Sunday, October 15, 2006

A question about the tilma of Guadalupe.

From Ray: I've been waiting for you to set up this Q&A program because I have asked this question several times of others on the Internet and have not yet got a definitive satisfactory answer. And I'm not that fussy.

The question is about the Tilma of St Juan Diego with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. If you look at images of the one in the Shrine in Mexico City and most copies, you will note that the "halo" around the image of Our Lady appears to be cut off at the top.

Was the Tilma desecrated at some time in the past? My most recent answer said that Tilma was folded over because the frame wasn't big enough for it. I find that very hard to believe. If you are building a basilica that will hold 30,000 people (or whatever), I suspect the cost of a larger frame for the Tilma would have fit into the budget.

Second of all, now that I am thinking about it is, "how tall is the Tilma?" I doubt that St Juan Diego could have been taller than 5' 5". If he wore the Tilma with the "tall" side being up, the Bishop might not even have recognized that there was an image on the Tilma. Did he wear it "horizontally", wrapped around him? Like a cope? That makes more sense, I guess.

Dear Ray: You have not been waiting for me to do this!

But here is my best shot: The tilma is about 4'.6" tall or 1.43 meters. It would not have been trimmed to fit a frame or any other reason. I believe the aurora, sun, glory, what have you, surrounding the Virgin ends abruptly with the cloth. In reproductions it is interpreted as light coming from heaven, so this also may be an explanation, although I'm sure it ends abruptly as it is shown, probably due to how it was held by Juan Diego - meaning - it's the top of the cloth.

The image on the tilma appeared as the roses fell out onto the floor - it was itself an 'apparition' before the Bishop's eyes and it was miraculously documented upon the tilma as a photograph would be imprinted upon paper. The fact that the image was 'live' is documented in magnified studies of the eyes that reflect the people in the room at the time. (For Juan Diego, the castilian roses in December is what he thought would be the miraculous sign the Bishop requested.)

The tilma was the target of a bomb once, while everything else was damaged, the image remained unharmed. Once in cleaning the frame, nitric acid seeped under the glass onto the tilma, which should have burnt it. Only a yellow stain remained that has since vanished. The preservation of the tilma itself is considered a miracle, since the agave fibers should have long ago disintegrated.

(Did you know "Wishbone" played the part of Juan Diego in an episode of his series on PBS?)


  1. I may not have been waiting for you, but I was waiting for somebody.

    I guess I'll have to accept that answer, some of which I knew. But you put it together better.

    But now I've got a new question, and I hope I get a chance to ask it? Did Our Lady make a mistake in the measurements when she designed the image on the Tilma?

    I'm sure she is infallible when it comes to matters of faith and morals and surely also about the life of her Son on earth. But measuring and artistic design? I don't know about that.

    What's with "the aurora, sun, glory" stuff. Isn't the Blessed Mother entitled to a 360 degree halo?

    I must be too old for Wishbone. I can remember Gabby and Jingles. Was Wishbone on Rawhide?

  2. Ray, The glory surrounding the Virgin is called a nimbus. It represents the atmosphere of light that surrounds the apparition, following the glorified body, hence the shape of the nimbus. It also suggests "the Woman clothed with the sun." Obviously, it doesn't photograph well. The metalic rays of gold were later additions by human hands, so you are not the only one who has been disssatisfied with Heaven's artwork.
    At least the figures are entirely visible in a pleasing composition.
    Thanks Ray! :)


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