Main article: Juan Diego
Following the Conquest in 1519–21, the Spanish destroyed a temple of the mother goddessTonantzin at Tepeyac outside Mexico City, and built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin on the site. Newly converted natives continued to come from afar to worship there, often addressing the Virgin Mary as Tonantzin.
What is purported by some to be the earliest mention of the miraculous apparition of the Virgin is a page of parchment (called Codex Escalada) which was discovered in 1995. This document bears a pictorial representation of Juan Diego and the apparition, several inscriptions in Nahuatl, referring to Juan Diego by his Aztec name, and the date 1548. Doubts have been cast on the authenticity of the document, however.
A more complete early description of the apparition occurs in a 16-page manuscript called the Nican mopohua, which was acquired by the New York Public Library in 1880, and has been reliably dated in 1556. This document, written in Nahuatl, but in Latin script, tells the story of the apparitions and the supernatural origin of the image. It was probably composed by a native Aztec man, called Antonio Valeriano, who had been educated by Franciscans. The text of this document was later incorporated into a printed pamphlet which was widely circulated in 1649.
In spite of these documents, there are no written accounts of the Guadalupe vision by Catholic clergymen of the 16th century, as there ought to have been if the event had the importance it is claimed to have had. In particular, the canonical account of the vision features archbishop Juan de Zumárraga as a major player in the story, but, although Zumárraga was a prolific writer, there is nothing in his extant writings that can confirm the story.
The written record that does exist suggests the Catholic clergy in 16th century Mexico were deeply divided as to the orthodoxy of the cult springing up around the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with the Franciscan order (who had custody of the chapel at Tepeyac) being strongly opposed to the cult, while the Dominicans supported it.
The main promoter of the cult was the Dominican Alonso de Montúfar, who succeeded the Franciscan Juan de Zumárraga as archbishop of Mexico. In a 1556 sermon Montúfar commended popular devotion to "Our Lady of Guadalupe," referring to a painting on cloth (a tilma) in the chapel of the Virgin Mary at Tepeyac, where certain miracles had occurred. Days later, Fray Francisco de Bustamante, local head of the Franciscan order, delivered a sermon denouncing the cult. He expressed concern that the Archbishop was promoting a superstitious regard for an image:
The next day Archbishop Montúfar opened an inquiry into the matter. At the inquiry, the Franciscans repeated their position that the image encouraged idolatry and superstition, and four witnesses testified to Bustamante's claim that the image was painted by an Indian, with one witness naming him "the Indian painter Marcos". This could refer to the Aztec painter Marcos Cipac de Aquino, who was active at that time. But "if he did, he did so without making a preliminary sketch - in itself a near-miraculous procedure.[...] Cipac may well have had a hand in painting the Image, but only in painting the additions, such as the angel and moon at the Virgin's feet", claims Prof. Jody Brant Smith (referring to Philip Serna Callahan's examination of the tilma using infrared photography in 1979).
Ultimately Archbishop Montúfar (himself a Dominican) decided to end Franciscan custody of the shrine. From then on the shrine was served by diocesan priests under the authority of the archbishop. Moreover, Archbishop Montúfar authorized the construction of a much larger church at Tepeyac, in which the tilma was mounted and displayed.
The report of this 1556 inquiry is the most extensive documentation concerning the Virgin of Guadalupe from the 16th century, and significantly, it makes no mention of Juan Diego, the miraculous apparition, or any other element from the legend. But if the miracle story did have currency at that time, it seems strange that it would have been omitted from this report.
In the late 1570s, the Franciscan historian Bernardino de Sahagún denounced the cult at Tepeyac and the use of the name "Tonantzin" to call Our Lady in a personal digression in his General History of the Things of New Spain, in the version known as the Florentine Codex.
Sahagún's criticism of the cult seems to have stemmed primarily from his concern about a syncretistic application of the native name Tonantzin to the Virgin Mary. However, Sahagún often used the same name in his sermons as late as the 1560s.
