Home Prev Next

Historiography of the Apparition of Guadalupe

Daniel J. Castellano (2011)


Información of 1556

Cause of the Inquiry
Questionnnaire and Annotations
Significance of the Testimony

In the nineteenth century, an old juridical document was discovered in Mexico City's archiepiscopal archive. Written on fourteen folios were the proceedings of an información ordered by Archbishop Alonso de Montúfar in 1556, regarding the content of a controversial sermon made by the Franciscan friar Francisco de Bustamante. The sermon's subject matter was the devotion toward the image of Guadalupe, which Bustamante characterized as "recent" and "painted by an Indian". The content of the testimony, taken at face value, would appear to be highly detrimental to the credibility of the traditional Guadalupan narrative. To this day, it forms the centerpiece of anti-apparitionist attempts to construct a positive argument against the narrative's historicity.

According to an 1888 letter by the bibliographer don José María de Agreda y Sánchez, the document was first mentioned in 1846, when the historian José Fernando Ramírez (1804-1871) visited Archbishop Manuel Posada y Garduño. Supposedly the archbishop pointed to a few folios on his table, saying: "what is certain of this matter, is contained in this small file; but neither you nor any other person must see them." The archbishop, who died on April 30 of that year, ordered the file moved to his reserved archive. Agreda y Sánchez learned this from D. José Guadalupe Arriola, who heard it directly from his friend Ramírez. He also claims that "a trustworthy person" told him the exact same thing happened to D. Rafael Adorno when he spoke with the archbishop. As the anti-apparitionist author Stafford Poole acknowledges, "A certain degree of skepticism is in order," regarding this claim. [Poole, The Guadalupan controversies in Mexico, p. 256.]

After the archbishop's death, D. José Braulio Sagaceta served as secretary of the ecclesiastical government during the sede vacante. He was able to gain access to the reserved archive, and saw the hidden file. He was able to read only a little of it because of the antiquated writing style, but what little he understood contradicted the story of Guadalupe. He took the document to his house and hid it there for twenty years.

Fearing that the document would fall into the hands of someone who would make ill use of it after his death, Sagaceta sought to deliver it to the officials governing the church - dean Dr. D. Manuel Moreno y Jove and the canon Dr. D. Eulogio María Cardenas - while Archbishop D. Pelagio Antonio de Labastida y Davalos was exiled in Europe. This must have been sometime between 1867 and 1871, when the Mexican government permitted Labastida to return. In order to inform the church officials about the document's content, Sagaceta asked Agreda y Sánchez to read it for him.

Agreda y Sánchez read the document, which contained the depositions of witnesses against Fray Francisco de Bustamante. About a month later, the church governors asked him to write a summary of the content, which he accomplished in a month.

Some time later, Agreda was told by the Jesuit P. Andrés Artola that the church governors allowed him to read the Información, and that he considered it to be "the most definitive proof against the so-called Guadalupan History". A short time after this, Sagaceta asked Agreda to tell P. Artola to dissuade dean Moreno y Jove from publishing the Información. Apparently, Moreno had been under the impression that this document established only that the cult was of more recent origin, without considering its evidence that the Image was of purely natural origin. Agreda did as he was asked, and Artola was able to dissuade the dean from publishing the Información.

Archbishop Labastida took charge of the document when he returned to Mexico in 1871. Meanwhile, Artola told the historian Joaquín García Icazbalceta about the document's existence, and he in turn told his friend D. José María Andrade. The archbishop permitted Andrade to examine the document for several days.

García Icazbalceta also learned of the document's content, which he mentions in his famous "anti-apparitionist" letter to Archbishop Labastida, written in October 1883. Until then, the illustrious historian had been reluctant to express his disbelief in the Guadalupan narrative, but now he was directly asked by the archbishop for his professional opinion about a recent manuscript on the history of Guadalupe. In this response letter, García Icazbalceta constructed all the main arguments used even to this day against the authenticity of the apparitions. He found there were no extant written mentions of the apparition narrative that could be definitely dated prior to 1648, and considered the silence of Zumárraga and other contemporaries to be irreconcilable with the historical truth of the tradition. In the Bustamante-Montúfar controversy, he finds definite evidence that the Image was painted by human hands, and that there was no knowledge of the apparition narrative or any miraculous imprinting as late as 1556. He said this not as a religious skeptic or as a disbeliever in the possibility of miracles, but as a conservative Catholic who was a serious historian. According to his conception of sound methodology, the argument from silence and the evidence of the Información of 1556 outweighed the claims by Florencia and Becerra Tanco to have seen more ancient documents than those extant, as well as the testimonies at Cuautitlán, which he dismissed with the breezy assertion that the Indians are liars.

García Icazbalceta's letter was written to the archbishop in confidence, but in 1888 it was published by the anti-apparitionist canon don Vicente de Paul Andrade y Ramírez. In the meantime, the Información was finally published, not once, but twice.

The Información first appeared in print in 1884, in José Antonio Gonzalez's devotional history, Santa María de Guadalupe, Patrona de los mexicanos. La verdad sobre la aparición de la Virgen del Tepeyac..., Opúsculo escrito por... para extender el culto y amor de Ntra. Señora. It was the manuscript of this work that García Icazbalceta had been asked to critique, and ironically this pro-apparitionist history was the first to reveal what that scholar considered to be the strongest evidence against the tradition.

A second edition, which presented the evidence far less favorably from a Guadalupan perspective, was printed covertly in Mexico by don Albino Feria, under the title: Información que el arzobispo de México D. Fray Alonso de Montúfar mandó practicar con motivo de un sermón que en la fiesta de la Natividad de Nuestra Señora (8 de septiembre de 1556). This edition had feigned publication information, claiming to have been printed in Madrid by the Guirnalda press. The aforementioned letter by José María de Agreda served as a preface, establishing the authenticity of the document as well as the reasons for delay in its publication. This direct transcription of the fourteen folios will serve as our source text, as we try to ascertain the extent of the document's impact on Guadalupan history.

Cause of the Inquiry

We must recall that the Información is a juridical instrument, ordained for a narrow legal purpose. In this instance, the purpose was to inquire as to whether certain denunciations against Fray Francisco de Bustamante were well founded in fact. The denunciations pertained to a sermon he had given on September 8, 1556, on the feast of Mary's nativity. As a notable preacher, he had been invited to deliver the sermon at high Mass in the church of San Francisco and chapel of San José in Mexico City, before various civil authorities, including members of the Real Audiencia.

According to various witnesses, Bustamante turned red and spoke in a trembling voice, claiming he was not devoted to Our Lady, in the sense of not worshipping her. While he did not wish to lessen the devotion of the humblest old lady, he felt that the devotion the city showed to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe did great harm to the Indians, making them think that the image painted by an Indian could work miracles, and that it was therefore God, contrary to everything the friars had preached to them against worshipping images. Also, it would be better if the alms offered there were given to the many poor people in the city. Further, it would be good that the first person who claimed that the image worked miracles should be given a hundred lashes, and the next person two hundred. He also suggested that the viceroy and the audiencia should take up this matter, even if the archbishop says anything to the contrary, for the king has both temporal and spiritual power, much of which is charged to the audiencia. He also said that no one should preach the Guadalupan miracles in the pulpit unless such miracles can be verified.

