Q: Is San Juan de los Lagos among the better known Mexican Marian shrines?

A: Yes, San Juan de los Lagos is among the better-known Mexican Marian shrines. It is very old (1623) and of humble origins, then inhabited by Indians of the Nochiztleca tribe and called San Juan Bautista Mesquititlan. The center of Marian devotion was an image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, a humble, blackened and disfigured statue which came to new prominence, thanks to a miracle.

A family of trapeze artists were passing through the village situated along the Camino Real between Luis Potosi and Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, when the younger daughter of six years - a volatin (aerial acrobat) in her own right - in the course of practicing fell upon the swords and daggers fixed in the ground, pointed upward to add the thrill of danger to the trapeze act. The girl was mortally wounded, and the parents brought her body to the chapel of Our Lady of San Juan for burial. The caretaker's wife, Ana Lucia, exhorted the parents to have confidence, the "Lady" (Cihuapilli) would bring the child back to life. Ana Lucia put the statue on the little corpse. The body started to move, the girl sat up, alive and unharmed. From this time on, the miracles and favors obtained through the "Virgencita" were numerous. The father of the girl offered to have the statue repaired. It was beautifully restored by an unknown artist.

[Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos] Devotion spread in the years following this first recorded miracle, and in 1631 a new sanctuary was constructed, enclosing within its walls the original shrine. A century later, in 1732, a magnificent and larger temple was built, which had its own collegiate chapter, and in 1926 became a collegiate church by the grace of Pius XI. In 1904 the image of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos was solemnly crowned. The proper feast is on December 15, the octave of the Immaculate Conception. However, the principal feast is the Immaculate Conception, December 8. The image is very small; it measures about a foot in height. The material of which it is formed is pasta de Michoacan (glue and cornstalks) but in spite of its fragility the image has remained whole for more than eight hundred years. The face is dark in color, the eyes widely spaced and the traits somewhat aquiline. The hands are joined. The statue's body is covered with a gold crown in byzantine style. Above the image are two angels of silver, supporting between them a silver banner with the inscription in blue enamel: Mater Immaculata, ora pro nobis.


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