OUR LADY OF GUANAJUATO, Guanajuato, Guanajuato
Guanajuato is one of those places that travel writers rave about. They use words like “gorgeous” and “enchanting” and “colonial gem” to describe it. And—they are right! It is no wonder that it is one of the most visited sites in the country and that it has been declared a historical heritage site by UNESCO. As one writer says, “It is one of Mexico’s most handsome cities.” It is also home to the prestigious University of Guanajuato whose 20,000 students give the city a vibrant and cheery atmosphere. Pope Benedict visited the city in 2012.
In the 1500’s “massive veins of silver” were discovered in the area, and, for 200 years, the city became one of the wealthiest in the country, supplying up to 40% of the world’s silver from its mines. Its greatest treasure, however is not its wealth or its scenic beauty or its colonial architecture. It is something far different: It is the statue of Our Lady of Guanajuato, the city’s patroness, which resides above the main altar in the magnificent Basilica named in her honour. This image is reputed to be the most ancient religious image in the Western hemisphere! It is over 800 years old and has the most fascinating history—.
This statue of Our Lady of Guanajuato has a special significance for the times we are living in now. It all happened like this—
Since 1557 it has been the centre of devotion for the citizens of Guanajuato. Tradition relates that it was known in the city of Santa Fe, in Granada, Spain as early as 650. During the catastrophic invasion of Spain by the Moors in 714, devout Christians hid the image in a cave, fearing that it would be desecrated by the invaders. It would remain hidden for eight and a half centuries.
But one must ask: how did it end up in Guanajuato, Mexico, a continent away? After the providential re-discovery of the lost image, it came under the sponsorship of King Philip ll of Spain. He, in turn, gave it to the city of Guanajuato as a gift, most likely in gratitude for the flow of wealth that poured into his royal coffers from the silver mines.
The statue remains miraculously preserved to the present day; it is in pristine condition. According to historians, “It is amazing that the image was not completely destroyed by the dampness and lack of ventilation.” The stately image is 46” in height (1.15 m.) and is carved out of a single piece of wood. Our Lady is depicted holding the Child Jesus in her left arm.
Upon its arrival in the city it was first placed in the chapel connected with the hospital of the Aztec Indians where it remained for eight years. In 1565 the statue was then moved to the chapel in the Tarascan Indians’ hospital where it remained for the next 131 years. In 1696 the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato was completed and the statue was placed over the main altar where it can be seen to the present day.
In 1908 a sublime honour was granted to Our Lady of Guanajuato: In May of that year the solemn Pontifical Coronation of Our Lady of Guanajuato took place with the official authorization of Pope Pius X. Such an honour was granted by the pope because of three elements: 1. The great antiquity of the image. 2. The numerous miracles attributed to her intercession and 3. The deep and widespread devotion of the citizens to Our Lady of Guanajuato.
In this year of 2022, at a time of unprecedented and widespread drought in the world, one notes with awe and wonder—Our Lady of Guanajuato’s special predeliction: she is particularly invoked in times of DROUGHT!
Extraordinary are the cases on record in Guanajuato of “plentiful rain” following processions with “the sacred image.” Historians have recorded the phenomenon on three noteworthy occasions: “Each time, while the procession was going through the streets, rain began to fall in such abundance that the image had to be taken hastily into the nearest church.” It seems that Our Lady of Guanajuato is meant to play a special role in our time!
In these perilous times let us remember the words of Pope Benedict as he was leaving the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato and heading for the airport:
“Adios, mis amigos! Remain with God and may Mary Most Holy protect you all!”