If the above accounts were factually accurate, the archbishop would have several reasons for concern with fray Bustamante’s conduct. First, the friar appears to be strenuously opposing the legitimate devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Although he claimed that he had no intention of taking away anyone’s devotion, his clear hostility toward the Guadalupan cult did in fact scandalize the devout.

Second, fray Bustamante appears to be denouncing the conduct of the archbishop himself in promoting the idea that the Image itself can work miracles. Archbishop Montúfar was viewed distrustfully by the Franciscans, due to his efforts to replace the authority of the missions over the Indians with that of the secular church. While Montúfar expressed appreciation of the work the Franciscans had done among the Indians, he believed the time had come to incorporate the indigenous peoples into the archdiocesan church. The Franciscans feared that the secular priests had little understanding of the Indians, and would undo much of their teaching. The Guadalupe controversy is a particular manifestation of this broader conflict. The Archbishop would have to deal with this apparently direct affront to his authority, and the implied accusation that he had been teaching an idolatrous error.

Even more boldly, fray Bustamante explicitly called upon the royal power to intervene in ecclesiastical matters, on the grounds that the king also possesses the spiritual power. This demand was unlikely to succeed, given that he greatly scandalized members of the Real Audiencia, who apparently were also devotees of Guadalupe. Still, it was a direct affront to the archbishop’s authority.

Lesser offenses by the preacher might include his attempt to prevent people from giving alms to the shrine, and proposing punishments such as lashes, which were beyond his jurisdiction to give. Not even the archbishop could authorize such punishment, since the Indians were exempt from prosecution for idolatry.

Archbishop Montúfar would have had no authority to put fray Bustamante on trial, except perhaps as an inquisitor, but there was no accusation of heresy against the friar. Disciplinary authority would have belonged to his Franciscan superiors, with whom the archbishop would have communicated if action was deemed necessary. The present juridical inquiry is an información, not a proceso or trial. Still, it is an inquiry about denunciations against a particular individual, and the archbishop is acting as a fact-finding judge, pronouncing judgment on whether or not the denounced friar did indeed say what is imputed to him. Although Bustamante made implied accusations against the archbishop, Montúfar is not on trial, nor is he the subject of the inquiry. This is made clear by the content of the questionnaire, as well as its annotations in the hand of the archbishop.

Questionnaire and Annotations

Fourteen questions were asked to nine witnesses. Several of the questions have notes in Archbishop Montúfar's handwriting, indicating that these facts were proven by the investigation. The questions are translated below.

  1. First, [the witness is asked] if he knows Fray Francisco de Bustamante, provincial of the order of St. Francis, and if he was present at the sermon the said Bustamante preached on the day of the nativity of Our Lady in September, which is accounted on the eighth day of the present month of September.
  2. Asked what was that which said Father Bustamante said regarding the devotion of the shrine (ermita) of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is half a league from this city of Mexico.
  3. Asked if, when the said provincial began to speak about the said shrine, he grew pallid and trembling; and said that he was not a devotee of our Lady, which he seemed to have said with humility and not to boast, and that it was not his intention, by anything he said, to take away the devotion of the lowliest old lady, and he would not be acting as a Christian if he said any other thing.
  4. Asked if the said provincial stated that it appeared to him that the devotion that the people of this city had taken in a shrine and house of Our Lady which has been titled Guadalupe, was a great harm to the natives, because this made them believe that that image that an Indian painted worked miracles (les daban a entender que hazia milagros aquella imagen que pintó un indio), and contrary to what they had preached and given them to understand, since they came to this land, that they must not worship those images, but rather what they represent which is in heaven. [Montúfar notes: "proven"]
  5. Asked if he said that one of the most harmful things for the good Christianity of the natives was to sustain the devotion of the said shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, because since their conversion, they had been taught not to believe in images, but only in God and that the images served only to prompt them to devotion, and that now to tell them that an image painted by an Indian worked miracles, that would be a great confusion and undo the good that was planted in them. [Montúfar notes: idem; i.e., this also is proven]
  6. And asked if the said provincial stated that the said devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe had begun without any foundation (se avia comenzado sin fundamento alguno), because given that in other places there are particular images that have devotion, like our Lady of Lorito [sic] and others, these have had a great foundation.
  7. Asked if the said provincial stated that in the said shrine he was informed that offenses against Our Lord God were done and that they should see what those there had done and were doing because it was a great harm to the natives.
  8. Asked if the said provincial stated that the alm that is given to said shrine, it would be better to give it to the poor beggars that were in the city or to the hospital for those with the plague, because the silver coin and candlewax that was brought to Our Lady of Guadalupe, he said he did not know on what it was spent.
  9. Asked if he knew that the said provincial stated that, an Indian cripple going to said shrine, with the hope of being healed, because of miracles of said image having been proclaimed, and going back more crippled, was to give them cause for them not to believe in God nor in holy Mary, and that, each day they would less; and that he said that if this devotion continued, he promised to never again preach to the Indians, because that would be to try to undo what is done.
  10. Asked if he said that it would be good if the first one who claimed that the said image worked miracles was given a hundred lashes, and to each one who says it afterward, upon his soul, should be given two hundred, horseman on a horse (caballero en un caballo). [Montúfar notes: "proven"]
  11. Asked if said provincial stated that this affair was greatly entrusted to the viceroy and the audiencia real; and that even if the archbishop should say otherwise, for this reason the king has temporal and spiritual jurisdiction, and much of this he entrusted to the audiencia.
  12. Asked if he said that it was not good to preach the devotion of the said image until they were certain of them (hasta que estuviesen certificados en ellos), and of the miracles in that they were said to have made.
  13. Also if he knows that among many of those who were at the sermon of the said provincial there was a great scandal to them and in all the city; because they said that their prelate inspired them (les animaba) to the devotion of Our Lady, and the said provincial took it away from them; from which there was no small scandal in the said city; and they said that it would be right to send the said provincial to Spain so that he could be punished over there and so that they would not hear any more of his sermons in New Spain.
  14. Also if they knew that all of this is publicly said and known (pública boz y fama).

All of the questions are about the content of Fray Bustamante's sermon. No one is asked directly what Archbishop Montúfar had preached about the miracle, since he is not the one being investigated. Nor is anyone directly asked what they think of the Guadalupan devotion and its origin, or even if the Image can work miracles. Again, this is not an inquiry into the Guadalupan devotion, but into the content of Fray Bustamante's speech.