In the 16th century and probably continuing into the early 17th century, the image was modified by adding the mandorla-shaped sunburst around the Virgin, the stars on her cloak, the moon under her feet, and the angel with folded cloth supporting her - as was determined by an infrared and ocular study of the tilma in 1979.
First printed accounts
The first printed account of the image and apparitions occurs in Imagen de la Virgen Maria, Madre de Dios de Guadalupe, published in 1648 by Miguel Sánchez, a diocesan priest of Mexico City.
The next printed account was a 36-page tract in the Nahuatl language, Huei tlamahuiçoltica ("The Great Event"), which was published in 1649. This tract contains a section called the Nican mopohua ("Here it is recounted"), which we have already touched on above. The composition and authorship of the Huei tlamahuiçoltica is assigned by a majority of scholars to Luis Laso de la Vega, vicar of the sanctuary of Tepeyac from 1647-1657. Nevertheless, the most important section of the tract, theNican Mopohua, appears to be much older. It has been attributed since the late 1600s toAntonio Valeriano (c. 1531-1605), a native Aztec man who had been educated by the Franciscans and who collaborated extensively with Bernardino de Sahagún. A manuscript version of the Nican Mopohua, now held by the New York Public Library,appears to be datable to the mid-1500s, and may have been the original work by Valeriano that was used by Laso in composing the Huei tlamahuiçoltica. Most authorities agree on the dating and on Valeriano's authorship.
Two separate accounts, one in Nahuatl from Juan Bautista del Barrio de San Juan from the 16th century, and the other in Spanish language from Servando Teresa de Mier date the original apparition and native celebration in September 8 of the Julian calendar, it also confesses that the Spaniards celebrate it in December 12 instead.
It was due to the Informaciones Jurídicas de 1666 for which it was requested and obtained a feast day in name of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the transfer of the date of the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, from September 8 to December 12, the latest date on which the Virgin supposedly appeared to Juan Diego. The initiative to perform them was made by Francisco de Siles who proposed to ask the Church of Rome a Mass itself with allusive text to the apparitions and stamping of the image, along with the divine office itself, and the precept of hearing Mass on December 12, the last date of the apparitions of the Virgin to Juan Diego as the new date to commemorate the apparitions (which until then was on September 8, the birth of the Virgin).
In 1666 the Church in México began gathering information from people who reported having known Juan Diego, and in 1723 a formal investigation into his life was ordered, where more data was gathered to support veneration. Because of theInformaciones Jurídicas de 1666 in the year 1754 the Sacred Congregation of Rites confirmed the true value of the apparitions and granted celebrating Mass and Office for the feast of Guadalupe on December 12.
These published accounts of the origin of the image venerated in Tepeyac increased interest in the identity of Juan Diego, the original recipient of the vision. A new Basilica church was built to house the image. Completed in 1709, it is now known as the Old Basilica.
The image had originally featured a crown on the Virgin's head, but this disappeared in 1887-88. The change was first noticed on February 23, 1888, when the image was removed to a nearby church. Eventually a painter confessed on his deathbed that he had been instructed by a clergyman to remove the crown. This may have been motivated by the fact that the gold paint was flaking off of the crown, leaving it looking dilapidated. But according to the historian David Brading, “the decision to remove rather than replace the crown was no doubt inspired by a desire to 'modernize' the image and reinforce its similarity to the nineteenth-century images of the Immaculate Conception which were exhibited at Lourdes and elsewhere. … What is rarely mentioned is that the frame which surrounded the canvas was lowered to leave almost no space above the Virgin's head, thereby obscuring the effects of the erasure."
By a bull dated February 8, 1887 Pope Leo XIII granted permission for a Canonical Coronation of the image which occurred on October 12, 1895. Since then the Virgin of Guadalupe has been proclaimed "Queen of Mexico", "Patroness of the Americas", "Empress of Latin America", and "Protectress of Unborn Children" (the latter two titles given by Pope John Paul II in 1999). Under this title, she was also proclaimed "Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines" in July 1935 by Pope Pius XI both witnessed and signed by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, a designation he later rescinded in September 1942 upon becoming Pope Pius XII.
