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The vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe occurred in the year 1326, the people of Caceres (Guadalupe), Spain, experienced great emotion when a cowherd named Gil Cordero related that a radiant Lady emerged from a nearby forest while he was searching for a lost cow. The Lady then indicated where he should dig to find a treasure and requested that a chapel be built in commemoration of her visit. When Gil Cordero convinced authorities to visit the place, they found the entrance to an underground cave, which contained a statue that had been hidden for six hundred years, according to the documents that were also unearthed. The documents revealed that the statue had been presented in the year 580 by St. Gregory the Great to the noted churchman, Bishop Leander of Sevile.
It was recorded that those who had secured the statue evidently died during the conquest and it was thus lost for centuries. Although hidden for so long a time, the statue, made of oriental, unstained wood was examined and pronounced to be in perfect condition. The simple structure that was first constructed long ago was replaced later by a chapel that was built by order of King Alfonso XI. The church, and the statue enthroned therein were named “Guadalupe,” to mark the village near the place of discovery.
In 1340, the king of Spain went with great pomp and majesty to visit the miraculous statue, fourteen years after the statue’s discovery. Many noblewomen also visited and prayed before the statue and provided costly garments to adorn Our Blessed Mother. In fact, so many garments were provided that a special room called the Reliquary Cabinet was provided for their exposition. Among these articles of interest is a luxurious headdress, worn on special occasions, which contains countless gems donated by Our Lady’s devotees. The statue, which is very dark, is regarded as a symbol of Our Lady’s royal maternity because she holds in her left hand the Divine Child and in the right hand a royal scepter. It is recorded that Columbus carried a replica of the statue with him, as also did the Conquistadors.
On November 4, 1493, Christopher Columbus upon discovering the West Indies island of Karukera renamed it Guadalupe in honor of the Blessed Mother. The miraculous statue is reverently enshrined in a room called the Camarin at the fortress-like monastery of Guadalupe, located behind the main altar. The holy influence of this miraculous statue reached across the Atlantic Ocean to Mexico in the year 1531 where another apparition of Our Lady was experienced as revealed by Juan Diego.
The miraculous portrait of Our Lady on fragile cloth that appeared as a result of Our Lady’s apparitions to Juan Diego was first given the Aztec name Te Quatlasupe. This means one who crushes the head of the stone serpent. The Bishop Juan de Zumarraga who was overseeing the Province was from Spain and knew of the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Caceres mistook the Aztec name Te Quatlasupe to mean Guadalupe and hence the Miraculous Portrait in Mexico was also called Guadalupe as the one in Spain.
Summarised by Chioma Betina Okwara
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