The choice of questions suggests which parts of the sermon were potentially offensive. Allegedly, Fray Bustamante said: (question 3) that he was not devoted to Our Lady, albeit with qualification; (4) that the Guadalupan devotion was harmful to the natives, making them believe that an image painted by an Indian could work miracles; (5) that this devotion would undo the Christian teaching they had received against idolatry; (6) that this devotion had begun without any foundation; (7) offenses against God were done in this shrine; (8) the alms at that shrine should be given instead to beggars; (9) Indians hoping to be healed by the image will be disappointed, causing them to lose faith; (10) whoever proclaims the image works miracles should be flogged; (11) the viceroy and audiencia have the authority to overrule the archbishop in this affair; (12) this devotion should not be preached until the miracles were certain. All of these assertions were offensive to those in attendance, as it contradicted their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which their archbishop had encouraged.

From the strong negative reaction, we may gather that there were contrary theses widely believed by the people of Mexico City at that time: (question 3) they were deeply to devoted to Our Lady, as manifested at the shrine of Guadalupe; (4) it was not harmful to believe that the image could work miracles; (5) that the devotion was not idolatrous; (6) that the devotion was well-founded; (7) that there were no offenses against God in the shrine; (8) that it was good to give alms at the shrine; (9) Indians hoping to be healed would not be disappointed and lose faith; (10) it is not an offense to proclaim that the image works miracles; (11) the archbishop has the authority to proclaim this devotion; (12) the miracles are sufficiently established in order for the devotion to be preached. Most of these beliefs will be clearly articulated in the witnesses' testimony, though they are not required to articulate their opposing view. We gather from these beliefs that in 1556, there was already a widespread devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and it was widely accepted as well established that the Image could work miracles. This does not necessarily mean that they were aware of the Image having a heavenly origin, nor of the apparitions to Juan Diego.

We are concerned especially with the origin of the Guadalupan devotion, so questions 4, 6, and 12 are of greatest interest to us. Question 4 establishes that people took offense at Bustamante's claim that this devotion to an image that could work miracles was harmful. It is ambiguous whether they took offense at his subordinate claim that it was painted by an Indian. There were many holy images in Spain that were believed to work miracles (not by their own power, but by that of God), even though they were painted by human hands. This was no more impossible than the fact that God could impart supernatural grace through sacramental materials (bread, wine, oil) made by human labor. In Question 6, Bustamante compares Guadalupe unfavorably with Our Lady of Loreto, a well established miraculous image. In the sixteenth century, a cult was considered well established not merely by miraculous claims, but also by its antiquity. Loreto was a devotion that had been established for centuries, while Guadalupe had appeared only recently. Even if we accept the traditional date of 1531, this would have seemed like "only yesterday" to Bustamante, for it was highly improper for such a young devotion to have a much greater following than more venerable and ancient cults. The reason for this great following appears to lie in the widespread conviction that the Image was definitely working miracles (Question 12).

The Holy House of Loreto, which Bustamante accepted as authentic, provides an instructive example of how the Guadalupan devotion may have developed. According to the shrine's legend, the house of the Holy Family was miraculously transported by angels from Nazareth to its present location in the late thirteenth century. Its cult soon spread far and wide, even among those who knew nothing of its origin story, but only that miracles were worked there. The proof of its miraculous origin was seen in the fact that it rests on no foundation, yet still stands. In a similar manner, it is possible that the shrine of Guadalupe became widely popular after news of miracles in the 1550s, so that even those who knew nothing of its origins became devotees. There is an irony in Bustamante's complaint that Guadalupe was "without foundation" (sin fundamento), since one of the proofs of Loreto is its lack of a foundation in the literal sense. His comparison with Loreto amounts to an assertion that Guadalupe is not of heavenly origin. The negative reaction he received suggests there were many who believed it was indeed of heavenly origin, though we cannot be sure they knew anything of the apparition legend.

Montúfar considered only three of the claims against Bustamante to have been definitively proven as fact. These are the assertions described in Questions 4, 5, and 10. We will see from the testimony that many of the other claims are at least probable facts. For juridical purposes, however, the archbishop was prepared to pronounce only on the three items mentioned. Bustamante's offense, then, consisted in saying that it was harmful to encourage the belief that the Guadalupan image could work miracles, and indeed that the proclamation of such miracles should be punished. Even anti-apparitionists will acknowledge that Montúfar and most of his contemporaries in Mexico City believed that the Image could work miracles, and so were scandalized by these comments. Still, there was little direct action to be taken on these points, since the archbishop had no juridical authority over the friar, and it was no heresy to deny the veracity of a private revelation. At most, he could raise the matter with Bustamante's Franciscan superiors, to ensure that the scandal is never repeated. The prelate's only comment on the resolution of the matter is in a marginal note [folio 5a]:

Contra fr. Francisco de Bustamante provincial de St Franco
Suspéndase y la parte es muerto
Contra la devoción que se deve tener a la hermita de na Sa de Guadalupe de esta ciudad

[Upper left margin:] Against fr. Francisco de Bustamante provincial of St. Francis
[Center:] It is suspended and the matter is dead
[Upper right margin:] Against the devotion that should be had toward the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe of this city

However the matter may have been privately resolved, the result was that this scandal was never again repeated, so far as we know. At the same time, it does not seem that Bustamante was ever punished or exiled. As Icazbalceta notes, he was re-appointed as provincial in 1560, and later became commissary general. Montúfar continued to promote the cult of Guadalupe, and even led a solemn procession to the shrine, which was also venerated by the highest civic dignitaries. It is possible that Montúfar's procession became confused with that of the original translation of the Image in the recollections of the witnesses at Cuautitlán in 1666.


Juan de Mesa
Juan de Salazar
Marcial de Contreras
Bachiller Puebla
Francisco de Salazar
Gonzalo de Alarcón
Alonso Sánchez de Cisneros
Alvar Gómez de León
Juan de Masseguer

The Archbishop ordered witnesses to be brought before his presence on September 9, just a day after Bustamante's sermon. This personal and immediate involvement by the prelate reflects the seriousness of the scandal the friar caused. Evidently, the Guadalupan devotion was already deeply entrenched in Mexico City, for the mere fact of his saying "certain things about the devotion and pilgrimage (romería) of Our Lady of Guadalupe" had "scandalized" those in attendance. The purpose of the testimony, the notary writes, is to see "if the said father provincial had said anything for which he should be reprimanded."

Juan de Mesa

The first witness was a cleric named Juan de Mesa, who was about twenty-six years old and had attended the sermon. His testimony immediately makes clear that Bustamante's sermon was in part a criticism of the archbishop. The friar said he did not want to take away the devotion of even a little old lady, but if his lordship (the archbishop) knew the condition of the natives as they (the Franciscans) did, he would act in a different way with regard to the devotion of the shrine. Further, he said that although the archbishop was the principal spiritual authority, the viceroy could act to remedy this situation.

