Q: Who is "Our Lady of Regla"?

A: Historians distinguish between legend and history.  According to legend, the statue of the Virgin de Regla was commissioned by Augustine (354-430) himself and brought by Saint Cyprian, deacon, after the death of Augustine and during the invasion of the Vandals to the southern shores of Spain.  The statue found a new home in the seaport city of Chipiona and was venerated in the local monastery by both Augustinian canons and African hermits.  In the eighth century the invasion of Andalusia by the Saracens forced the statue to go underground.  Indeed, the monks hid the image in a cistern next to a fig tree where she remained until the liberation of the country by Alphonse the Wise in the thirteenth century.  In that period, Our Lady manifested herself to a canon regular from León  pointing him to the place where the statue lay hidden.  The rediscovery of the hidden image, chalice, and burning lamp led to the revival of the devotion to the Virgin de Regla. The cistern and fig tree still exist, and the location is called Humilladero.

From the point of history, the origin of the name appears shrouded in mystery.  According to some, the name makes reference to the Rule of the Augustinians. Thus the Virgin would be the protector of the Rule (regla). On the other hand, it is known that Don Alonso Perez de Guzman (~1580-90) erected in Chipiona, a castle by the name of Castillo de Regla.

Iconographical studies point out that the statue can be dated as early as 1200.  It is believed that the image has always been that of a black Madonna.  The beginning of the devotion and first known miracles can be dated as early as 1330.  The official act of the foundation of the monastery bears the date of August 22, 1399 which corresponds to the date at which the Duke of Arcos, Don Pedro Ponce de León, entrusted the new foundation to the Order of Saint Augustine.  After a long period of neglect and dereliction, the monastery and sanctuary were restored in l833 and again in 1851, thanks especially to the Spanish Infantes, the Dukes of Montpensier.

The patronal feast coincides with the feast of the birthday of Mary on September 8. It is celebrated with a procession in commemoration of that of September 8, 1588 when the proud Spanish Armada sail toward England.  Historians evaluate the number of participants in this grandiose manifestation of devotion at eighty-thousand and the length of the procession at nine kilometers.  The devotion to Our Lady of Regla reached its zenith in the eighteenth century.  Devotion to "Our Lady of Regla" is practiced even today, not only in Spain but also in Cuba, at a location outside of La Havana, called Regla, in Miami, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and in the Netherlands.


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