Case File: Image of Guadalupe
Location: Tepeyac, Mexico
Date: December 1531
Description: Tepeyac Hill is a hill located near Mexico City, Mexico.
History: The Image of Guadalupe is a miracle that occurred when the Virgin Mary printed her image into a cloth in Mexico City back in 1531. Since then, millions of people have flocked to there to see it. According to church records, the story started with a man named Juan Diego who lived with his uncle in a village five miles north of Mexico City. He was one of the few Aztecs that had been converted into Christianity.
One day in December 1531, Juan was heading to mass when he passed by the base of a hill called Tepeyac. As he approached it, he heard somebody call out his name and was instantly overwhelmed by a god-like radiance and the Virgin Mary appeared. She told him that she wanted a temple built on Tepeyac Hill. She also said that he was her messenger and that he should tell the bishop about the temple. He told her that he was just a poor Indian and that the bishop wouldn't listen to him, but she told him to have faith and she disappeared.
Juan, believing that he had experienced a miracle, went straight to Mexico City. At the time, it was the seat of the Roman Catholic church in the new World. He waited hours to meet with Bishop Zumaniga, known as a powerful but gentle man, who treated the Indians with kindness and respect. He told the bishop that he was sent to him by the Virgin Mary, who wanted a temple on Tepeyac hill. The bishop was skeptical, and told him that he wanted proof.
Juan returned home, but the next day he was given proof. His uncle fell ill and he went to get a priest to administer last rites. Along the way, he went back to Tepeyac hill, where the Virgin Mary returned. She told him that he would not need a priest and that his uncle was completely healed. He told her that he was unable to convince the bishop and that he needed a sign. She told him to go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that he would find there. He filled with doubt because the hill was barren from the cold of winter. However, he found that the top was filled with roses of Casteen. He gathered them in his tilma, made of cactus cloth.
Juan brought the flowers and tilma to the bishop, and told him that this was the sign. According to church records, when he opened the tilma, an image of the Virgin Mary appeared where the flowers were. The bishop believed that a miracle did occur and that Juan had indeed seen her. After his visions, millions of Indians converted to Roman Catholicism in just three years.
In accordance with the Virgin Mary's wishes, a shrine was soon built on Tepeyac hill, with the image still on display. The church was named Our Lady of Guadalupe after a village in Spain. Throughout the years, it has allowed some changes to be made to the image, including gold reins, a cherub, and the green, red, and white colors of Mexico.
Since 1976, the image has been housed in a special basilica, and every year, five million people make pilgrimages. But for as long as it has existed, there has been debate over whether the image is really a miracle. However, many believers are certain that the Image of Guadalupe is truly a miracle.
Background: Our Lady of Guadalupe is named after a village in Spain. Tepeyac is the hill where the church is located on in Mexico City, Mexico.
Investigations: Jody Smith is an associate professor of philosophy at a Florida college and the leading authority of the image. As early as 1666, the church commissioned a group of physicians and master artist Juan Salguero to inspect the image. He concluded that the painting is on the correct type of cloth that it was in the legend, and that it should have disintegrated by now.
James Randi is an investigator of paranormal phenomenon who has the same type of cloth that dates back to about 450 to 550 years from Peru. However, he claims that if it was put in a frame, it could last very long. But, in its first one hundred years, it was exposed to a high concentration of humidity and salt, and that this should have caused the image's disintegration.
In 1789, a skeptical priest ordered eleven artists to make eleven copies of the painting using the same cloth, and within just a few years, it was very worn and was damaged, unlike the Image of Guadalupe.
In May of 1979, Jody Smith and Philip Callahan were given permission to view the image up close without the glass, and although the parts that had been painted on afterwards were chipping and dim, the face was still very bright. When he studied it with a magnifying glass, there were no hairline cracks, and there was, after so many centuries, no age appearing on the painting.
James Randi claims that there is no concrete evidence to prove that the cloth was actually the original. Infrared photographs showed that there was lack of an under-sketch, and if there was one, then it would probably have been painted by human hands. The practice of making a sketch before painting a portrait traces back hundreds of years. Many investigators believe that the cloth is genuine, while others are not very sure.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 7, 1993 episode.
- Our Lady of Guadalupe on Wikipedia
- Image of Guadalupe - Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
- Science Sees What Mary Saw From Juan Diegos Tilma