|Devotion to Our Lady||
THE BASIC FACTS
Our Lady's Apparitions
Our Lady had chosen humble Juan Diego, who was around 57 years old at the time of the first apparition, to be her messenger to the local bishop, demanding that a church be built in her honor.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) is a Roman Catholic church of the rank of minor basilica and the National Shrine of Mexico. It is located in the north of Mexico City.
The shrine was built near the hill of Tepeyac, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. This site is also known as La Villa de Guadalupe or, in a more popular sense, simply La Villa, as it has several churches and related buildings attached to it.
The new Basilica houses the original tilma (or cloak) of Juan Diego, which holds the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One of the most important pilgrimage sites of Catholicism, the basilica is visited by several million people every year, especially around 12 December, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast day
Juan Diego, of poor peasant stock, was born a pagan in 1474. He lived as a pagan until the time of the Spanish evangelization of his those pagan lands in the early 1500's.
When Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, it had only been 10 years since Hernando Cortez had conquered Mexico City in 1521. In 1523, Franciscan missionaries came evangelizing the Indian people. They were so successful that the Diocese of Mexico City was established in 1528. (Remember too that Jamestown, the first permanent English colony, was not established until 1607.) Juan Diego and many of his family members were among these early converts to the faith. He was baptized “Juan Diego” in 1525 along with his wife, Maria Lucia, and his uncle Juan Bernardino.
One must also not forget that Juan Diego had grown up under Aztec oppression. The Aztec religious practices, which included human sacrifice, play an interesting and integral role in this story. Every major Aztec city had a temple pyramid, about 100 feet high, on top of which was erected an altar. Upon this altar, the Aztec priests offered human sacrifice to their god Huitzilopochtli, called the “Lover of Hearts and Drinker of Blood,” by cutting out the beating hearts of their victims, usually adult men but often children. Considering that the Aztecs controlled 371 towns and the law required 1,000 human sacrifices for each town with a temple pyramid, over 50,000 human beings were sacrificed each year. Moreover, the early Mexican historian Ixtlilxochitl estimated that one out of every five children fell victim to this bloodthirsty religion.
In 1487, when Juan Diego was just 13 years old, he would have witnessed the most horrible event: Tlacaellel, the 89-year-old Aztec ruler, dedicated the new temple pyramid of the sun, dedicated to the two chief gods of the Aztec pantheon — Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca, (the god of hell and darkness) — in the center of Tenochtitlan (later Mexico City).
The temple pyramid was 100 feet high with 114 steps to reach the top. More than 80,000 men were sacrificed over a period of four days and four nights. While this number of sacrifices seems incredible, evidence indicates it took only 15 seconds to cut the heart out of each victim. (For more information, see Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness by Dr. Warren Carroll.)
Nevertheless, in 1520, Hernando Cortes outlawed human sacrifice. He stripped the temple pyramid of its two idols, cleansed the stone of its blood and erected a new altar. Cortez, his soldiers and Father Olmedo then ascended the stairs with the Holy Cross and images of the Blessed Mother and St. Christopher. Upon this new altar, Father Olmedo offered the sacrifice of the Mass. Upon what had been the place of evil pagan sacrifice, now the unbloody, eternal and true sacrifice of our Lord was offered. Such an action, however, sparked the all-out war with the Aztecs, whom Cortez finally subdued in August 1521.
In the space of a mere four days, Our Lady appeared fives times: four times to Juan Diego and once to his uncle Juan Bernadino.
1st apparition: December 9th, 1531
2nd apparition: December 9th, 1531
3rd apparition: December 10th, 1531
4th apparition: December 12th, 1531
5th apparition: December 12th, 1531
At dawn on December 9, 1531, Juan Diego, an Indian convert, was going to Tlatelolco to attend catechism class and hear the Mass. As he was passing Tepeyac Hill, he saw a brilliant light on the summit and heard the strains of celestial music.
Filled with wonder, he stopped. Then he heard a feminine voice asking him to ascend. When he reached the top he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary standing in the midst of a glorious light, in heavenly splendor. The beauty of her youthful countenance and her look of loving kindness filled Juan Diego with unspeakable happiness as he listened to the words which she spoke to him in his native language.
