Last September, Pope Francis visited Columbia, South America. Before leaving on his trip, he asked that the miraculous painting of the Patroness of Columbia, Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira, accompany him on his journey. The Pope planned to spend time in front of the painting which had received a Canonical Coronation from Pope St. Pius X on January 9, 1910. The story behind this magnificent painting is quite remarkable.
If you are an artist in the 21st century and you need paints for your creations, you might go to a craft store to purchase them. More than likely, most every pigment and painting tool needed to do your work will be available. However, in the 16th century, acquiring artist’s supplies was not so convenient.
Alonso de Narvaez was a Spanish painter who plied his craft during those days. He had been asked to create an image of the Blessed Virgin by Don Antonio de Santana for an oratory he had built. Alonso immediately got to work.
There were no craft stores in those days, so he painted in pigments he created himself using the soil, herbs, and flowers in the region (modern Columbia) in which he was working. His canvas was more than likely a woven cloth made by the local Indians.
Alonso began applying his self-created pigments to the woven cloth “canvas.” The cloth canvas was about forty-four inches wide by about forty-nine inches in length. The image of Our Lady is about one meter (39.37 inches) high, and she is standing on a half moon.
Our Lady has a sweet smile on her face and is holding the Christ Child in her left arm. Jesus has a small bird tied to His right thumb. A Rosary hangs from Our Lady’s hand. Since there was extra space on the cloth canvas, Alonso painted St. Anthony of Padua and St. Andrew the Apostle on either side of her.
Using this archaic equipment and combining it with incredible creativity and resourcefulness, Narvaez created one of the most magnificent Marian paintings of all time, Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira.
Unfortunately, the paints and cloth canvas were unprotected in the poorly built oratory. The painting became worn and faded and was removed and taken to Chiquinquira and used as a bed to dry wheat in the sun. It remained there for seven years. That is when Dona Maria Ramos arrived from Spain and was heartbroken to find the chapel being used for animals and the painting in such a horrid condition.
Day after day she prayed for the rebirth of the chapel. On December 26, 1586, at 9:00 o’clock in the morning, the canvas began to brighten as the sun’s rays shined upon it. Suddenly it was brightened by the image of the Holy Virgin, and then the entire image was restored. The image actually healed as holes and tears in the cloth seemed to seal themselves.
Maria was astonished, and soon the miracle was drawing crowds of people. Miraculous cures followed, and church officials ordered an investigation into the validity of such claims. Many were validated.
In 1630 the Archbishop of Bogota authorized the Dominican Brotherhood to take charge of the chapel, and it was replaced by a regular church. In 1801, the present Basilica was built replacing the smaller church, and the Holy See granted a liturgical feast day that is celebrated also in Ecuador and Venezuela.
Pope Pius VII, declared Our Lady of Chiquinquira, Patroness of Columbia in 1829. In 1910 Pope St. Pius X granted the image a Canonical Coronation. Pope Benedict XV carried out that decree in 1919 because it had been put on hold due to the political climate in the country. Finally, Pope Pius XI elevated her sanctuary to a minor Basilica in 1927..
The actual feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira is July 9, the actual day of coronation.
Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira, please pray for us all.
copyright Larry Peterson 2018
The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá (Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Chiquinquirá), also known as the Virgin of Chiquinquirá (Virgen de Chiquinquirá), is celebrated on Venezuela on November 18. This image of the Blessed Virgin Mary is venerated as the patron saint of Colombia, the state of Zulia in Venezuela, and the town of Caraz in Peru.
The original image of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá dates back to the 16th century. It is kept in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá in the Colombian city of Chiquinquirá. The image portrays the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon, wearing a blue cloak and a white veil. She is holding the Christ Child, who has a rosary hanging from his left hand. On her right stands Saint Anthony of Padua, and on her left stands Saint Andrew the Apostle.
In the Basilica of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá in Maracaibo, Venezuela, there is a later image of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá, painted on wood. According to a local legend, it was found either in 1709 or 1749 by a local woman who was washing her clothes in Lake Maracaibo. The woman saw a small wooden tablet floating towards her, picked it up and took it home thinking that tablet might come in handy.
The next morning, she heard a knocking sound and strange noises from the room where she had left the tablet. The woman went over to see what was happening and was astonished to find the tablet shining bright, with the image of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá clearly visible on its surface. Since then, the Virgin of Chiquinquirá, also called La Chinita, has been the patroness of Maracaibo and the entire state of Zulia.
According to another legend, the government once tried to take image to the capital city of Caracas. However, as the soldiers tasked with moving the image tried to carry it out of the Basilica of Maracaibo, it got so heavy that no one could lift it. The image has been kept in the Basilica, completed in 1858, ever since.
The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá in Columbia is celebrated on July 9, because on this day in 1919, the canonical coronation of the original image of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá finally went into full effect. In Venezuela, however, it is observed on November 18, the alleged date of the miracle that happened to the woman.
Preparations for the celebration typically begin in late October. Downtown Maracaibo is decorated with festive lights that stay up until after Christmas, and local vendors participate in the annual Chinita’s fair. On October 27, the image of the Virgin is taken down from the altar and begins its tour throughout the state, returning to the Basilica in time for the religious festivities.
The Chinita’s fair culminates on November 17 and 18. Multiple parties and concerts begin in the afternoon of November 17, lasting until the wee hours of the morning. On November 18, many people attend the traditional baseball game and toros coleados, Colombian and Venezuelan equestrian competitions similar to rodeo.