On March 25, 1966, Pope Paul VI presented a Golden Rose to the sacred image. Finally, under Pope John Paul II the move to beatify Juan Diego intensified. John Paul II took a special interest in non-European Catholics and saints. During his leadership, theCongregation for the Causes of Saints declared Juan Diego "venerable" (in 1987), and the pope himself announced his beatification on May 6, 1990, during a Mass at theBasilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, declaring him “protector and advocate of the indigenous peoples," with December 9 established as his feast day.
At that time historians revived doubts as to the quality of the evidence regarding Juan Diego. The writings of bishop Zumárraga, into whose hands Juan purportedly delivered the miraculous image, did not refer to him or the event. The record of the 1556 ecclesiastical inquiry omitted him, and he was not mentioned in documentation before the mid-17th century. In 1996 the 83-year-old abbot of the Basilica of Guadalupe, Guillermo Schulenburg, was forced to resign following an interview published in the Catholic magazine Ixthus, in which he was quoted as saying that Juan Diego was "a symbol, not a reality", and that his canonization would be the “recognition of a cult. It is not recognition of the physical, real existence of a person.”  In 1883 Joaquín García Icazbalceta, historian and biographer of Zumárraga, in a confidential report on the Lady of Guadalupe for Bishop Labastida, had been hesitant to support the story of the vision. He concluded that Juan Diego had not existed.
In 1995, Father Xavier Escalada, a Jesuit whose four volume Guadalupe encyclopedia had just been published, announced the existence of a sheet of parchment (known as Codex Escalada), which bore an illustrated account of the vision and some notations in Nahuatl concerning the life and death of Juan Diego. Previously unknown, the document was dated 1548. It bore the signatures of Antonio Valeriano and Bernardino de Sahagún, which are considered to verify its contents. The codex was the subject of an appendix to the Guadalupe enciclopedia, published in 1997. Some scholars remained unconvinced, one describing the discovery of the Codex as "rather like finding a picture of St. Paul's vision of Christ on the road to Damascus, drawn by St. Luke and signed by St. Peter."
In the earliest account of the apparition, the Nican Mopohua, the Virgin Mary tells Juan Bernardino, the uncle of Juan Diego, that the image left on the tilma is to be known by the name "the Perfect Virgin, Holy Mary of Guadalupe."
Scholars do not agree as to how the name "Guadalupe" was ascribed to the image.Some believe that the Spanish transcribed or transliterated a Nahuatl name, as the site had long been an important sacred spot. Others hold that the Spanish name Guadalupeis the original name, and refers to the Spanish Our Lady of Guadalupe, Extremadura, whose cult had been important in Spain in the 16th century and had been brought to the New World with the Spanish conquest.
The first theory to promote a Nahuatl origin was that of Luis Becerra Tanco. In his 1675 work Felicidad de Mexico, Becerra Tanco claimed that Juan Bernardino and Juan Diego would not have been able to understand the name Guadalupe because the "d" and "g" sounds do not exist in Nahuatl.
He proposed two Nahuatl alternative names that sound similar to "Guadalupe",Tecuatlanopeuh [tekʷat͡ɬaˈnopeʍ], which he translates as "she whose origins were in the rocky summit", and Tecuantlaxopeuh [tekʷant͡ɬaˈʃopeʍ], "she who banishes those who devoured us."
Ondina and Justo Gonzalez suggest that the name is a Spanish version of the Nahuatlterm, Coātlaxopeuh [koaːt͡ɬaˈʃopeʍ], which they interpret as meaning “the one who crushes the serpent,” and that it may be referring to the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl. In addition, Mary was portrayed in European art as crushing the serpent of the Garden of Eden.
According to another theory the juxtaposition of Guadalupe and a snake may indicate a nexus with the Aztec goddess of love and fertility, Tonantzin (in Nahuatl "Our Revered Mother"), who also went under the name of Coatlícue ("The Serpent Skirt"). This appears to be borne out by the fact that this goddess had had a temple dedicated to her on the very Tepeyac Hill where Juan Diego had his vision, temple which had recently been destroyed at the behest of the new Catholic authorities. In the 16th century the Franciscans were suspicious that the cult of Guadalupe showed, or was susceptible to, elements of syncretism, i.e. the importation of an object of reverence in one belief system into another (see above).