According to Mesa, Bustamante also said that if, when this devotion was first publicized, they had taken care to learn who its author was and if the miracles were really true, then upon finding the miracles not to be true, a hundred lashes should be put on their soul or conscience.

Mesa had heard that it was said in the city, among others to P. Contreras, chaplain of the boys' school, that the provincial had said that he was not a devotee of Our Lady, while others had heard he said that he was not as devout as he would like. Mesa himself, as he was far from the speaker, did not hear these latter words, whether he was devout or not toward Our Lady. Here Mesa acts as a scrupulous witness, distinguishing what he himself heard clearly from what he heard only through others.

Mesa did hear Bustamante say that the friars had worked with the Indians and taught them that they should worship only God, not paintings and images, but he could not remember anything else on this subject, being far away.

He did hear the father provincial say that the alms given to the shrine could be given to the many poor beggars in the city. Also, if someone went and came back cured, and another sick person went and came back worse from the fatigue of the walk, he would lose devotion, or he would say, "This is the Lady who works miracles?" or "These are the miracles?" On this the friar was speaking of the Indians; he did not deal with the Spanish.

Lastly, Mesa testifies that after the sermon there was scandal and small groups of people, whom he had heard murmuring about what was preached. He heard it said that what Bustamante preached appeared contrary to what the Archbishop had preached.

Being an apparently scrupulous witness, Mesa merely answers the questions and provides information about what Bustamante said and what others had heard. He offers no opinions of his own about the sermon or about the Guadalupan devotion. Since he was apparently situated far from the preacher, he is able to give only a partial recollection of the sermon. What little he does recall, by the same token, is likely to be true, insofar as it is corroborated by better positioned witnesses.

Juan de Salazar

The next witness was Juan de Salazar, procurador of the Real Audiencia (i.e., an official of the audiencia authorized to represent the audiencia in court, somewhat like an attorney general). He gave sworn testimony on the same day, September 9, about the sermon he had heard on Tuesday the 8th.

Salazar heard Bustamante say that he did not know what effect the devotion of Guadalupe would have, because it is teaching the Indians the contrary what he and many other religious had preached. It has caused them to understand that the Image worked miracles, and some Indians who are crippled, blind or maimed would go there and not be cured, only worse for the fatigue of the walk, and would mock it. It would be better to get rid of the devotion to avoid scandalizing the natives.

Bustamante also understood that in the pilgrimage to that church (la dicha iglesia), offenses against Our Lord God were committed. "He was much amazed that the lord archbishop had preached in the pulpits and affirmed the miracles that said image was said to have worked, this being prohibited, as the said lord archbishop had preached three days earlier." We note that Salazar here calls the shrine an iglesia (elsewhere it is an ermita), possibly suggesting that it now had resident clergy. More importantly, he has Bustamante specifically criticizing the archbishop for preaching about unofficial miracles from the pulpit three days earlier.

Salazar also reports that Bustamante suggested that the alms given there would be better given to the hospitals, especially that for plague victims. The friar said he did not know what the alms at the shrine of Guadalupe were used for. In order to stop this, it fell to the viceroy and the entire audiencia, who were all present. All the while he protested that he did not wish to take away the devotion of those who revered Our Lady.

Here Salazar seems to imply that Bustamante wanted intervention from the civic authorities in order to prevent the misappropriation of alms. This might seem a temporal matter, but alms had historically been considered to be exclusively within the Church's authority. Salazar does not indicate whether Bustamante explicitly said that the audiencia has spiritual authority.

After giving this general testimony in answer to the second question, Salazar addresses the remaining questions. He considered the fourth question as already answered, and to the fifth question he responds that he heard those question's very words spoken by P. Bustamante, and it was at this point that his face became very irate (muy airado), showing a great anger (gran cólera) against what "the said lord archbishop had preached and supported (sustentado) the devotion of said shrine (ermita)". Evidently, the primary reason for Bustamante's anger was his belief that the archbishop was undoing the Franciscans' work by promoting the Guadalupe devotion.

Salazar said that Bustamante also spoke the words of the sixth question (that the devotion of Guadalupe is without foundation) with the same anger as previously displayed. We may gather that Bustamante passionately disbelieved in the authenticity of Guadalupe in its origin.

Salazar considered the next three questions to have been answered by his previous testimony, while to the tenth question he answered:

[fray Bustamante said] that it would be just for the first inventor who proclaimed that the said image of Our Lady of Guadalupe had worked miracles, upon his soul he should be given a hundred lashes, horseman on an ass (caballero en un asno)

The last expression means that the next person should be punished both for his own and the first offense; that is, two hundred lashes. The fact that Bustamante calls for this first proclaimer of miracles to be punished implies that this news of miracles was very recent.

To the thirteenth question, Salazar says he heard people near him who were scandalized by the sermon, being devoted to Our Lady. After leaving the church, he heard many people say that it was not good what fray Bustamante said about the devotion of Guadalupe. Throughout the greater part of the city, the witness has seen people with this devotion, expressed with alms and prayers.

After Salazar signed his testimony, he was now asked if he had attended the sermon given three days earlier by the archbishop, and to describe its contents. This was not part of the original questionnaire, and the notary records the question as follows:

Asked if he heard the sermon that three days earlier his most reverend lordship preached in this city, and how in it he sought to persuade all the people to devotion for Our Lady, saying how her precious son in many places instilled devotion to his precious Mother in the towns and unpopulated areas, and to this end he referred to Our Lady of La Antigua and of Los Remedios, and Our Lady of Monserrat and of La Peña of France, and Our Lady of Orito.

Salazar replied that he was present at the archbishop's sermon, and that he heard these same words in the order represented by the question. These words put much devotion in all the people, and so most of the city, the witness has seen, follows this devotion of Our Lady. He has also heard it said that although the religious of the orders who reside in Mexico, who are preachers and have sought to obstruct (estorbar) said devotion, have not succeeded at all. On the contrary, the people are stimulated to visit and serve said shrine with greater ardor.

Although the archbishop's sermon helped promote the devotion, it seems clear that popular affection for Our Lady of Guadalupe ran deeper than what they heard in the pulpit. When the Franciscans of Mexico City, who were skilled preachers, spoke out against the cult, their words fell on deaf ears, and even had the opposite effect. Evidently, the people were already inclined to think favorably of Guadalupe, which is why the archbishop's sermon was well received, while those of Bustamante and other friars were not.

Salazar was also asked if Montúfar's sermon mentioned that the Lateran Council required, under penalty of excommunication reserved to the Pope, that (1) no one should defame prelates, and (2) no one should preach false or uncertain miracles. Further, he was asked to confirm that the archbishop did not preach any miracle that was said to have been performed by said image of Our Lady, because he had not completed an información on them; that he was in the process of conducting an información, to see whether they were true or false. The miracles that his lordship preached of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the great devotion that all the city had toward this blessed image, including the Indians, and how eminent ladies went barefoot to visit Our Lady, and from this the natives received a good example and did the same.

