The Virgen de Guadalupe is well known throughout the world, although she is known by many different titles, most commonly recognized as the Virgin Mary. Virgen de Guadalupe is the title of Mary most commonly associated with an iconic image of the Blessed Mother housed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The story of the Virgen of Guadalupe is considered one of the "most stunning visitations by Our Lady in the world." The official story states that on the morning of December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, an enslaved "Nahua" Indian, witnessed the appearance of the Virgin Mary. The Virgen de Guadalupe asked for a church to be built at the Hill of Tepeyac, near Mexico City, in her honor. Diego recited the encounter with the Virgin Mary to the Spanish Archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, Despite Diego's miraculous meeting, Zumárraga instructed him to ask the Holy Mother for a sign to prove her identity. After first healing Diego's uncle, the Virgin de Guadalupe appeared again, this time instructing her loyal follower to collect flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. Confused, considering it was late December, Diego returned to the site Mary had first appeared to him not expecting to see any flowers. Although as he climbed he spotted Castilian roses, the Virgen de Guadalupe then arranged these in Diego's tilma (peasant cloak.) Diego then went to Zumárraga and opened his cloak, the Castilian roses fell to the flower, and imprinted on his personal tilma was the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe, and the day was December 12.
Diego's miraculous tilma is displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which sits on the top of Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City. A report from Bishop Francesco Giogia in 1999 claimed that the most visited shrine is that of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Over 12 million faithful visit the Basilica in which the tilma is housed every year, making it the second most visited church in the world, after St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The image has had a lasting impact on Mexican culture and the Catholic culture as a whole. Roman Catholic faithfuls believe the image possesses miraculous abilities. The tilma upon which the image is imprinted has remained structurally intact for over 500 years, in addition to its maintained integrity, the tilma seems to repair itself. On November 14, 1921, a bomb damaged the altar of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, however the image was seemingly unscathed.
The supposed divine nature of the image has continued throughout history, in 1929 and again in 1951, photographers discovered a figure reflected within the Virgin's eyes. The image reflected seems to be the face of a bearded man. After the initial discoveries, several more professionals have inspected the eyes of the Virgen de Guadalupe, in 1956, Dr. Javier Torroella Bueno, MDS, a prestigious ophthalmologist wrote a report upon the eyes, confirming the presence of reflected images. He claimed that the images are the result of the triple reflection characteristic of all living human eyes. This is known as the Samson-Purkinje effect, Dr. Bueno stated the distorted image of the bearded man aligns precisely with the curvature of a living cornea. In a homage to the miraculous encounter Juan Diego was canonized in 2002, making him the first indigenous American saint. In addition to his sainthood, the Virgin Mary is celebrated worldwide on December 12 in celebration of the feats of the Virgen de Guadalupe.
Image courtesy of Chab Zuber via Shutterstock.com.