The theory promoting the Spanish language origin of the name claims that:
- Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino would have been familiar with the Spanish language "g" and "d" sounds since their baptismal names contain those sounds.
- There is no documentation of any other name for the Virgin during the almost 144 years between the apparition being recorded in 1531 and Becerra Tanco's proposed theory in 1675.
- Documents written by contemporary Spaniards and Franciscan friars argue that for the name to be changed to a native name, such as Tepeaca or Tepeaquilla, would not make sense if a Nahuatl name were already in use, and suggest the Spanish Guadalupe was the original.
The image as artifact
The image is a full-length representation of a mestiza girl or young woman (the Virgin) with high cheek-bones, delicate features, and straight black hair simply parted in the middle framing her face. Standing in an aspect of prayer with hands joined and head slightly inclined, she gazes with heavy-lidded eyes at a spot below and to her right. She is dressed from neck to feet in a pink robe spangled with a small gold quatrefoil motif, its sleeves reaching to her wrists where the cuffs of a white undergarment appear. Over her head and falling in drapes around her body is a blue mantle with gold trim, decorated with gold stars. High up around her waist is a girdle from which hang, at centre, two black tassels. At her throat is a black cross broach. She stands on a thin crescent moon, her feet hidden under the folds of her robe beneath which appears a small angel with feathered wings who seems to support her with his outstretched arms. A sunburst of golden rays projecting behind the Virgin are enclosed within a mandorla. Beyond the mandorla to right and left is an unpainted expanse, white in colour with a faint blue tinge.
The portrait was executed on a fabric support of natural material constituted by two pieces (originally three) joined together. The join is clearly visible as a seam passing from top to bottom, with the Virgin's face and hands and the head of the angel on the left piece. It passes through the left wrist of the Virgin. The fabric is mounted on a large metal sheet to which it has been glued for some time. The image, currently set in a massive frame protected behind bullet-proof glass, hangs inclined at a slight angle on the wall of the basilica behind the altar. At this point, there is a wide gap between the wall and the sanctuary facilitating closer viewing from moving walkways set on the floor beneath the main level of the basilica, carrying people a short distance in either direction. Viewed from the main body of the basilica, the image is located above and to the right of the altar and is retracted at night into a small vault (accessible by steps) set into the wall. An intricate metal crown designed by the painter Salomé Pina according to plans devised by Rómulo Escudero and Pérez Gallardo, and executed by the Parisian goldsmith, Edgar Morgan, is fixed above the image by a rod, and a massive Mexican flag is draped around and below the frame.
The nature of the fabric is discussed below. Its measurements were taken by José Ignacio Bartolache on December 29, 1786 in the presence of Joseph Bernardo de Nava, a public notary: height, 170cms (67 inches); width 105cms (41 inches). The original height (before it was first shielded behind glass in the late 18th century, at which time the unpainted portion beyond the Virgin's head must have been cut down) was 229cms.
Neither the fabric ("the support") nor the image (together, "the tilma") has been analyzed using the full range of resources now available to museum conservationists. Four technical studies have been conducted so far. Of these, the findings of at least three have been published. Each study required the permission of the custodians of the tilma in the Basilica. However, Callahan's study was taken at the initiative of a third party: the custodians did not know in advance what his research would reveal.
- MC – in 1756 a prominent artist, Miguel Cabrera, published a report entitled "Maravilla Americana," containing the results of the ocular and manual inspections by him and six other painters in 1751 and 1752.
- G – José Antonio Flores Gómez, an art restorer, discussed in a 2002 interview with the Mexican journal Proceso, certain technical issues relative to the tilma. He had worked on it in 1947 and 1973.