She told him she was the perfect and eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, and made known to him her desire that a shrine be built there where she could demonstrate her love, her compassion and her protection. “For I am your merciful Mother”, she said, “to you and to all mankind who love me and trust in me and invoke my help. Therefore, go to the dwelling of the Bishop in Mexico City and say that the Virgin Mary sent you to make known to him her great desire.”
The Bishop was reluctant to believe Juan Diego’s story. Juan returned to Tepeyac Hill that same day and found the Blessed Virgin waiting for him, and told her of his failure. She bade him return to the Bishop the next day and repeat her wishes.
On December 10th, Juan returned to speak to the the Bishop. The Bishop then requested that the Lady give him a sign. Juan reported this to Our Lady that same evening of December 10th, and she promised to grant his petition on the following morning. But Juan was prevented from coming because of a sudden and severe illness of his uncle, Juan Bernardino.
Two days later, on December 12, as he was going to the Church at Tlatelolco in order to bring a priest to his dying uncle, Juan Diego was stopped by the Lady, who had come down from Tepeyac Hill to meet him in the road. She listened quietly to Juan’s excuse for not having kept his appointment with her the day before. When he had finished speaking she said, “It is well, littlest and dearest of my sons, but now listen to me. Do not let anything afflict you and be not afraid of illness or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Are you not in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? Do not fear for your uncle for he is not going to die. Be assured... he is already well.”
Having heard these words, Juan Diego rejoiced and asked for the sign he was to take to the Bishop. He was told to climb to the top of the hill where she had spoken to him on three previous occasions. She said he would find many flowers blooming there which he was to cut and bring to her. Juan Diego did as he was told though he knew no flowers had ever bloomed before on the stony summit. He discovered a marvelous garden of dew-fresh blossoms which he cut as she had asked. Placing them in his rough cloak, or tilma, he brought the flowers to the Lady who rearranged them and told him to take them to the Bishop; that this was the sign to persuade him to carry out her wishes.
When Juan Diego, radiantly happy, stood before Bishop Fray Juan de Zumarraga and told him of the fourth encounter with the Lady, he opened his tilma to show the Bishop the sign; the flowers cascaded to the floor - but to the astonishment of the Bishop and Juan Diego, there appeared upon the coarse fabric of the Indian’s mantle a marvelously wrought, exquisitely colored portrait of the Blessed Virgin, just as Juan Diego had previously described her.
Earlier that same day, December 12, she had also appeared to Juan’s uncle, Juan Bernardino, and restored him to health as she had told Juan Diego. Juan Diego was at that time fifty-seven years old; his uncle was sixty-eight. Both had been among the first of the natives to be baptized into the true faith several years before.
The Name of Guadalupe
Juan Bernardino told his nephew the Blessed Virgin had ordered him to relate to the Bishop in what miraculous manne she had cured him. She also told Juan Bernardino her image was to be known as “Santa Maria de Guadalupe” and thus she has been venerated by this title for nearly five centuries.
The Mantle or Tilma of
St. Juan Diego
The mantle or tilma on which the Sacred Image of the Blessed Virgin is imprinted is handwoven from the fibers of the Maguey cactus, a fabric which has a life span of little more than thirty years. It is six-and-a-half feet long by forty-two inches wide and has a seam running down the middle.
The Sacred Image
Directly on this rough, burlap-like material is the exquisitely delicate figure of Our Lady, four feet, eight inches in height. This authentic portrait of the Virgin Mary has remained fresh and lovely for nearly five centuries and may be viewed today at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City where it occupies the place of honor above and behind the main altar.
The Sacred Image is a pictograph or picture writing; every detail symbolic. She is brighter than the sun; her foot rests upon the moon; the stars on her mantle are in the same relative configurations as the stars in the heavens on the morning of December 12, 1531; the northern constellations on her right - the southern constellations on her left. Further, the golden filigree over her rose colored gown matches the topography of the Mexican lands once ruled by the Aztecs.
Despite more than twenty-two languages and almost fifty dialects spoken at that time, all were able to read and understand all that is contained in this Sacred Image. So it was in this manner eight million natives were converted to Christianity in the incredibly short span of seven years.