This question alludes to the eleventh session of the Fifth Lateran Council, which inveighs against preaching false miracles, and also says: "We warn the friars, in virtue of holy obedience, to revere bishops with fitting honor and due respect, out of the reverence owed to us and the apostolic see, since they act as deputies in place of the holy apostles." In order to determine if Bustamante has defamed Montúfar, which could be cause for an Inquisition trial, it is necessary to show that the archbishop did not in fact preach false or uncertain miracles, as Bustamante supposedly claimed. Since Montúfar was himself the judge of this información, we might see a conflict of interest here. However, by the jurisprudential standards of the time, there was nothing irregular about a bishop investigating offenses against his own person or office.

It appears that Montúfar is walking a fine line, for Salazar's answer will indicate that he did at least mention the miracles, but did not preach them; that is, he did not propose them as something to be believed. The defense that he preached only the "miracle" of the devotion that the image inspired seem a bit contrived, but it at least has the merit of describing how the devotion spread first among some well-to-do Spanish ladies, and then to the Indians. This would account for Bustamante's emphasis on the devotion of little old ladies.

Unfortunately, we have no record of the results of Montúfar's investigation into the miracle claims, though the archbishop himself, in the formulation of this question, indicates that such an investigation certainly occurred. This is an important reminder that the absence of extant official documents is not a strong proof that they never existed, especially when dealing with sixteenth-century Mexico. The public devotion Montúfar showed to the shrine in later years would suggest the outcome was favorable to at least some miracle claims, but we cannot know this for certain.

Salazar declared that the archbishop had said that although there were claims of some miracles, he did not wish to discuss these now, until the investigation he was conducting was completed. He also heard Montúfar say that the Council had prohibited under a penalty of excommunication anyone from preaching a false or uncertain miracle. The only miracle the archbishop said the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe had worked was that of causing many upstanding ladies of quality and age to walk barefoot to the shrine. The witness himself had seen this many times and marveled at so many old ladies and maidens going to see the Image.

Next, Salazar was asked if the archbishop had preached to the Indians that they were not to give reverence to the canvas or the paint, but to the image of Our Lady by reason of what it represents, which is the Virgin Mary, to whom the reverence is directed. He answered that he went to the shrine several times, among them yesterday the eighth, when the archbishop showed up and gave a prayer at the church (iglesia; either the shrine itself or the church at Cuautitlán). To speak to the many Indians present, whose language he did not know, the archbishop summoned a priest named Manjarres. The priest said on behalf of the prelate the words described in the question, a fact Salazar could confirm with his middling understanding of Nahuatl.

It is possible that this impromptu sermon by the archbishop was a bit of backpedaling in response to complaints by the Franciscans about his apparent endorsement of the devotion. It is less likely to have been a response to Bustamante's sermon, which had only occurred that day, for it is hard to imagine the aged prelate (who was in fragile health since his arrival in 1554) rushing out to the shrine half a league away, as though intimidated by a lone father provincial. There would have been no need for such defensiveness, as practically the entire city, including the highest civic authorities, were all on his side. One such authority was Salazar, who was not a subordinate of Montúfar and could testify freely according to conscience. We cannot accuse Montúfar of acting disingenuously without also implicating Salazar, and even the priest Francisco de Manjarres, of whom Archbishop Pedro Moya de Contreras said he "always has been an honest and good man." [Cartas de Indias, to King Philip II, 24 March 1575]

Lastly, Salazar was asked if he had seen that after the devotion of Guadalupe had appeared and been promulgated (ha manifestado y divulgado), many games and illicit pleasures had ceased in Mexico City. Previously, many people had gone to the gardens (huertas) from morning to night, without hearing Mass, and others spent three or four days straight in their pleasures and pastimes. Seeing this dissolute behavior, the previous archbishop [Zumárraga] had prohibited priests from saying Mass in a garden, and so did the present archbishop. Gardens served a religious function in Aztec culture, being the site of festivals and processions, according to Sahagún (Historia de las cosas de la Nueva España).

The witness answered that, as a resident of this city, he had seen and heard for a long time, both under the past archbishop and that of the present, many men and women would go to the gardens, where they would eat, play games and indulge in other excesses. After the devotion of Guadalupe was spread here, much of this has ceased. Instead, when one asks, "Where should we go?", the answer is, "Let's go to Our Lady of Guadalupe," much as in Madrid they might say Our Lady of Atocha and in Valldolid Our Lady del Prado. The devotion of Guadalupe thus has been beneficial to souls, as there are constant masses for the faithful and sermons on feast days.

This testimony clearly indicates that the Guadalupan devotion did not become widespread in Mexico City until the time of Archbishop Montúfar, who arrived in June 1554. This does not mean it was nonexistent before then, but only now did it have a large following in the city. Salazar finds this to be a positive development, as the physical proximity of a highly revered shrine has provided a good spiritual outlet for the idle.

Salazar himself was evidently a devotee of Guadalupe, having visited the shrine several times. Nonetheless, he makes no mention of the apparition narrative, though he presumably knew enough Nahuatl to have understood the Indians if they chose to tell this story. Granted, he is not asked to comment on the image's origin, and it would be hardly in keeping with the tenor of the inquiry for him to mention an even greater miracle than those controversial healings still under investigation. If he did know of the apparition narrative, which is doubtful, he probably did not recognize it as an ecclesiastically approved vision.

Marcial de Contreras

The next witness interviewed was a priest named Marcial de Contreras, aged twenty-eight or twenty-nine. He gives only brief testimony, not following the questionnaire. He might be the P. Contreras mentioned by Juan de Mesa, in which case he may have been interviewed only to confirm Mesa's testimony. He had heard fray Bustamante preach on two occasions, and was present at the sermon on September 8.

According to Contreras, Bustamante said the following:

I am not devoted to Our Lady; I would like to be; if I thought to take away the devotion of the poorest old lady, I would not be a good Christian. The prelate does this, but taking away from the Indians that which we preached to them for so many years, although I [have] made but very few sermons to the Indians, that they should not worship Our Lady as God, for they are very devout, and these images are of stone and wood, and are so we can remember by them those who are above; and that they should come now to say that an image that is there painted by an Indian, that it works miracles.

Accordingly, Bustamante concluded, supporting the devotion of the shrine of Guadalupe was contrary to the good Christianity of the natives. Since their conversion they had been taught that these images and others serve only to remind us of those in heaven.

In this telling, Bustamante says it is not he but the archbishop who is taking away someone's religious belief, by undoing what the Franciscans taught the Indians against idolatry. The friar recognizes no distinction between the veneration of the Guadalupe painting and the worship of stone or wooden idols. Though he does not wish to take away devotion to Our Lady, he evidently sees no merit whatsoever in the Guadalupan devotion, which is utterly opposed to good Christianity. His problem with the devotion appears to be that people think the image itself has the divine power to work miracles.