- PC – in 1979 Philip Callahan, (biophysicist, USDA entomologist, NASA consultant) specializing in infrared imaging, was allowed direct access to visually inspect, and photograph, the image. He took numerous infrared photographs of the front of the tilma. Taking notes that were later published, his assistant noted that the original art work was neither cracked nor flaked, while later additions (gold leaf, silver plating the moon) showed serious signs of wear, if not complete deterioration. Callahan could not explain the excellent state of preservation of the un-retouched areas of the image on the tilma, particularly the upper two-thirds of the image. His findings, with photographs, were published in 1981.
- R – In 2002 Proceso published an interview with José Sol Rosales, formerly director of the Center for the Conservation and Listing of Heritage Artifacts (Patrimonio Artístico Mueble) of the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA) in México City. The article included extracts from a report which Rosales had written in 1982 of his findings from his inspection of the tilma that year using raking and UV light. It was done at low magnification with a stereo microscope of the type used for surgery.
Summary conclusions ("contra" indicates a contrary finding)
- (1) Support: The material of the support is soft to the touch (almost silken: MC; something like cotton: G) but to the eye it suggested a coarse weave of palm threads called "pita" or the rough fiber called "cotense" (MC), or a hemp and linen mixture (R). It was traditionally held to be made from ixtle, an agave fiber.
- (2) Ground, or primer: R asserted (MC and PC contra) by ocular examination that the tilma was primed, though with primer "applied irregularly." R does not clarify whether his observed "irregular" application entails that majorly the entire tilma was primed, or just certain areas – such as those areas of the tilma extrinsic to the image – where PC agrees had later additions. MC, alternatively, observed that the image had soaked through to the reverse of the tilma.
- (3) Under-drawing: PC asserted there was no under-drawing.
- (4) Brush-work: R suggested (PC contra) there was some visible brushwork on the original image, but in a minute area of the image ("her eyes, including the irises, have outlines, apparently applied by a brush").
- (5) Condition of the surface layer: PC reports that the un-retouched portions of the image, particularly the blue mantle and the face, are in a very good state of preservation, with no flaking or peeling. The three most recent inspections (G, PC and R) agree (i) that additions have been made to the image (gold leaf added to the sun's rays-which has flaked off; silver paint or other material to depict the moon - which has discolored; and the re-construction or addition of the angel supporting the Marian image), and (ii) that portions of the original image have been abraded and re-touched in places. Some flaking is visible, though only in retouched areas (mostly along the line of the vertical seam, or at passages considered to be later additions).
- (6) Varnish: The tilma has never been varnished.
- (7) Binding Medium: R provisionally identified the pigments and binding medium (distemper) as consistent with 16th-century methods of painting sargas (MC, PC contra for different reasons), but the color values and luminosity are in good condition.
- The technique of painting on fabric with water-soluble pigments (with or without primer or ground) is well-attested. The binding medium is generally animal glue or gum arabic (see: Distemper). Such an artifact is variously discussed in the literature as a tüchlein or sarga. Tüchlein paintings are very fragile, and are not well preserved, so the tilma's color values and state of preservation are very good.
The iconography of the Virgin is fully Catholic: Miguel Sanchez, the author of the 1648 tract Imagen de la Virgen María, described her as the Woman of the Apocalypse from the New Testament's Revelation 12:1, "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” She is described as a representation of the Immaculate Conception.
Virgil Elizondo says the image also had layers of meaning for the indigenous people of Mexico, which contributed to her popularity. Her blue-green mantle was the color reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl; her belt is interpreted as a sign of pregnancy; and a cross-shaped image, symbolizing the cosmos and called nahui-ollin, is inscribed beneath the image's sash. She was called "mother of maguey," the source of the sacred beverage pulque. Pulque was also known as "the milk of the Virgin." The rays of light surrounding her are seen to also represent maguey spines.
