The image left on St Juan Diego’s tilma is the only true picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in existence.
The tilma should have deteriorated, faded, and turned into dust, a long time ago. The image has remained intact with all its original vibrancy for nearly 500 years. The natural life span of a cloak made with cactus fibres from the agave or maguey plant is approximately 20-30 years.
The image is a pictograph, meaning it can be read and, therefore, interpreted through symbols which were clearly understood by the Aztec Indians, without reading a word in letters.
A black Cross on the brooch of our Lady’s neckline—signifies her God, Jesus Christ, her Son and Saviour; and the God of the Spanish missionaries.
Our Lady appears as a beautiful young Indian Maiden and Queen—requesting a church be built on the site. Mother Mary chose this seemingly unknown site consciously— hence, the Aztec goddess, Tonantzin, had been worshipped for decades at that very site, known as Tepeyac. Tonantzin means ‘our mother” in the Aztec language of Nahautl.
It has since become home to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, in response to Our Lady’s request. It is clear Mary was seeking the conversion of the Aztecs, where the Spaniards had been unsuccessful at establishing peaceful unity, by converting heathens into practicing Catholics.
It was within eight years of Our Lady’s miraculous appearance, that 9 million of the native people of Mexico converted to Catholicism. Amazingly this almost exactly counter-balanced the number of people who fell away from the Church during the Protestant Reformation/Revolution.
St Juan Diego converted to Catholicism circa 1524 after encountering the Spanish missionaries. This occurred just seven years after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, sparking the Protestant Revolution. The Protestants were rebelling against the Church in Europe. Ironically the Protestant schisms and disrespect were partly in response to the great respect and veneration that Catholics had for the Blessed Virgin Mary—lost in one continent and gained in another.
Her eyes are looking down with humility and compassion. She is seen to be human, not of divine nature. The gaze is also one of compassion and motherly tenderness. Her hair is loose, indicating that she was a virgin maiden.
Scientists discovered that the eyes of Mary have the three refractive characteristics of a human eye.
Studies made on the eyes of Mary detected that when the eye is exposed to light the retina contracts, and when the light is withdrawn it returns to a dilated state, just as happens with a living eye.
In the eyes of Mary (only about 1/3 inch in size), miniscule human figures were discovered that no artist could have painted. The same scene is repeated in each eye. Using digital technology, the images in the eyes were enlarged many times, revealing that each eye reflected the figure of the Indian Juan Diego opening his tilma in front of Bishop Zumarraga. Do you know the size of this scene? One fourth of a millimetre (that is, 1/100th of an inch).
Mother Mary is wearing fur cuffs and a blue-green, turquoise mantle covered with stars. This is the colour of both royalty and the heavens above. She may not be a god, but she is certainly from heaven.
In 1529, the first Bishop of Mexico, the Franciscan Fray Juan de Zumárraga wrote to the king, “if God does not act to remedy the situation as soon as possible, this land will be lost forever.” The Bishop also prayed to Our Blessed Mother to intervene. He wrote in his journal that he had asked for a sign that his prayer would be answered—roses from his homeland of Castile, Spain. “…then for a third time, Juan Diego was ushered in to see the Bishop with a sign that the apparitions were real—Castilian roses!” Thus Our Lady had given a very personal sign to the Bishop. That alone was a miraculous sign since they did not grow in Mexico, let alone in the middle of December. Juan did not realise, until after he opened his cloak letting the roses tumble out, that an image of Our Blessed Mother was emblazoned on his tilma.
Her robe is coloured rose or pale red and adorned with Aztec flowers, symbolic of an Aztec princess. Among the designs are four-petalled quincunx flowers in the shape of a cross. Some of these lay at the centre of Our Lady’s robe, across the Virgin’s womb. The flower was called the Nahui Ollin by the Aztecs and was the symbol of the sun and plenitude. It is also the Aztec sign of the divine, as well as the centre of the cosmic order. This grouping of symbols means the Virgin’s Baby in both Divine and the New Centre of the Universe.