Now, it may seem a bit strange that Bustamante would object to the idea that Catholics should believe a holy image to be associated with miracle working. There were many such images in Spain, including several that were said to be found in miraculous circumstances. Spanish Catholics venerated such images, but understood it was Our Lady (of whichever locale in which she was manifested) who was acting as their advocate and protectoress, working miracles for those who revered her through her image. Bustamante does not sound concerned that the Spanish in Mexico are becoming idolaters, but rather that they are giving a bad example to the Indians, recently converted from idolatry. It is the special circumstance of living with recently converted pagans that the friar feels to be cause not to encourage devotion to a miraculous image in Mexico.

We must recall that many Franciscans, including Zumárraga and Bustamante, had an Erasmian spirituality, disdaining many popular Catholic practices that superficially resembled idolatry or superstition and seemed to distract the faithful from an interior conversion to the precepts of the Gospel. However, Catholic opinion had largely turned against Erasmus by the 1550s, leading to the condemnation of all his works by the Congregation of the Index in 1558. Montúfar was part of this movement, opposing Erasmian aspects of the Franciscan mission, such as translating Scripture into the vernacular. He even tried to get Zumárraga's 1539 Doctrina banned, ostensibly because of some obscure teaching that Christ's blood on the Cross was restored to His Divinity. [Martin Austin Nesvig, Ideology and inquistion: the world of the censors in early Mexico (Yale University, 2009), p. 121.] This attack on their evangelizing principles created hostility and distrust toward the archbishop among the friars. The Guadalupan devotion was but one point of conflict between two competing approaches to Christianizing the Indians.

Bustamante admits that he has seldom preached to the Indians, so he probably would not be privy to the local traditions at Cuautitlán. We should not expect him to be aware of an apparition narrative if this was not yet well known among the Spanish, nor should we expect him to really know if the Indians worshipped the Guadalupan image in an idolatrous sense. He is viscerally opposed to any Indian devotion toward a sacred image, and assumes it to be a practical certainty that they will lapse into idolatry if this devotion is encouraged.

Bachiller Puebla

The fourth witness, named only as el bachiller Puebla, was a forty-year-old priest. The notary records that he was interviewed on the date already stated, but then Puebla is asked if he attended Bustamante's sermon "the day before yesterday" (antier), whereas in the previous testimonies it was said to have occurred yesterday (ayer) on the eighth. It is possible, then, that this and subsequent interviews took place on September 10 rather than on the ninth.

Bachiller Puebla pleaded with the archbishop not to make him testify, because he is the chaplain for the viceroy and the Real Audiencia, and there were many others in attendance to choose as witnesses. The archbishop responded that this is a subtle matter fit for men of letters, so it is good that an educated and well-read man should say what he heard. He ordered him to testify to all he knew under pain of major excommunication latae sententiae, unica pro trina monitione praemissa (after three warnings). The severity of this threat underlines the seriousness with which Montúfar took this investigation, understandable given the affront to his authority made by Bustamante.

To the third question, Puebla said that the friar claimed not to be devoted to Our Lady out of humility, and the rest was said as indicated in the question.

To the fourth question, he said that the friar spoke what is in the question to the letter.

Puebla could not remember if Bustamante said what is declared in the fifth question, but he did confirm what is declared in the sixth and seventh questions.

To the eighth question, Puebla answered that the provincial said that the alms to the shrine would be better given to poor beggars and to the hospital for plague victims. He could not remember the rest.

To the ninth question, Puebla confirmed all but the last part, where Bustamante purportedly promised to never again preach to the Indians. Puebla could not remember if he promised to do so only if the devotion continued, but he definitely did make a promise not to preach to the Indians.

To the tenth question, he replied that the friar did say "it would be good for the first one who invented it" to be given a hundred or two hundred lashes.

Puebla confirmed what is contained in the eleventh question, but could not remember enough to confirm the twelfth.

The chaplain, in response to the thirteenth question, said that there was a great scandal in the church and afterward in the city over what the friar had preached. Many scandalized people asked the witness what he thought and he told them it was not good, and that it had been scandalous.

It is not clear why Puebla was so reluctant to testify, given that he was among those scandalized by Bustamante's sermon. Even under threat of excommunication, he gives only very brief answers and is not especially cooperative.

Francisco de Salazar

On the same day, a fifth witness was interviewed, the bachiller Francisco de Salazar, a lawyer of the Real Audiencia. He had known fray Bustamante for about five years, and was in attendance at the sermon on September 8.

To the second question, the witness answered that he saw fray Bustamante's face change as he said that he was not devoted to Our Lady, which the witness understood as an act of humility, and that he did not want to take away the devotion of the least old lady. However, the devotion that this city took toward a shrine and house of Our Lady, which has been titled Guadalupe, is a great harm to the natives. The witness confirmed various details of the speech already discussed, sufficing to answer the third through twelfth questions>.

Salazar provided additional testimony in response to the sixth question, which is of interest to us. He offers his own opinion about the foundation of the Guadalupan devotion. He says "the foundation that this shrine has from its beginning was the title of the Mother of God, which has moved the entire city to have devotion in going to pray and entrust themselves to her". He adds that Spanish and Indians come from afar to fill the shrine, kneeling before the altar where the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is situated, and "this is sufficient foundation to support the shrine, and to wish to take away such devotion is contrary to all Christianity". This devotion has done away with the former practice of going to the gardens for idle pastimes, as the Spanish used to do, even neglecting to hear Mass.

The witnesses were not asked for their opinion on whether the Guadalupe devotion was well founded, but Salazar offers his anyway. He notably does not mention anything about an apparition of the Blessed Virgin nor of a heavenly origin for the Image, so he is either ignorant of any such story or does not put much credence in it if he has heard it. The answer he does give is strange on its surface, for there is nothing remarkable about a Marian shrine having the title 'Mother of God'. He is likely referring to the ancient title of 'Tonantzin', the mother-goddess who was worshipped at Tepeyac by the Aztecs. Apparently, Salazar considered it providential that a pagan site with such a title should now be a center of devotion for the true Mother of God. The legitimacy of the cult is sufficiently proved by the good fruits of faith and morality it has fostered among the people of Mexico.

To the thirteenth question, Salazar answers that the scandal caused by Bustamante's words on Guadalupe nullified all he had said earlier about the nativity of Our Lady. Guadalupe is a great devotion to which the entire people are moved, and the archbishop had inspired (animado) them to this devotion, as he ordinarily inspired the city. The Spanish devotees, in the opinion of the witness, are a good example for the natives, many of whom have converted to this devotion. Salazar was present when the archbishop came to talk to the Indians through Francisco de Manjarres as an interpreter, and taught that they should give reverence not to the painting or the canvas, but to what the image represents.