On December 26, 1531, two weeks after its marvelous appearance, the Sacred Image of the Blessed Virgin was moved from the Bishop’s oratory to the new Hermitage at the foot of Tepeyac Hill. Thousands of church and civil dignitaries, Indians and Spainards made up the colorful procession. This little chapel was enlarged and renovated several times before 1622 when a second larger church was completed.
In 1667, a chapel was built on the hill to commemorate the first three apparitions. El Cerrito was rebuilt in 1957 and shares the hilltop with a Carmelite convent and a cemetery.
In 1695, the Church of the Indians was completed It was next to the Hermitage, which served as its sacristy, and housed the Sacred Image while the church of 1622 was razed to make room for the first Basilica.
In 1787, the Convent of the Capuchin Sisters was built adjoining the Basilica of 1709 in order to have a place for Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. For the seven years, seven months and seven days prior to completion of the renovation of the Basilica on September 30, 1985, the Sacred Image was housed there.
The First Basilica
The first Basilica was completed in 1709 and the Sacred Image was installed above the high altar for the veneration of all. This Basilica is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful churches in the Western Hemisphere. Constructed of red volcanic rock and sandstone, it is 184 feet long by 122 wide. The bell towers rises 108 feet and the dome 124 feet.
Six enormous oil paintings and many smaller works of art decorate the walls and depict Guadalupan history. Life-sized sculptures of Bishop Zumarraga and Juan Diego kneel reverently at the sides of the white Carrara marble altar, above which the Sacred Image was enthroned until its transfer to the new Basilica on October 12, 1976. The structure has since been converted to a museum.
The New Basilica
A large cross and the symbolic Marian “M” gracefully top the majestic upsweep of the new Basilica, rising almost 150 feet into the sky from its huge semicircular base. Nine small chapels are arranged around a balcony at the rear of the Basilica, which holds ten thousand people. Easily seen from anywhere inside, ensconced above and behind the red seats for visiting Prelates, behind the main altar, is the Sacred Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Image is behind bullet-proof glass, with three frames: of gold, five inches wide; of silver, five inches wide; and of bronze, fourteen-and-one-half inches wide. Below the Image, three “moving sidewalks” carry pilgrims and devotees past the Image, only thirty-five feet above.
On the left of the main altar is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. To the right is the Saint Joseph Chapel, where the Canons of the Basilica recite the daily office of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
On the 12th of October, 1895, by decree of Pope Leo XIII, the Image of the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe was crowned with great solemnity. On October 12, 1945, the fiftieth anniversary of the crowning, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her Patroness of all the Americas. Above the frame there is always a replica of the 1895 Crown. Made in Paris, the crown contains jewels and precious stones donated by the ladies of Mexico City. It is valued at more than two million pesos.
A second crown was donated to Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1945 by the people of Mexico. It was made by a team of eigthteen artists who were directed by a famous lapidary. It weighs thirty-two pounds. Other valuable crowns have been donated over the years by many groups, including the goldsmiths and silversmiths of Mexico.
The Mass and Office
Our Lady of Guadalupe has a special Mass in the Roman Breviary for the 12th of December. It is a Holy Day of Obligation in Mexico, with Octave and double rites of the first class. The Sanctuary of Guadalupe is equal in rank to the Lateran Basilica (second only to St. Peter’s) and the Abbot and Canons have been assigned vestments different from all others.
Words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego
“Know for certain, least of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of heaven and earth. It is my earnest wish that a temple be built here to my honor. Here I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have condfidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities and misfortunes.”
WHERE EXACTLY IS GUADALUPE?
ABOVE: A painting of the town of Guadalupe as seen from the perspective of a hot-air balloon. This is the work of the artist and lithographer Casimiro Castro and was painted around 1855. You can see the basilica to the left of center; the Capuchin convent to the right of the basilica; the Little Chapel on the Hill of Tepeyac perched above both of them.
SHRINE BUILDING HISTORY
Here is a brief history of the shrines construction. After the original construction the building was expanded in 1561-1575.
Then in 1601-1622 a more elaborate shrine was erected.
Another, much richer was built in 1695-1709. Today this is called the Antigua Basilica de Guadalupe, or Old Basilica, and it stands on the site of an earlier 16th century church.
In about 1750 the shrine got the title of collegiate, with a canonry and choir service being established. It was aggregated to St. John Lateran in 1754; and finally, in 1904 it was created a basilica.