Our Lady is wearing the Aztec black maternity lace around her waist. This signifies that she is not only a pregnant woman but is about to give birth. The sash, is a sign of new life and that someone of importance is about to come. The ends of the sash’s bow represent the end of a cycle and the starting of a new age.
Her hands are joined in prayer and, therefore, she is not God but clearly there is one greater than her and she points her finger to the cross on her brooch, a link to the missionaries.
On Our Lady’s left hand sleeve there is a clear image of our Lord’s Crucifix – you can see His head, His body, a wrap around His waist and His bent knees.
The arrangement of the stars depicted on Mary’s mantle is not random nor decorative. It is very specific. Our Lady’s stars represent entire constellations. The stars signify she comes from Heaven—the Queen of Heaven. The constellations are in the exact position as appeared before dawn on the morning of 12 December 1531. One can see the Southern Cross on the right hand side, facing the image.
On the right side of the Virgin’s mantle the southern constellations are indicated:
- At the top are four stars that form part of the Orphiuchus constellation.
- Below it, to the left, one finds Libra and to its right, at what seems an arrow point, is the beginning of Scorpio.
- In the middle are the constellations of Lupus and, to its left, an end point of Hydra.
- Further down one can clearly see the Southern Cross, above it appears the slightly inclined square of the Centaurus constellation.
On the left side of the Virgin’s mantle one sees the northern constellations:
- At her shoulder, a fragment of the stars of the Herdsman constellation; below it and to the left is the Great Bear. To its right is Berenice’s Hair; below it Hunting Dogs, and to its left the Thuban, which is the brightest star of the Draco constellation.
- Below the two parallel stars (which still form part of the Big Bear), one finds stars from another pair of constellations; the Auriga and at the bottom, three stars of Taurus.
- Thus, in their totality and proper places, the 46 most brilliant stars that can be seen on the horizon of the Valley of Mexico are identified.
She stands in front of the sun which symbolises the greatest Aztec god—Huitzilopochtli. Our Lady comes to announce the True God who is greater than their sun god.
She stands on the moon demonstrating Our Lady’s superiority to their Aztec moon god, Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent moon god.
At the base of the image, an angel with eagle’s wings supports the Mother of God. The eagle was the “bird of the sun”. Here the eagle is the servant of the Virgin. It holds her mantle in one hand and robe with the other, signifying the Son she bears is from both Heaven and earth. It was believed that angels took the Aztecs’ sacrifices to their gods. In this case, the Lady is the sacrifice given and stands as the perfection of all sacrifices. Also, only royalty was lifted on shoulders, so it again points to her place in the Heavenly Court.
To date the image cannot be explained by science. Dr Aldofo Orozco, a physicist, said that the remarkable preservation of the cloak of St Juan Diego on which Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared almost 500 years ago, “is completely beyond any scientific explanation.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe has a heartbeat—and another, second heartbeat for the child depicted in her womb. Therefore, the Immaculate Heart and Sacred Heart are contained in Our Lady of Guadalupe. Carlos Fernandez del Castillo, a gynaecologist, examined Our Lady of Guadalupe and listened to her using a stethoscope. Placing his stethoscope below the black band at the waist of Our Lady, he heard rhythmic heartbeats at 115 beats per minute. This heart rate is identical to that of a baby in the womb. Furthermore, an unborn child’s heartbeat has repeatedly been heard from a copy of Our Lady of Guadalupe, called a “missionary image”.
In the year 1791, muriatic acid accidentally spilled on the upper right side of the tilma. During the period of 30 days, without any special treatment, the affected fabric re-constituted itself miraculously.
Our Lady of Guadalupe survived a bomb blast which obliterated everything around the image. In 1921 an anti-clerical radical detonated twenty-nine sticks of dynamite in a pot of roses beneath the tilma. The blast destroyed a marble rail, twisted a metal crucifix and shattered windows throughout the old Basilica but the tilma itself was untouched.
Our Lady of Guadalupe maintains a body temperature. Dr Philip Callahan’s 1979 infrared examination of Our Lady of Guadalupe revealed yet another miracle besides its miraculous preservation. He discovered that the tilma maintains a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). Therefore, our Lady’s living image maintains its own body temperature!
