Since today is the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe I think it is a good time to remind people about some of the myths involved with this miraculous image, and yes I do believe this is a miraculous image.
As Catholics we are quite use to unhistorical elements developing in the stories of the saints, especially of the early saints. Though this is something that still happens. Over the years I have compiled some interesting facts that Catholic historian Sandra Miesel has written about some of these items that have developed around the story and image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The following are from what she has written in the past.
- Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to Juan Diego in 1531 did not halt Aztec human sacrifices. Those had already been stopped by the Spanish capture of Mexico City, more than a decade previously.
- Today is the date of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe which prompts me to vent some pet peeves concerning this apparition. First, Our Lady is not, not, not dressed like "an Aztec princess." The Aztecs wore calf-length wrap skirts and loose sleeveless blouses, no veils. The Guadalupana’s garments are those of a typical late medieval Marian image. Rose and blue were favorite colors. Nor is her apparent pregnancy unique. Pregnant Madonnas used to be quite popular in the Middle Ages until Trent decided they were in poor taste. (Some had see-though bodies or fetal Infants who could be taken in and out.)
Next, the sun, moon, stars, and angel were painted by human hands at some point in the 16th C. They are discoloring and flaking as was seen up close when the tilma was removed from its case for scientific examination in the 1980s. These features bring Mary’s iconography in line with medieval Immaculate Conceptions or Assumptions. She used to wear a silly little crown, too, but that was removed in the 1890s.
- A recent academic study of the history of devotion to the Guadalupana is MEXICAN PHOENIX by DA Brading (Cambridge, 2001). One surpise there is that the earliest record of the apparition refers to a variety of flowers, not just roses.
Can you imagine even thinking of painting on a miraculous image? How could anybody have thought that was a good idea at the time. Surely some artists have giant egos and you must have a pretty good sized one to decide to "improve upon" a miraculous image.