Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Virgin of Guadalupe - Mexico City

Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was one of the first native baptisms by the Twelve Apostles of Mexico, the Franciscan missionaries who arrived in Mexico in 1524, shortly after the victory by Cortes over the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan. 
This mural of the Twelve Apostles of Mexico is found in the Monastery at Huejotzingo
Juan Diego regularly walked from his home to the Franciscan Mission in Tlatelcolco, and back again, passing by a hill at Tepeyec. On December 9, 1531, early on a Saturday morning on the way to the Mission, the 57 year old Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary at the base of Tepeyec Hill. She told Juan Diego to visit the Bishop, Fray Juan Zumarraga, and instruct him to build a chapel in her honor at that spot. Juan Diego did so and the bishop ignored him. On the way back home that day Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary again and she asked him to go back to the bishop and try again.
A painting of Juan Diego and the Virgin Mary in the Church of San Gabriel in Cholula. 
Sunday morning he reported to Fray Zumarraga again and the bishop asked Juan Diego for a sign to prove that his vision was from heaven. Juan Diego returned to Tepeyec Hill and found the Virgin and requested the sign. She told him to come back the next day. 

The next morning Juan Diego's uncle Juan Bernardino was sick and Juan Diego stayed with him. He got worse and on Tuesday morning Juan Diego headed to the Mission to find a priest to hear his uncle's death-bed confession. Embarrassed that he'd not visited the Virgin the day before, and not wanting to be delayed, he found another route around Tepeyec Hill, but despite his diversion the Virgin encountered him again. After Juan Diego explained his situation, the Virgin chided him for not having come to her for help. She then spoke the words that are emblazoned over the entrance to the basilica, "Am I not here, I who am your mother?" She told Juan Diego that his uncle had recovered and to climb Tepeyec Hill and collect flowers which grew there. With his mantle as a sack, the ends still tied around his neck, he collected flowers. The Virgin re-arranged the flowers when he returned and told him to take them to the bishop. 
This bronze plaque of Juan Diego gathering the flowers is right below the hanging cloak of Juan Diego showing the Virgin of Guadalupe in the New Basilica. 
When Juan Diego saw the bishop he opened his mantle and the flowers dropped to the floor. Fray Zumarraga saw that they had left an imprint of the Virgin on the inside of his mantle and the bishop dropped to the floor to venerate it. 
The bishop examines Juan Diego's mantle. Painting in the Church of San Gabriel in Cholula. 
This mural on the outside of the Old Basilica, above the entrance, appears to show Juan Diego holding his cloak and the bishop on his knees venerating it. 

This photo is of the actual cloak of Juan Diego hanging in the New Basilica.
The next day Juan Diego found Juan Bernardino fully recovered and he told Juan Diego that the Virgin had visited him, at his bedside, and had asked him to contact Fray Zumarraga and let him know of his cure and his vision. She also told Juan Bernardino to tell Fray Zumarraga she wanted to be known under the title "Guadalupe." 

To skeptics, who note that the Spanish destroyed the shrines of the natives and built their own shrines in their place, Tepeyac Hill was just another example of that. It was the site of a temple to the mother goddess Tonantzin. The Spanish destroyed it and built a chapel there in honor of the Virgin Mary and came up with the story of Juan Diego. Whatever the case, the Indians joined the Catholic Church by the thousands and many addressed the Virgin as "Tonantzin."
This painting, which I like, is in the Old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It shows the Franciscans baptizing Indians out of water held in an Aztec container with the volcano Popo smoking in the background and God and the Virgin watching from above in the smoke. 
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is built near Tepeyac Hill where Juan Diego encountered the Virgin. It is a Roman Catholic Church and a National Shrine of Mexico. There are actually two basilicas. What is known as the Old Basilica was begun about 1695 and completed in 1709. It was given basilica status in 1904. 
Old Basilica on the left, which is sinking to the left, and the Capuchin Nun's Temple on the right, which is sinking to the right. They have had to put cement under the foundations to prop them up and keep them from collapsing. 
Entrance to the Old Basilica.
Looking at the altar in the Old Basilica from near the entrance.
A service going on near the main altar.
A painting in the Old Basilica. I love how Mexican art portrays the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as three separate entities. 
A painting of Juan Diego in the Old Basilica.
It has statues of Juan Diego and Fray Juan de Zummaraga, the bishop. Juan Diego's cloak hung there from 1709 to 1974. The land is part of the old lake bed of Tenochtitlan and is very unstable. As the Old Basilica began to sink, a New Basilica was begun, with land stabilized to compensate for the poor soil. 
The aerial photo shows the New Basilica (blue roof), Old Basilica (to the right with the gold dome) and the Hill of Tepeyac, behind and to the right of it.
A ground level view of the New Basilica and Old Basilica. 
In 1921 a bomb planted by a terrorist near the altar containing the cloak blew up and greatly damaged the interior, but the cloak was not damaged.  The New Basilica has an iron crucifix that was bent in the explosion and calls it "the attempt on Christ." 
The bent crucifix on display in the New Basilica. 
Top end of the bent crucifix.
The New Basilica is next door to the Old Basilica and was built between 1974 and 1976. 
The words of the Virgin to Juan Diego are on the front: "Am I not here, I who am your mother? "
It has a circular floor plan that allows Juan Diego's cloak, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to be seen from all angles. It can hold 10,000 people. 
Juan Diego's cloak, the Virgin of Guadalupe, is framed in gold to the bottom right of the central altarpiece. 
A view from a different angle. 
A hallway behind and beneath the pulpit leads to four flat elevator walkways, two going in each direction, that allow you to view the Virgin of Guadalupe from below. It is an ingenious idea to prevent a few people from standing in one place and monopolizing the area. 
This view, which catches just the top portion of the Virgin, looks up into the open top of New Basilica which is shaped like a tent. 
The Virgin of Guadalupe, framed in gold. We saw her image everywhere and have seen it elsewhere, all over the world. 
The New Basilica's seven front doors are an illusion to the seven gates of Celestial Jerusalem. The doors, which swing wide open, are also a nod to the original capilla abierto, or open chapels, which were built by the early Franciscans in their efforts to convert the natives, and are one of the most unique Mexican construction contributions. 
The open doors to the New Basilica.
An inside view looking out the doors. 
The bell and clock tower in the square near the basilicas is fun. Our guide told us that it was patterned after carvings at Teotihuacan. 
The clock and bell tower.
A carving at Teotihuacan that has similarities and perhaps was the model, or one of the models for the bell and clock tower. 
There was much more to see at this amazing place and we could have spent a half day here or more. But we had other places to go and had to break ourselves away. For those who are interested in religion, or religious culture, this is a fascinating and highly recommended place to visit.