The Old Basilica, the one which was completed in 1709, is at the base of the hill of Tepeyac, where the apparitions are said to have occurred. Because of the spongy soil of Mexico City, the church began to tilt and sink into the soil. The church was deemed unsafe. The image of the the Blessed Virgin was removed, and the church was closed in 1974. The structure has been stabilized, and it is once again open to the public.
When this Old Basilica (from 1709) became dangerous due to the sinking of its foundations, a modern structure called the New Basilica was built nearby between 1974 and 1976, designed by architect Pedro Ramírez Vásquez. It has a circular floor plan and the original image of the Blessed Virgin is located high up on one wall, so it can be seen from any point within the building.
The Basílica is at the foot of the hill where, on December 9, 1531, a poor Indian named Juan Diego saw a vision of a beautiful young girl in a blue mantle. The local bishop, Zumarraga, was reluctant to confirm that Juan Diego had indeed seen the Virgin Mary, so he asked the peasant for evidence. Juan Diego saw the vision a second time, on December 12, and when he asked her for proof, she instructed him to collect the roses that began blooming in the rocky soil at his feet. He gathered the flowers in his cloak and returned to the bishop. When he unfurled his cloak, the flowers dropped to the ground and the image of the Virgin was miraculously emblazoned on the rough-hewn cloth. The bishop immediately ordered the building of a church on the spot, and upon its completion, the cloth with the Virgin's image was hung in a place of honor, framed in gold.
Since that time, millions of the devout and the curious have come to view the miraculous image that experts, it is said, are at a loss to explain. So heavy was the flow of visitors -- many approached for hundreds of yards on their knees -- that the old church, already fragile, was insufficient to handle them.
THE OTHER CHAPELS SURROUNDING THE OLD AND NEW BASILICAS
Other structures of the 17th century and 18th century connected with the basilica are a parish church, a convent and church for Capuchin nuns, the Little Well Chapel (Capilla del Pocito) , and the Tepeyac Hill Chapel (Capilla del Cerrito).
The Capilla de Indios, or Chapel of the Indians, is also nearby. It is a house in which it is said that Juan Diego lived, after the Virgin's first appearance, until his death in 1548. It was built under the direction of Luis Lasso de la Vega, the Vicar of Guadalupe, in about 1649.
The Baroque Chapel of the Pocito (Chapel of the Little Well) was built in the eighteenth century where a miraculous source of water appeared (These days it is dry). The water of this source was reputed as having miraculous powers. The chapel has a dome covered with blue and white tiles (azulejos). The walls are in cut stones, volcanic rocks. Inside, there are several scenes of angels, in pastel colors.
An empty crucifix symbolizes Christ's resurrection. The choir is located between the altar and the churchgoers to indicate that it, too, is part of the group of the faithful. Its seven front doors are an allusion to the seven gates of Celestial Jerusalem. It can accommodate 10,000 worshippers at a time, which is often necessary because a mass is almost always taking place inside.
Waves of pilgrims flood the place year-round, but are especially frequent during the Holy Week and especially the Holy Day of December 12th.
The Basilica de Guadalupe is considered by many Catholics to be the holiest place in all of the Americas and it is the most visited sanctuary in Latin America. The basilica may be the second most visited shrine in all the Catholic world, second only to St. Peter's in Rome (The Vatican).
ABOVE: The interior of modern-day circular basilica, looking towards the main altar. In the center, you can see that large cross mounted on the wall, an beneath it, you can just make out the rectangular frame that encloses the tilma or cloak, upon which is the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
THE CHAPEL ON THE SITE OF OF OUR LADY'S APPARITION
The Capilla del Cerrito (Chapel of the Litte Hill) was built on the spot where Juan Diego first saw the Virgin Mary. It was originally built in 1666 by a Mexico City baker named Cristóbal de Aguirre and his wife Teresa Pelegrina. It was just a small chapel and was rebuilt much larger in 1749.
In the front and to the sides leading below you can see the path called "Súbida de Tepeyac" or "The going up to Tepeyac". Over the centuries millions of people have gone up this path on their knees. The façade of the second building was not finished until 1950 so there are some differences between the Chapel façade in Thresher's photo and the Chapel façade of today.
THE GARDENS & STATUES ON TEPEYAC HILL