Symbol of Mexico
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe became the recognized symbol of Catholic Mexicans.Miguel Sánchez, the author in 1648 of the first published account of the vision, identified Guadalupe as Revelation's Woman of the Apocalypse, and said:
Throughout the Mexican national history of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Guadalupan name and image have been unifying national symbols; the first President of Mexico(1824–29) changed his name from José Miguel Ramón Adaucto Fernández y Félix toGuadalupe Victoria in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Father Miguel Hidalgo, in theMexican War of Independence (1810), and Emiliano Zapata, in the Mexican Revolution(1910), led their respective armed forces with Guadalupan flags emblazoned with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1999, the Church officially proclaimed her thePatroness of the Americas, the Empress of Latin America, and the Protectress of Unborn Children.
In 1810 Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla initiated the bid for Mexican independence with his Grito de Dolores, with the cry "Death to theSpaniards and long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!" When Hidalgo's mestizo-indigenous army attacked Guanajuato and Valladolid, they placed "the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which was the insignia of their enterprise, on sticks or on reeds painted different colors" and "they all wore a print of the Virgin on their hats." After Hidalgo's death leadership of the revolution fell to azambo/mestizo priest named José María Morelos, who led insurgent troops in the Mexican south. Morelos adopted the Virgin as the seal of his Congress of Chilpancingo, inscribing her feast day into the Chilpancingo constitution and declaring that Guadalupe was the power behind his victories:
Simón Bolívar noticed the Guadalupan theme in these uprisings, and shortly before Morelos's execution in 1815 wrote: "the leaders of the independence struggle have put fanaticism to use by proclaiming the famous Virgin of Guadalupe as the queen of the patriots, praying to her in times of hardship and displaying her on their flags ... the veneration for this image in Mexico far exceeds the greatest reverence that the shrewdest prophet might inspire."
In 1912, Emiliano Zapata's peasant army rose out of the south against the government of Francisco Madero. Though Zapata's rebel forces were primarily interested in land reform – "tierra y libertad" ('land and liberty') was the slogan of the uprising – when his peasant troops penetrated Mexico City they carried Guadalupan banners. More recently, the contemporary Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) named their "mobile city" in honor of the Virgin: it is called Guadalupe Tepeyac. EZLN spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos wrote a humorous letter in 1995 describing the EZLN bickering over what to do with a Guadalupe statue they had received as a gift.
Harringon argues that:
- The Aztecs ... had an elaborate, coherent symbolic system for making sense of their lives. When this was destroyed by the Spaniards, something new was needed to fill the void and make sense of New Spain ... the image of Guadalupe served that purpose.
Hernán Cortés, the Conquistador who overthrew the Aztec empire in 1521, was a native of Extremadura, home to Our Lady of Guadalupe. By the 16th century the Extremadura Guadalupe, a statue of the Virgin said to be carved by Saint Luke the Evangelist, was already a national icon. It was found at the beginning of the 14th century when the Virgin appeared to a humble shepherd and ordered him to dig at the site of the apparition. The recovered Virgin then miraculously helped to expel the Moors from Spain, and her small shrine evolved into the great Guadalupe monastery.
According to the traditional account, the name of Guadalupe was chosen by the Virgin herself when she appeared on the hill outside Mexico City in 1531, ten years after the Conquest.
Guadalupe continues to be a mixture of the cultures which blended to form Mexico, both racially and religiously, "the first mestiza", or "the first Mexican". "bringing together people of distinct cultural heritages, while at the same time affirming their distinctness." As Jacques Lafaye wrote in Quetzalcoatl and Guadalupe, "as the Christians built their first churches with the rubble and the columns of the ancient pagantemples, so they often borrowed pagan customs for their own cult purposes." The author Judy King asserts that Guadalupe is a "common denominator" uniting Mexicans. Writing that Mexico is composed of a vast patchwork of differences – linguistic, ethnic, and class-based – King says "The Virgin of Guadalupe is the rubber band that binds this disparate nation into a whole." The Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once said that "you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe." Nobel Literature laureate Octavio Paz wrote in 1974 that "the Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery".
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Juan Diego, and the tilma have been investigated through film several times in recent history. One of the most notable and thorough filmic investigations was done by director Tim Watkins in the 2013 film The Blood & The Rose.Documentarians have been portraying the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe since the 1990s in an attempt to bring the message of the apparition to the North American audience.
