For Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia this weekend, the original image of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá was transferred from its shrine to the Bogota cathedral, so that the pontiff could venerate the sacred image — a gesture that the pope thanked the bishops for when he addressed them on Thursday.
But who is Our Lady of Chiquinquirá and why is she important to the Colombian people?
During the 16th century, Spanish painter Alonso de Narvaez created a portrait of the Virgin of the Rosary. To create the image he used pigments from the soil, herbs and flowers of the region. On either side of the Virgin Mary are Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Andrew the Apostle, the personal patrons of the colonist, Don Antonio de Santana, and monk, Andrés Jadraque, who commissioned the painting.
In 1562, the image was displayed in a chapel. Over time, and with water damage from the chapel’s leaky roof, the painting’s natural pigments faded, until it became almost unrecognizable. By 1577, the image was discarded in an abandoned oratory in the town on Chiquinquira.
A few years later, in 1585, the image was discovered by a laywoman, Maria Ramos, who had taken it upon herself to clean and restore the oratory. According to tradition, on December 26, 1586, the image was miraculously renewed. It suddenly received back all its colors and was restored to its original glory.
The image soon became a frequent pilgrimage destination, and in the centuries that followed it remained in its renewed state, even though it was exposed to the temperature changes, candle smoke, and the enthusiastic veneration of the pilgrims. In 1829, Pope Pius VII declared the Virgin of Chiquinquirá patroness of Colombia.
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