One of the most important icons of the western world is Our Lady of Guadalupe, sometimes called the Virgin of Guadalupe.
While the history of the apparition and subsequent miracles are fodder for speculation, there are certain facts that all agree on.
A series of five apparitions occurred in December of 1531 within the Basiclic of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. This basilica is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world, and the world’s third most visited sacred site.
According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared four times to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican peasant, and once to his uncle, Juan Bernardino. The first apparition occurred on the morning of Saturday, December 19, 1531. Juan Diego experienced a vision of a young woman at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac. The woman spoke to Juan in his native language, Nahuatl, and identified herself as the “Virgin Mary, mother of the very true deity”. She asked for a church to be erected at that site in her honor. Juan Diego then told the Archbishop of Mexico City what had happened. Unsurprisingly, Juan wasn’t believed. Later that same day, Juan Diego saw the second apparition. The young woman asked him to continuing pressing the Archbishop for a church to be built.
The next day, a Sunday, when Juan Diego spoke to the Archbishop a second time, the Archbishop asked for a truly miraculous sign to prove her identity. Later that day, the third apparition appeared when Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac Hill. He again encountered the same young woman and told her of the request for a miraculous sign. She agreed to provide this the next day.
By Monday, Juan Diego’s uncle, Juan Bernardino, became ill and Juan Diego had to care for him. Unfortunately, the uncle’s condition worsened and In the very early hours of Tuesday, Juan travelled to find a Catholic priest to hear his uncle’s confession and minister to him on his deathbed. On this journey, Juan Diego traveled around the place of is previous encounters with the young woman because he was ashamed by not meeting her as promised the previous day. But still, the young woman found him and asked where he was going. This was the fourth apparition. When Juan Diego explained what had happened, she gently reminded him that he should have sought her assistance. She asked “ No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?” (AM I not here, I who am your mother? She assured him that his uncle was now recovering and told him to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. This hill was normally barren in December. Juan obeyed her instructions and found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, blooming there. The Virgin arranged the flowers in Juan’s tilma (cloak), and when he opened his cloak later that day for the Archbishop, the flowers fell to the floor, revealing the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The next day, Juan Diego found his uncle completely healthy, just as the Virgin had told Juan. Juan Bernardino said that he had also seen her praying at her bedside and that she had instructed him to tell the Archbishop about his miraculous cure and that she had told him she wanted to be known as the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The Archbishop kept the mantle in the church where it attracted many visitors. On December 26, 1531, a procession formed to transfer the miraculous image back to Tepeyac Hill where it was installed in a small chapel. During this procession, the first miracle occurred when a young native who was accidently mortally wounded was completely healed when brought before the Virgin’s image with many prayers and supplications.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is known as the Queen of Mexico, the Paton saint of both North and South America, and titles given by Pope John Paul II, “Empress of Latin America and Protectress Of Unborn Children”.
It’s so interesting to hear the stories behind icons. Please contact me if you have other examples to share. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
INTERESTING LINKS FOR ICONOGRAPHERS
Greek Iconographer, George Kordis, gave this talk on “Tradition as Creativity” at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in April 2022: . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg6ts-8Kiaw
This link is to a video by iconographer Antonis demonstrating two methods of blending while painting in egg tempera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnaImXOEvuI
This is a link to an EWTN tv show called Living Divine Mercy, it features an interview and video about my icons.
That’s all for this month. If you would like to take my online Icon writing class January 17-20, 2023, please click here for more information.
Blessings, Prayers, and Best Wishes for a God Filled New Year!
Christine Simoneau Hales