by Emmanuel Amor, 1885

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, such as it was found painted on Juan Diego's tilma, represents in full size a maiden fourteen or fifteen years of age, standing on a crescent of the moon with its ends up. Her attitude is very much like that of Our Lady of Lourdes. The body, however, is slightly turned towards the left as you view it, and the head somewhat inclined the same way. The eyes, too, instead of looking up to Heaven, are modestly cast down upon the ground, though not sufficiently to prevent one from seeing the pupils. The hands are joined together as in prayer, and only the right foot is seen from under the garments. The Virgin's dress consists of a long tunic of a light pink color, with delicate golden designs upon it, and a blue mantle which hangs from the summit of her head down to her feet, opened out in front, but sinking gracefully to the proportions of the neck, shoulders, and arms. The tunic is fastened beneath the throat by a medallion of gold showing a cross upon it, and round the waist by a purple sash. It is lined, as appears from the openings of the sleeves and that at the neck, with white silk plush.

The mantle is adorned with a golden border or trimming, and with forty-six stars which appear on its outside. On her head and over the mantle, Our Lady of Guadalupe wears a gold crown, while a glorious halo of golden rays surround her from head to foot. Though the head is inclined one way, as I have said, the crown is perfectly vertical in the picture. The field on which the rays fall is of a very bright yellow tint near the outlines of the body, and changes gradually into deep red towards the extremity of the rays. Beneath the moon, supporting it like a youthful Atlas, is a little angel with wings outspread, but seen only down to the breast. With his left hand he holds the skirts of the Virgin's tunic, and with his right those of the mantle. A natural frame of white, curling clouds close in the whole picture. But I have said nothing as yet of the expression or complexion of the face, nor of the type which it reveals. The features and expression show delicacy and sweetness: the complexion is the colour of dark pearl.

It is generally accepted that Our Lady of Guadalupe is of the Indian type, but some objections might, I think, be made against this opinion. The noble proportions of the forehead, the delicacy of the nose and lips, which are very thin, denote quite another race. The color even is not that of the Indians--certainly not that of the Mexican Indians. It is true that the description which Prescot gives of the Mexican's type at the time of the Conquest is very different from what we ourselves see at the present day. In any case, the question may be put, Why did our Lady appear so dark in her Mexican apparitions? May it not have been on the one hand to show her sympathy towards the natives of this land, and on the other to remind the world at large of those words of her Little Office, Nigra sum sed formosa? Does it not seem as though she would have impressed the less favored Indians, for their consolation, and the superior race of the Spaniards, for their greater edification, with the lesson that the beauty of the King's daughter, whom all are bound to imitate, is chiefly from within?

"God the Father Painting the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe"
as depicted in an 18th Century Work

The holy image has several times been examined by competent men, but more particularly in 1665 and in 1751, when special commissions of painters and scientific men declared it in due legal form to be no work of man, but supernatural in its origin and preservation. Don Miguel Cabrera, the most celebrated of Hispano-Mexican painters, was one of those who examined and bore witness on the image in 1751. He has left us, in his work entitled Maravilla Americana, a detailed account of the wonders connected with it. I may briefly resume what he says. The tilma on which the holy image is painted consists of two equal parts joined together in a vertical direction by a thin cotton thread, which of itself, and without supernatural intervention, is insufficient to connect them as it has done now for centuries. It is tissued with pita, a thread made out of the fibres of a Mexican palm, which the Indians call yzotl. The texture they call ayatl, or ayate. This rough tissue, the very last that painters would choose to paint on, shows no signs of preparation whatever, while four different methods of colouring, all requiring a special surface and preparation, have been employed in the picture.

The head and hands are oil-painting; the mantle is gouache, or opaque watercolor; the tunic, the auger, and the clouds are painted with a process called in Spanish al temple, and described by Cabrera as "a kind of painting of all colours with gum, glue, or other such things;" the field on which fall the rays of gold is done with a process for fresco-painting, " by plastering and covering the surface in the very act of painting it," and which "requires a consistent surface such as that of a board or wall." The head of the Blessed Virgin, being inclined to the left, lies just outside the seam I have spoken of above, and which might otherwise have spoiled it . The under-lip, however, is painted, one would say on purpose, exactly on a thick horizontal thread of the tissue, which serves to give it inexplicable relief and expression. The designs on the tunic are traced independently of its folds, as on a plane surface, but the effect produced by this inaccurate piece of work is very beautiful and artistic. The color of the mantle is not exactly blue, but something between this color and green, and likewise beautiful in its effect. The process by which the gold in the crown, stars, and rays has been laid on is a mystery. It very much resembles the gold on butterflies' wings, but its consistency would almost lead one to believe that the very threads of the tissue had been changed into threads of gold.

The texture on which the holy image is painted, and the colors of it, have suffered no alteration down to our time. In 1788 a copy as identical as possible in its process of execution, painted by Don Rafael Gutierez, a renowned Mexican artist, was placed in a chapel on the Tepeyac near the actual church, for the purpose of seeing how long it would last; but before eight years were over the colors had been almost completely destroyed by the corrosive influence of the atmosphere, which the proximity of the lakes render specially malignant there. This fact is recorded by the Dr. Don Jose Ignacio Bartolache, an authority in these matters. Painters generally have declared themselves dissatisfied with the copies they have taken of the holy image, both as regards the material part of the work and the artistic result. I shall mention only one more wonderful circumstance concerning the blessed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it is its transparency, which is so great that one can distinguish from behind objects placed in front of it.

