Wherever I travel, my eye automatically lights on the architecture of the place and my heart to watching the people who move within those spaces.
In the city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, there is a church that seems to almost glow with the reverence of the faithful that cross it’s marbled floors.
Our Lady of Guadalupe stands proud and comforting among the poor that hawk their wares outside, selling everything from handmade dolls to a ride in a handsome carriage.
The church, itself, is relatively modern, having been built in 1903 on the grounds of an older, and much smaller chapel. The parishioners of ‘The Bay’ grew in such numbers and with such sacrifice that Rome funded the construction.
It’s central spire is topped with a replica of the wedding crown worn by Empress Carlota, wife of Emperor Maximilian, ruler of Mexico (vis-sa-vis Austria).
Why? I don’t know. Especially since the royal couple were not favorites among the native people or the Spanish ruling class (the very Catholic people of Mexico found them suspect because of their lack of offspring, calling him impotent and her barren when, in fact, he sired a son with a native Indian mistress, and Carlota had a son by way of an Imperial officer, who would grow up and surrender the French Army to Hitler).
In fact, they were politically and literally abandoned during a power play between liberals (Maximilian) and conservatives ( Benito Juarez). Max was eventually executed and Carlota died crazy in a castle in Belgium.
As for Our Lady, her Mexican story begins in 1531, when she appeared to peasant Juan Diego, telling him to solicit the Bishop of Mexico to build a church in Guadalupe and call her the Lady of Guadalupe (not the Virgin Mary because she loved the Mexican people most), but not before he was instructed to pick roses for her (in December), which he found on a hilltop, and carried in his cloak to his local church where he laid them at the alter and lo-and-behold the interior of the cloth had a darker Indian Virgin Mary imprinted on it- gold leafed, with the blue-green mantle of the mythological Aztec twin Gods Ometecuhtli & Omecihuatl, and rays of light in the decorative form of Aloe spines!
So what’s the take-away?
Churches are beautiful. People are flawed…
Our Lady of Guadalupe
|The replica of the wedding Crown
worn by crazy
|Just another day at the Alter|
shrouded in the pink that
The Lady appeared in.
|One of the faithful
reciting the rosary as she moves to the alter on her knees.
|The ‘Original’ cloak-
now found in Mexico City