgin on their hats." After Hidalgo's death, leadership of the revolution fell to a mestizo priest named José María Morelos, who led insurgent troops in the Mexican south. Morelos adopted the Virgin as the seal of his Congress of Chilpancingo, inscribing her feast day into the Chilpancingo constitution and declaring that Guadalupe was the power behind his victories:
New Spain puts less faith in its own efforts than in the power of God and the intercession of its Blessed Mother, who appeared within the precincts of Tepeyac as the miraculous image of Guadalupe that had come to comfort us, defend us, visibly be our protection.
Simón Bolívar noticed the Guadalupan theme in these uprisings, and shortly before Morelos's execution in 1815 wrote: "the leaders of the independence struggle have put fanaticism to use by proclaiming the famous Virgin of Guadalupe as the queen of the patriots, praying to her in times of hardship and displaying her on their flags... the veneration for this image in Mexico far exceeds the greatest reverence that the shrewdest prophet might inspire."
In 1912, Emiliano Zapata's peasant army rose out of the south against the government of Francisco Madero. Though Zapata's rebel forces were primarily interested in land reform—"tierra y libertad" ('land and liberty') was the slogan of the uprising—when his peasant troops penetrated Mexico City, they carried Guadalupan banners. More recently, the contemporary Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) named their "mobile city" in honor of the Virgin: it is called Guadalupe Tepeyac. EZLN spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos wrote a humorous letter in 1995 describing the EZLN bickering over what to do with a Guadalupe statue they had received as a gift.
Harringon argues that: The Aztecs... had an elaborate, coherent symbolic system for making sense of their lives. When this was destroyed by the Spaniards, something new was needed to fill the void and make sense of New Spain ... the image of Guadalupe served that purpose.
Hernán Cortés, the Conquistador who overthrew the Aztec Empire in 1521, was a native of Extremadura, home to Our Lady of Guadalupe. By the 16th century, the Extremadura Guadalupe, a statue of the Virgin said to be carved by Saint Luke the Evangelist, was already a national icon. It was found at the beginning of the 14th century, when the Virgin appeared to a humble shepherd and ordered him to dig at the site of the apparition. The recovered Virgin then miraculously helped to expel the Moors from Spain, and her small shrine evolved into the great Guadalupe monastery.
According to the traditional account, the name of Guadalupe, as the name was heard or understood by Spaniards, was chosen by the Virgin herself when she appeared on the hill outside Mexico City in 1531, ten years after the Conquest.
Guadalupe continues to be a mixture of the cultures which blended to form Mexico, both racially and religiously, "the first mestiza", or "the first Mexican", "bringing together people of distinct cultural heritages, while at the same time affirming their distinctness." As Jacques Lafaye wrote in Quetzalcoatl and Guadalupe, "as the Christians built their first churches with the rubble and the columns of the ancient pagan temples, so they often borrowed pagan customs for their own cult purposes." The author Judy King asserts that Guadalupe is a "common denominator" uniting Mexicans. Writing that Mexico is composed of a vast patchwork of differences—linguistic, ethnic, and class-based—King says "The Virgin of Guadalupe is the rubber band that binds this disparate nation into a whole." The Mexican novelist, Carlos Fuentes, once said that "you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe." Nobel Literature laureate Octavio Paz wrote in 1974 that "The Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments and defeats, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery."
In literature and film
One notable reference in literature to La Virgen of Guadalupe and her predecessor, the Aztec Earth goddess Tonantzin, is in Sandra Cisneros' short story "Little Miracles, Kept Promises", from her collection Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991). Cisneros' story is constructed out of brief notes that people give Our Lady of Guadalupe in thanks for favors received, which in Cisneros' hands becomes a portrait of an extended Chicano community living throughout Texas. "Little Miracles" ends with an extended narrative (pp. 124–129) of a feminist artist, Rosario "Chayo" de León, who at first didn't allow images of La Virgen de Guadalupe in her home because she associated her with subservience and suffering, particularly by Mexican women. But when she learns that Guadalupe's shrine is built on the same hill in Mexico City that had a shrine to Tonantzin, the Aztec Earth goddess and serpent destroyer, Chayo comes to understand that there's a deep, syncretic connection between the Aztec goddess and the Mexican saint; together they inspire Chayo's new artistic creativity, inner strength, and independence. In Chayo's words, "I finally understood who you are. No longer Mary the mild, but our mother Tonantzin. Your church at Tepeyac built on the site of her temple" (128).
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Juan Diego, and the tilma have been investigated through film, several times in recent history. One of the most notable and thorough filmic investigations was done by director Tim Watkins in the 2013 film, The Blood & The Rose. Documentarians have been portraying the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe since the 1990s, in an attempt to bring the message of the apparition to the North American audience.
Several Pontiffs have honored the image, specifically:
- Pope Benedict XIV, in the Papal bull Non Est Equidem of May 25, 1754, declared Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of what was then named New Spain, corresponding to Spanish Central and Northern America, and approved liturgical texts for the Mass and the Breviary in her honor.
- Pope Leo XIII granted new texts in 1891 and on February 8, 1887 authorized the canonical coronation of the image, which occurred on October 12, 1895.
- Pope Pius X proclaimed her patron of Latin America in 1910.
- Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the "Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines" on July 16, 1935 and the relevant Apostolic Letter was signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII).
