July 9 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirà. She is the patron of Colombia and Venezuela.
In 1560, Fray Andrés Jadraque of the Spanish Dominicans and Colonist Don Antonio de Santana commissioned Alonso Narváez to paint an image for the church. The artist used a rough 44″ X 49″ piece of material that had been woven by the local Native people. He painted the image using pigments taken from the areas – soil, mixed with herbs and flowers from that region of Colombia. The image shows the Virgin with the Christ Child and the two personal patrons of the men who commissioned the painting – the Apostle St. Andrew and St. Anthony of Padua.
Known as “Our Lady of the Rosary”, the painting was placed in a small chapel to allow for public veneration, but after only 15 years, the image had deteriorated so badly that it was removed. People basically forgot about it until a cleaning lady found it in a storeroom in 1585. She did her best to clean it up and would often come to pray before the image. The day after Christmas, she discovered the painting had been miraculously restored. Not only were the colors bright again, but small holes and tears in the canvas had somehow self-sealed.
The painting was again placed on display for the faithful and, unprotected, it survived for more than 300 years! Eventually, despite its miraculous nature, the colors once more faded and it is now displayed behind a thick plate of glass. Our Lady of Chiquinquirá was named Patroness of Colombia by Pope Pius VII in 1829.
But God didn’t stop loving on this image. Skeptics will say that somebody painted a copy so Venezuela could enjoy the fruits of gullible pilgrims and their cash. But the pious version of the image in Venezuela is that a woman was washing her clothes by the river when a small board came floating by. Thinking it might have some use, she brought it home with her. Only later did the image of Our Lady Of Chiquinquirá miraculously appear.
The image is displayed in the basilica that reportedly was built over the place of the woman’s house. Another pious tale recounts that, at one point, the Venezuelan government decided that the image belonged to Caracas, and soldiers came to take it away from the church. As they moved it farther and farther away, it became heavier and heavier. When they couldn’t carry it anymore, it was returned to the basilica where it still resides today.