Like some previous witnesses, Salazar gives the impression that the devotion has originated with the Spanish and then spread to the Indians. This may be true within the city of Mexico, but the little shrine at Tepeyac had already existed before the wave of devotion swept over the city, and the inhabitants of that area were almost strictly indigenous.

In response to the scandal cause by fray Bustamante's sermon, "we must serve Our Lady wherever her image may be, and he may contradict the devotion as much as he wants... from here onward, if we went once [to the shrine] now we will go four [times]". Many people, as a result, have lost the devotion they used to have for Bustamante's sermons.

This last comment emphasizes the depth of the Guadalupan devotion, for the people had been disposed to view fray Bustamante favorably based on past sermons. Even in the notorious sermon of September 8, he began with a favorably received discourse on the nativity of the Blessed Virgin. The devotion of Guadalupe was so dear to the people that anyone who contradicted it lost credit in their eyes.

Gonzalo de Alarcón

On the same day, the archbishop interviewed Gonzalo de Alarcón, aged forty. He was not present at the September 8 sermon, but he was asked to give testimony about what he had heard the Franciscan friar Alonso de Santiago say about the image of Guadalupe.

Late on Sunday, September 6, the witness and bachiller Carriazo went to the monastery of San Francisco, and were speaking with fray Antonio de Guete (Huete). They were later joined by Alonso de Santiago and other friars, as well as Alonso Sánchez de Cisneros from Madrid, who was weighmaster of the mint. Carriazo began to discuss the sermon that the archbishop gave that day, the theme of which was Beati oculi qui vident quae vos videtis. [Lk. 10:23]

Fray Alonso and Carriazo argued about whether it was good that the archbishop should continue (prosiguiese) the devotion of the image of Guadalupe. Fray Alonso said this should not be done, because it would affect the natives, who would be scandalized and believe that the image was truly Our Lady and worship it. This was because they had formerly worshiped idols, and were a weak people. To make his point to Carriazo, he opened a book to the thirteenth chapter of Deuteronomy. That chapter forbids the worship of idols, even if their prophet should accurately foretell a sign or miracle that takes place. The witness mentions only that fray Alonso pointed out that the Scripture says we must worship and serve only Our Lord.

Fray Alonso added that, if the archbishop wanted people to go to the shrine in devotion, he should order that it not be called Our Lady of Guadalupe, but of Tepeaca or Tepeaquilla, because Our Lady of Guadalupe in Spain has that name after the name of the town.

Fray Alonso does not claim that Montúfar created or originated the devotion, but rather that he continued it. His objection to the devotion, like that of Bustamante, lies in the apparently idolatrous reverence given to the image itself by the Spanish, which could serve only to confuse the Indians. Rather than deny the miracles, he uses Deuteronomy to argue that even miracles are not sufficient grounds to give an image the honor that belongs solely to God. Lastly, he objects to the appropriation of the illustrious name Guadalupe, wishing it to be named instead after the hill of Tepeyac.

Alarcón concludes his testimony by noting that he did not attend Bustamante's sermon, but he spoke with many esteemed people who had heard the sermon. All of those he spoke with thought badly of the sermon, believing that those words should not have been said, especially in the pulpit, because it perturbed all the important persons in attendance.

Alarcón's testimony gives the impression that the Franciscans were isolated in their opposition to the Guadalupan devotion. Even their lay friends were reluctant to defend them, as Carriazo needed to be persuaded by fray Alonso, while all of Alarcón's acquaintances who attended Bustamante's sermon thought badly of it. We do not know what Alarcón himself thought of the devotion, but we will hear from Alonso Sánchez de Cisneros, who was also summoned as a witness after being mentioned by Alarcón.

Alonso Sánchez de Cisneros

The balanzario or weighmaster of Mexico's Casa de la Moneda (est. 1535), Alonso Sánchez de Cisneros, is the only witness who was present both at fray Alonso de Santiago's discussion of Montúfar's sermon on September 6 and at fray Bustamante's sermon on September 8. His testimony is also noteworthy because he is the sole witness who gives a name for the Indian who supposedly painted the holy image.

Sánchez de Cisneros, a resident of Mexico aged over thirty-five, was interviewed on the same day as Alarcón, who had identified him as a native of Madrid. He had attended Bustamante's sermon, but was situated far from the pulpit, so he was unable to confirm much of what was in the questionnaire. He could not see if the friar's face lost color, and he could not recall hearing much of what was contained in the third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth questions.

Still, this less than ideal witness manages to produce a detail that no one else mentions. In his answer to the second question, he describes Bustamante as saying that:

...with this new devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe it seems that it was an occasion [for the Indians to backslide into idolatry], because it was a painting that Marcos, an Indian painter, had made, and that for that devotion to be approved and held as good it was necessary to have verified the miracles and confirmed them with many witnesses...

Given the otherwise mediocre quality of Cisneros's recollection of the sermon, it is far from certain that Bustamante ever mentioned the name Marcos. Still, whether the name is posited by Bustamante or by Cisneros, this is a remarkable claim. Not only is it an indictment against the supposed heavenly origin of the image, but it was made at a time when the Indian named was still alive.

Our only other knowledge of the Indian painter Marcos, besides this incidental mention, is found in the Anales of Juan Bautista (entries from 1564-65) and in the Historia de la conquista de Nueva España by Bernal Diaz del Castillo (completed in 1568; published in 1632). The latter mentions "Marcos de Aquino" as the first of three Indians in Mexico City who are excellent sculptors and painters.

Juan Bautista, writing in Nahuatl, instead uses the indigenous name "Marcos Cipac". He says that this Marcos was a pre-eminent and respected painter. He worked sometimes on his own and sometimes with other Indian painters, both in and outside of their workshop. This workshop was apparently sponsored by the Franciscans, as the Indians there are called "pintores de S. Francisco". Marcos's works were admired by the friars and placed on the same level as those of Spanish painters.

The only work of Marcos of which we have definite knowledge (besides the Guadalupan image that is attributed to him) was an altarpiece he painted in 1564. This, according to Juan Bautista, consisted of six images, three in the upper part and three below. In the center was Christ crucified (upper part) and San José de los Naturales (lower part), probably the patron of the altarpiece's chapel. On the sides were St. Bonaventure and San Luis Obispo above, with St. Francis and St. Anthony of Padua below. The Last Supper was also depicted, probably in the lower part. The Franciscans at first commissioned the work to Marcos alone, but in mid-summer he enlisted the help of three other Indian painters in order to meet the demanding schedule. Still, their work was delayed by the exactions imposed on all Indians by the harsh visitador Valderrama, who returned to Spain later that year. The work was at last completed in December 1564. Fray Miguel Navarro, who in August inspected the work in progress, exclaimed it was a "marvelous" work, and that the painters had surpassed even the Spaniards.