On the colouring of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary appears as different ethnicities depending on one’s vantage point. At one distance, Our Lady appears to be a native American. At another distance, she appears to be of European descent. This miraculous feature of Our Lady of Guadalupe is meant to show the unity of the two peoples and cultures in light of the true faith of Christ, imploring the peoples of the New World to live as one. Dr Philip Callahan explains how Our Lady of Guadalupe is able to achieve the effect of varying colours at different distances. It is a trait that is seen only in nature, not paintings. At a distance of 6 or 7 feet (2 metres), the skin tone becomes what might best be termed Indian olive, grey green in tone. It appears somehow the grey and caked-looking white pigment of the face and the hands, with the rough surface of the unsized hue. Such a technique would be an impossible accomplishment in human hands, it often occurs in nature usually, in the colouring of the bird feathers and butterfly scales and on the wing cases of brightly coloured beetles. Amazingly, the image combines with the rough surface of the cloth to create the effect of natural changing colourations.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is not of this earth? In 1936, Our Lady of Guadalupe was analysed by a Nobel prize-winning chemist, Dr Richard Kuhn who analysed the fibres and colouring of St Juan Diego’s tilma. He discovered that the colour was not of vegetable, mineral, or animal origin and was not of any known earthly element. The colouring of Our Lady of Guadalupe is, literally, not of nature. It is supernatural.
The miraculous preservation of Our Lady of Guadalupe has even been confirmed by NASA. Callahan (from NASA) specialises in infrared imaging. Studying the miraculous preservation of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he took numerous infrared photographs of the front of the tilma. His team noted that the original art work was neither cracked nor flaked. This was considered odd. They noted from later additions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, such as the gold leaf and silver plating of the moon, showed serious signs of wear, if not complete deterioration. The excellent state of preservation of the untouched areas of Our Lady of Guadalupe was, according to Callahan, inexplicable.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was not painted by man. The mysterious lack of brushstrokes, even sceptics admit that, even if the image might have been touched up over the centuries the original image was created by a single brush stroke.
Celestial music was found on the Mantle of the Virgin forming musical notes with the stars and flowers of her dress. The researcher Fernando Ojeda made a scientific study on the position of stars and flowers in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe where he checks through the geography, geometry, astronomy and music (associated with mathematics) the veracity of the piece. This allowed music experts to discover the composition of celestial music. Click the play button at the bottom left of your screen to have a listen!
The first prayer said in the New World was the Salve Regina, prayed by Columbus and his companions.
It is thought that Our Lady used the Aztec words nahuati de coatiaxopeuh, which is pronounced “quatlasupe” and thus sounds very much like the Spanish word Guadalupe. Coa means serpent, tia is the article “the”, and xopeuh means “to crush”. Therefore, Our Lady referred to herself as the one who “crushes the serpent”.
During the battle of Lepanto, Our Lady of Guadalupe repelled an attempted invasion by a Muslim armada. Europe was extremely divided following the Protestant schisms from the Catholic Church. The Turkish Muslims took this opportunity to mount a re-invasion of Europe. Pope Pius V was able to convince only Spain and Venice to mount a defence. Together, they managed to cobble together a small fleet of 200 ships to stop the coming invasion. The Catholic fleet was outnumbered by the Muslim fleet by nearly a hundred ships. Bit it didn’t matter that the Catholics were outnumbered because they had a secred weapon—one of the admirals of the fleet, Andrea Doria, carried within his flagship an exact copy of the Holy Image of Guadalupe. The Archbishop of Mexico had sent the replica image as a gift to King Philip II. The blue standard of Our Lady of Guadalupe was also flying from the masthead of Don Juan’s flagship. When the armada went to war on the morning of 7 October 1571, all of Europe, too, joined together to pray the Rosary for Our Lady’s intercession. On 7 October, the Catholic fleet decisively defeated the Muslim fleet. The victory was credited to Our Lady’s intercession. From that great victory came the devotion to Our Lady of Victories, later renamed Our Lady of the Rosary which is still celebrated in the Church calendar on 7 October each year.