Beliefs and miracles
Roman Catholic sources claim many miraculous and supernatural properties for the image such as that the tilma has maintained its structural integrity over nearly 500 years, while replicas normally last only about 15 years before suffering degradation; that it repaired itself with no external help after a 1791 ammonia spill that did considerable damage, and that on November 14, 1921 a bomb damaged the altar, but left the icon unharmed.
Then in 1929 and 1951 photographers found a figure reflected in the Virgin's eyes; upon inspection they said that the reflection was tripled in what is called the Purkinje effect, commonly found in human eyes. An ophthalmologist, Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann, later enlarged an image of the Virgin's eyes by 2500x and claimed to have found not only the aforementioned single figure, but images of all the witnesses present when the tilma was first revealed before Zumárraga in 1531, plus a small family group of mother, father, and a group of children, in the center of the Virgin's eyes, fourteen people in all.
Numerous Catholic websites repeat an unsourced claim that in 1936 biochemistRichard Kuhn analyzed a sample of the fabric and announced that the pigments used were from no known source, whether animal, mineral or vegetable. Dr. Philip Serna Callahan, who photographed the icon under infrared light, declared from his photographs that portions of the face, hands, robe, and mantle had been painted in one step, with no sketches or corrections and no visible brush strokes.
Several Pontiffs have granted recognitions to the venerated image, namely the following:
- Pope Benedict XIV, in the Papal bull Non Est Equidem of 25 May 1754, declared Our Lady of Guadalupe patron of what was then called New Spain, corresponding to Spanish Central and Northern America, and approved liturgical texts for the Holy Mass and the Breviary in her honor.
- Pope Leo XIII granted new texts in 1891 and on 8 February 1887 authorized Canonical Coronation of the image, which occurred on 12 October 1895.
- Pope Pius X proclaimed her patron of Latin America in 1910.
- Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Guadalupe "Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines" on 16 July 1935 and the relativeApostolic Letter was signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII). This was revised on 12 September 1942, when Pope Pius XII, by the Apostolic Letter Impositi Nobis constituted and declared theBlessed Virgin Mary under the title Immaculate Conception as "Principal and Universal Patroness of the Philippine Islands", with Saint Pudentiana and Saint Rose of Lima constituted and declared to be the secondary patronesses.
- Pope Pius XII accorded her the title Patroness of the Americas "Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas" in 1945, and "Patroness of the Americas" in 1946.
- Pope John XXIII invoked her as "Mother of the Americas" in 1961, referring to her as Mother and Teacher of the Faith of All American populations.
- Pope Paul VI gave the image a Golden Rose on March 20 1966. 
- Pope John Paul II visited the shrine in the course of his first journey outside Italy as Pope from January 26–31, 1979, and again when he beatified Juan Diego there on 6 May 1990. In 1992 he dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe a chapel withinSt. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. At the request of the Special Assembly for the Americas of the Synod of Bishops, he named Our Lady of Guadalupe patron of the Americas on January 22, 1999 (with the result that her liturgical celebration had, throughout the Americas, the rank of solemnity), and visited the shrine again on the following day. On July 31, 2002 he canonized Juan Diego before a crowd of 12 million at the basilica of Guadalupe, and later that year included in the General Roman Calendar, as optional memorials, the liturgical celebrations of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (December 9) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12).
- Pope Francis granted the image a second Golden Rose via Cardinal Ouellet for presentation at the shrine on 18 November 2013.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the Patroness of Mexico and the Continental Americas; she is also venerated by Native Americans, on the account of the devotion calling for the conversion of the Americas. Replicas of the tilma can be found in thousands of churches throughout the world, and numerous parishes bear her name.The shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destination in the world. Over the Friday and Saturday of December 11 to 12, 2009, a record number of 6.1 million pilgrims visited the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the apparition.
Due to a claim that her black girdle indicates pregnancy on the image, the Blessed Virgin Mary, under this title is popularly invoked as Patroness of the Unborn and a common image for the Pro-Life movement.
- University of California Press