Q: Would you please help me find out more about the origins of the painting and the history of the devotion of Our Lady of Light?
A: The sacred image of our Lady venerated under the title Nuestra Señora de la Luz (Our Lady of the Light) reposes in San Andrés de Salvatierra, Guanajuato. In the early seventeenth century this image was kept in a small chapel in the Indian pueblo of Guatzindeo, across the Rio Lerma from Salvatierra and was owned by Don Antonio Martin Tamajo.
This is the legend attached to the title of the image. On various nights, Don Antonio and a Franciscan religious had observed lights blazing from one of the rooms in a hospice of the pueblo which appeared to be a fire. Don Antonio sent servants to find out what was happening there. The servants returned and reported that they had not seen any fire nor light. Thereupon Don Antonio together with the Franciscan went personally to the hospice. Among other things they found a notably damaged image of Our Lady. Don Antonio took the statue and sent it to Pátzcuaro to be repaired. The beauty of the renovated image attracted Don Antonio so much that he decided to build a chapel where our Lady could be publicly venerated. Because of the circumstances connected to the retrieval of the statue they called it 'Our Lady of the Light'.
Pious tradition dating back three and a half centuries relates that the image continued to radiate light both in the chapel as well as in the churches of Salvatierra during pilgrimages. This attracted many people from the area and beyond. Each year during the season of rain, this image, known also as 'Our Lady of the Valley', was carried in procession from the chapel to the city. On the way the people invoked Our Lady's intercession for favorable weather and a bountiful harvest. They did likewise when facing plagues or other catastrophes and they were heard immediately.
Another incident reports that the Bishop of Valladolid on his way to Mexico City became seriously ill while passing through Salvatierra. Being a devotee of Our Lady, Bishop Ortega offered holy mass at her altar. Immediately afterwards he started to recover and was able to continue his journey. Grateful to Our Lady's intercession, the bishop bestowed on her the title 'Nuestra Señora de la Luz'.
At another instant, the statue was carried In procession and, when passing through low doors, its head hit the door and badly disfigured the face of the image. While discussing how to repair the image that seemed to be beyond repair, a man in rough clothes appeared as if from nowhere. He identified himself as a sculptor and offered to repair the statue without negotiating the cost for his work. Having no choice, the parishioners agreed, though with much hesitation. While at work, he was offered food and drink which he refused. When he had completed the job, the man advised to let the image dry in the sun for a couple of hours. Then he left, never to be seen again. The repaired image of Our Lady showed no trace of the accident.
In 1743 the government of Salvatierra built a sanctuary for La Virgen de la Luz. From 1808 to the present day, the image has been venerated in this place. On September 16, 1938, Pius XI granted the honors of Pontifical Coronation to the image of Nuestra Señora de la Luz. The Archbishop of Morelia crowned Our Lady with a golden diadem in the name of the pope on May 24, 1939.
-- Rev. Joseph L. Cassidy
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