I have not written this account for unbelievers or persons of a sceptical disposition. Nevertheless, it may be as well to add a few lines respecting the authenticity of the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The tradition of her apparition was one which the Indians cherished and preserved with particular care. "The accounts to be found in this city," says Becerra Sanco, "of our Lady's apparition and the origin of her miraculous image of Guadalupe, remained deeply impressed in the memory of the Mexican natives, because it was to them that she appeared." They were proud of the event, especially as the Spaniards were wont to consider them as "beasts, without reason "--bestias e incapaces de razon. It does not appear, however, that the latter in any way begrudged them their privilege. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of the most valiant of Hernan Cortes's followers, writes in the twentieth chapter of his History of the Conquest of New Spain: "Let my readers consider the holy house of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is in Tepeaquilla (Tepeyac), where the royal tent of Gonzalo de Sandoval was pitched when we conquered Mexico; and let them consider the blessed miracles which it has worked and works daily, and let us thank God and His Blessed Mother our Lady for it, and for having given us grace and help to conquer this land, where there is so much Christianity."

I have already named some of the historians properly so called of the apparitions, and spoken of the credit which they deserve: I may add the names of Antonio Valeriano, Fernando de Alva, and Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora. We may say further of Our Lady of Guadalupe what the Church sings in her Office for the Translation of the House of Loreto: "Not only do Papal bulls approve it and the veneration paid to it by the whole world, but a string of miracles, graces, and blessings from Heaven bear witness to its truth." The wonderful events of the Tepeyac and the veneration of the holy image have been not only a popular tradition in Mexico, but also an ecclesiastical one. Of all the eminent prelates who have occupied the see of Mexico not one has failed to approve it in some way or other. Some persons have objected that Senor Don Fray Zumarraga left no formal approbation, but the statement is proved to be not altogether true by Tornel, who remarks very sensibly that, even though the first Archbishop had left no written confirmation of the apparitions, it is an undisputed historical fact that besides protecting Juan Diego and his uncle, he sanctioned the first enthusiasm of the people for the image by building for it the first chapel wherein it was set up on the Tepeyac. As regards the Holy See of Rome, from the time of Alexander the Seventh down to that of Pius the Ninth, nine Popes have more or less explicitly concurred in the propagation of Our Lady of Guadalupe's worship. I shall mention only some of the privileges granted. In 1725, Benedict the Thirteenth raised to the rank of a collegiate church, with the epithet of insignis, the temple built at the foot of the Tepeyac.

In 1753, the Rev. P. Juan Francisco Lopez, of the Society of Jesus, was commissioned by the Archbishop, clergy, and people of Mexico to try and obtain in Rome for Our Lady of Guadalupe a special Office and Mass for the 12th of December, and the title of Patroness of New Spain. Nothing can give one a better idea of the arduous task imposed upon this Father than the account of the repeated disappointments of those who had undertaken the mission before him. It was said on previous occasions that the holy image being that of the Immaculate Conception, whose feast fell four days before its anniversary, it was quite superfluous to give it special prayers. Besides, the Holy See, as well as the Sacred Congregation of Rites, had it as a principle not to canonize miraculous pictures, for if the example were set with one, how could the same privilege be refused to others. Not even for the feast of the Translation of the Holy House of Loreto had a special Office been granted. However, the Sacred Congregation of Rites did grant the Office and Mass for the 12th of December, raising this feast to the rank of a double of the first class with an octave. Benedict the Fourteenth, then Pope, himself composed the prayer, and by his Bull, dated May 25,1754, Non est equidem, quod nos confirmed the Patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe over Mexico. This great and saintly Pontiff, upon hearing from Father Lopez the marvellous account of the holy image, and seeing all the proofs of its authenticity, exclaimed, Non fecit taliter omni nationi. Both he and his successors enriched the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe with many Indulgences. I may only mention here the plenary one in articulo mortis granted by Pius the Sixth to those who wear one of her medals blessed in the shrine. In 1757, the same Pope, Benedict the Fourteenth, at the request of Ferdinand the Sixth of Spain, extended the privilege of the Office and Mass for the 12th of December to all the Spanish dominions. "No sooner," says the author of the Virgen del Tepeyac, "had the apparition been approved by the Holy See, than the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe spread over all Italy, and especially in Rome, over Spain and all its possessions, over Austria, Germany, Bavaria, Bohemia, Poland, Flanders, Ireland, Transylvania, and even over the east."

The miracles worked by Our Lady of Guadalupe are countless. It will suffice to mention a few among those best known. The one of Juan Bernardino's cure has already been related. In 1792, a copy of Our Lady of Guadalupe's image, venerated in Rome in the Church of St. Nicholas in carcere, was seen benignly moving its eyes over the people, and more than eighty creditable persons bore witness to the fact. In 1629, the city of Mexico was saved from a flood which lasted five years, and threatened it with complete ruin, by having recourse to the holy image. An historian, Carrillo y Perez, in his work entitled Pensil Americano, speaks of a canvas on which was painted a solemn procession, and beneath the picture were two inscriptions, one in Mexican and the other in Spanish. The latter is a bad translation of the first. A proper rendering of it by Veytia runs as follows: " Herein was represented the new procession by which she that is called the Virgin and our Mother, Holy Mary of Guadalupe, was brought close to the hill of Tepeyac; and also the great miracle by which she raised to life again a man whom those who came to fetch water (there) had killed." Another fact worthy of record is the following. Before 1531, few Mexicans sought for the grace of Baptism, and after that date thousands were converted. By the year 1540, the Franciscans alone had registered over 6,000,000 baptized by them. In five days Padre Motolinea, with another priest, received 14,200 in the Church, while more than 400,000 asked for Confirmation in the course of forty days, the year 1548.