Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Tlaxcala. Santa Isabel Xiloxoxtla: The Miracle of the Spring

The church of Santa Isabel Xiloxoxtla and its sculpted cross *
According to one tradition, in 1541 the Virgin of Ocotlan first appeared to an ailing, indigenous resident of Xiloxoxtla, one Juan Diego Bernardino, a recent convert and Franciscan acolyte.  She led him to a spring with healing waters beside an ocote (pine) tree, and after drinking, he miraculously recovered.
   Juan Diego reported this miracle to the local friars, who hurried to the pine grove, which burst into flame. However, they found a carved image of the Virgin, unharmed, in one of the trees. 
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ocotlan  © Miguel Corchado
This spot became the site of a shrine to the Virgin, and in time the spectacular hilltop basilica that is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ocotlan—the crown jewel of the ornate Tlaxcalan baroque.
Santa Isabel Xiloxoxtla, the chapel of San Diego

Back in Xiloxoxtla, this event is memorialized in an elegant side chapel of the church of Santa Isabel, sumptuously vaulted in red and gold. Filling one end of the chapel is an equally ornate gilded altar, which houses the newly restored 1766 painting that records the appearance of the richly robed Virgin of Ocotlan to a kneeling Juan Diego.

The similarity of this miracle to the better known story of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, even to the name of the indigenous protagonist, is striking, and perhaps not coincidental.
     Such a parallel event, occurring not long after the Guadalupe appearances, would have seemed justly fortuitous and perhaps to be anticipated in Tlaxcala, the first, proudly native province of colonial Mexico. 
   The story of healing waters for the diseased is again appropriate for our times.

* Please see our earlier post on the atrium cross of Xiloxoxtla. 
see our posts on other Tlaxcalan retablos: Tepeyanco; Zacatelco; San José de TlaxcalaSanta Cruz de Tlaxcala; Apetatitlan;
text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
color images by Eleanor Wake and Ernesto Peñaloza


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