- Pope Pius XII accorded her the title "Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas" in 1945, and "Patroness of the Americas" in 1946.
- Pope John XXIII invoked her as "Mother of the Americas" in 1961, referring to her as Mother and Teacher of the Faith of All American populations.
- Pope Paul VI gave the image a Golden Rose on March 20, 1966.
- Pope John Paul II visited her shrine on January 26, 1979, and again when he beatified Juan Diego there on May 6, 1990. In 1992, he dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe a chapel within Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. At the request of the Special Assembly for the Americas of the Synod of Bishops, he reiterated her title of Patroness of the Americas on January 22, 1999 and granted the rank of feast in that region. He also included in the General Roman Calendar as an optional memorial the liturgical celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12.
- Pope Francis granted the image a second Golden Rose via Cardinal Marc Ouellet for presentation at the Basilica on November 18, 2013. He later granted a new gold-plated silver crown with an accompanying prayer to the image during his apostolic visit to the Basilica on February 13, 2016. On the crown was inscribed "Mater Mea, Spes Mea" ("My Mother [and] My Hope"). This crown is stored within the chancery and is not publicly worn by the image enshrined at the altar.
Pious beliefs and devotions
Protection from damage
Catholic sources attest that the original image has many miraculous and supernatural properties, including that the tilma has maintained its structural integrity for approximately 500 years despite exposure to soot, candle wax, incense, constant manual veneration by devotees, the historical fact that the image was displayed without any protective glass for its first 115 years, while replicas normally endure for only circa 15 years before degrading, and that it repaired itself with no external assistance after a 1791 accident in which nitric acid was spilled on its top right, causing considerable damage but leaving the aureola of the Virgin intact.
Furthermore, on November 14, 1921 a bomb hidden within a basket of flowers and left under the tilma by an anti-Catholic secularist exploded and damaged the altar of the Basilica that houses the original image, but the tilma was unharmed. A brass standing crucifix, bent by the explosion, is now preserved at the shrine's museum and is believed to be miraculous by devotees.
Other alleged supernatural qualities
In 1929 and 1951 photographers said they found a figure reflected in the Virgin's eyes; upon inspection they said that the reflection was tripled in what is called the Purkinje effect, commonly found in human eyes. An ophthalmologist, Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann, later enlarged an image of the Virgin's eyes by 2500x and said he found not only the aforementioned single figure, but images of all the witnesses present when the tilma was first revealed before Zumárraga in 1531, plus a small family group of mother, father, and a group of children, in the center of the Virgin's eyes, fourteen people in all.
In 1936 biochemist Richard Kuhn reportedly analyzed a sample of the fabric and announced that the pigments used were from no known source, whether animal, mineral, or vegetable. According to The Wonder of Guadalupe by Francis Johnston, this was requested by Professor Hahn and Professor Marcelino Junco, retired professor of organic chemistry at the National University of Mexico. This has been taken as further evidence of the tilma's miraculous nature. In late 2019, investigators from The Higher Institute of Guadalupano Studies concluded that there was no evidence Kuhn ever investigated the Lady of Guadalupe or made the statement attributed to him.
Dr. Philip Serna Callahan, who photographed the icon under infrared light, declared from his photographs that portions of the face, hands, robe, and mantle had been painted in one step, with no sketches or corrections and no visible brush strokes.
The shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destination in the world. Over the Friday and Saturday of December 11 to 12, 2009, a record number of 6.1 million pilgrims visited the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the apparition.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the Patroness of Mexico and the Continental Americas; she is also venerated by Native Americans, on the account of the devotion calling for the conversion of the Americas. Replicas of the tilma can be found in thousands of churches throughout the world, and numerous parishes bear her name.
Due to a belief that her black girdle indicates pregnancy on the image, the Blessed Virgin Mary, under this title is popularly invoked as Patroness of the Unborn and a common image for the Pro-Life movement.
- Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe
- Lord of Miracles of Buga
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- This apparition is somewhat elided in the Nican Mopohua but is implicit in three brief passages (Sousa et al., pp. 75, 77, 83). It is fully described in the Imagen de la Virgen María of Miguel Sánchez published in 1648.
- English translation of the Nican Mopohua, a 17th-century account written in the native Nahuatl language.
- The date does not appear in the Nican Mopohua, but in Sanchez's Imagen.
- The procession and miracle are not part of the Nican Mopohua proper, yet introduce the Nican Mopectana that immediately follows the Nican Mopohua in the Huei Tlamahuiçoltica.
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- See Callahan Philip Serna, The Tilma under Infrared Radiation, CARA Studies on Popular Devotion, vol. II: Guadalupanan Studies No. 3, pp. 6–16
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- For a brief description of the vault, see Callahan, Philip Serna, The Tilma under Infrared Radiation, CARA Studies on Popular Devotion, vol. II: Guadalupanan Studies No. 3, at p. 6
- See Enciclopedia Guadalupana, p. 267 (vol. 2).
- See Enciclopedia Guadalupana, pp. 536f. (vol. 3). The December 2001 issue (special edition) of Guia México Desconocido (p. 86) dedicated to the Virgen de Guadalupe has a fact box on p. 21 which gives slightly different dimensions: height 178 by 103 cm wide (70 by 41 in).
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