Among the thousands of volumes provenant from the Chigi princes’ library, and especially those connected to the personal collection of Pope Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi, reigned 1655-1667) is a small manuscript with a text written in Latin under the unassuming title of an “historical narration of the image of Guadalupe.” This text is bracketed by two woodcut engravings that reproduce the image, the first at the dramatic moment of revelation and the second a faithful reproduction of the image as a whole.
Over the course of the last century, the manuscript has been listed in various bibliographic finding aids and even played a rather insignificant role in the strident debates surrounding the canonization of Juan Diego in the 1990s, not on account of the text it contained but because its very existence signaled the long connection between Mexico and the Vatican concerning the veneration of both the Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego.
Notarial attestations in the manuscript indicate that this Latin text was composed by Francisco de Siles, a theology professor at the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico as well as a high-ranking official in the cathedral chapter, and copied in June 1663. On the basis of strong circumstantial evidence, not least that the chapter voted to petition Rome in May 1663 on behalf of their cult of Guadalupe, it is clear that this document was part of a large dossier sent to Rome, by way of Seville, some time that summer.
The history is a summary of the events of the apparitions followed by a minute description of the image itself. Obviously enough, the most important aspect of the event is that image, miraculously created by God in the moment immediately before Juan let the flowers drop to the floor. It is at this point in the text that Francisco de Siles indicates what in all probability was the reason for the audacious petition and what buoyed them with the hope of success before the papal court. The image depicts the Virgin Mary according to the mystery of her most pure conception. In other words, it is the proof for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, anticipating Mary's revelation at Lourdes by over 200 years.
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