We can easily see why Fray Bustamante (or the witness Sánchez de Cisneros) would think that Marcos was the painter of the Image of Guadalupe. All parties agree that the Image is an aesthetic marvel of the highest order, so if any Indian was to be credited with the work, who better than the master painter Marcos? He was trained in the techniques of the High Renaissance, yet at the same time familiar with the indigenous color palette and materials. If any mortal could paint that sacred image, it would be Marcos.

It is not clear, however, if Bustamante (or Cisneros) had any definite knowledge that Marcos was the painter of the Guadalupan image. It might simply have been a reasonable inference or educated guess, based on the fact that Marcos was an indigenous master painter who had made many religious artworks. Though Marcos was alive, neither he nor any other Indian would have been present in the Spanish congregation to contradict this claim. Notably, Juan Bautista does not credit the Guadalupan image to Marcos, though his diary covers the 1550s and mentions that the image "appeared" at Tepeyac. He discusses the altarpiece of San José in great detail, but oddly does not give Marcos credit for what ought to have been his most famous work.

We have reason, then, to doubt that the attribution of the image to Marcos is accurate. Bustamante, as a Franciscan, may have been familiar with Marcos' work, leading him to think he recognized the master's style in the image at Tepeyac. All but one of the witnesses make nothing out of the mention of this name, recalling only that the friar said it was "painted by an Indian". If Marcos' authorship of the Image was a widely accepted fact, it is strange that his name was not recalled by more than one witness. More likely, this name was unfamiliar to most Spaniards, so they did not take note of it.

We cannot exclude, of course, the possibility that fray Bustamante did have definite reasons for believing Marcos was the painter of the image. He might have heard from other Franciscans that the work was originally commissioned to Marcos, for example. Bustamante does not claim that Montúfar commissioned the work; only that Marcos painted it. He does not depict Montúfar as originating the Guadalupan devotion, but as encouraging and continuing an existing devotion that recently became popular in Mexico City. Ironically, the image was far more likely to have been commissioned by the friars, since they sponsored the workshop and had regular direct interactions with the Indian painters, speaking in Nahuatl. In that case, the present Guadalupan devotion would have been a source of acute embarrassment to the Franciscans, knowing that they were indirectly responsible for it.

In either case, whether the account of the Nican mopohua is basically accurate or the Image was made by an Indian master painter, it is at least likely that the Franciscans played a prominent role in the establishment of the image at Tepeyac. They might have originally thought of it as just another piece of devotional art in one of the many unofficial shrines to be found throughout Mexico (and Spain, for that matter). When, in the 1550s, miracles began to be widely attributed to the Image itself, the friars took alarm and sought to discourage the devotion, both out of fear that it would scandalize the Indians and because of their own Erasmian antipathy to devotions emphasizing miracles and magical practices.

The present witness does not confirm or deny the claim that the Image was painted by Marcos or any other Indian, as he has not been asked to do so in his testimony. The same is true of the other witnesses. We cannot take this silence as proof that the claim was accepted, since Bustamante's sermon was in fact very badly received. The witnesses dutifully report Bustamante's denunciation of the miraculous healings, though it is certain that many in attendance believed in such miracles. Silence therefore does not indicate approval.

Still, we have seen evidence in the testimony of Francisco de Salazar that the apparition narrative was not widely known (if known at all) among the Spanish in Mexico City. Thus it would not have occurred to any witness to interject an objection to Bustamante's claim. This does not mean that everyone had a definite belief that the Image was painted by human hands. Often, sacred images in sixteenth-century Spain were believed to have been miraculously found or discovered at the place where they were to be venerated. A similar vague sense that the Guadalupan holy image was of heavenly or at least providential origin might have prevailed among the devout in Mexico City. Bustamante's attribution of the painting to an Indian, then, was a direct assault on their devotion, even if they did not have a definite narrative of the Image's origin.

Alonso Sánchez de Cisneros completes his testimony about the sermon by noting that most of those present were bewildered by what they had heard.

The witness had also been present in the friary on Sunday, September 6, when at least two Franciscans had said something against the image and its shrine. Fray Antonio de Guete said that it should be called Tepeaquilla, which is the location of the church and image. Also, before such devotion is approved, the miracles would have to be proven.

Fray Alonso de Santiago also spoke against the devotion, and pulled out a book to prove his point, showing that worship is owed only to God. The witness was asked if this book was from Sacred Scripture, and he answered that he did not know what book it was. He knew only that fray Alonso read the passage about worship being owed only to God, and he also heard the friar say that he had discussed the same matter with Rafael Cervantes, the treasurer of the Church.

This testimony about the Franciscans generally agrees with what was said by Gonzalo de Alarcón, with only two substantial additions. The present witness clarifies that the objection to the name Guadalupe actually came from fray Antonio de Guete, not fray Alonso. The fact that fray Alonso discussed his objection with Montúfar's treasurer, who was a doctor of theology, suggests a confidence that he was on solid orthodox ground. Cisneros offers this datum in answer to the question of whether fray Alonso quoted Scripture, likely because he recognized the seriousness of citing Scripture for heterodox purposes, and wished to avoid inculpating the friar in that regard.

This concern for what the Franciscans said about Montúfar's sermon is not motivated by a belief that it is illicit to criticize the Guadalupan devotion, but rather the friars seemed to be falsely accusing the archbishop of promoting idolatry. Montúfar was never in any danger of being prosecuted, being the supreme ecclesiastical and inquisitorial judge in New Spain, and having the viceroy and real audiencia entirely on his side. He is not so much seeking to defend himself as to determine if the friars in question are guilty of a canonical offense by dishonoring a prelate.

We know that Archbishop Montúfar continued to promote the Guadalupan devotion ever more strenuously after 1556, so he clearly did not consider it to be idolatrous. Later Franciscan complaints about Guadalupe were limited to accusations that the Indians privately understood the devotion in a pagan sense. Clearly, Montúfar succeeded in imposing his will on the matter, so that the Franciscans never again seriously threatened the spontaneous development of the Guadalupe devotion, which became universally accepted in Mexico City by the late 1580s, as recalled by the witnesses of 1666.

Alvar Gómez de León

Another witness, Alvar Gómez de León, aged fifty-eight, gave a slightly different account of Bustamante's sermon, though for the most part he merely confirmed what earlier witnesses had said.

As Gómez tells it, Bustamante said that "although the archbishop had preached that the Indians were not devotees of Our Lady, they were so devoted that they took Our Lady for God". This roughly matches Marcial de Contreras's testimony, which has the friar saying that he preached to the Indians that they should "not worship Our Lady as God, for they are very devout".

The claim that Montúfar preached that the Indians were not devoted to Our Lady is revealing, as it seems that the archbishop wanted to use the existing Guadalupe devotion among the Spanish to encourage Marian devotion among the Indians of the city. This motivated Bustamante's vitriolic response, for the archbishop now threatened to undo the Franciscans' work of removing idolatrous practices from the Indians. The friar depicts the archbishop as ignorant of the Indians' devotional tendencies, saying that the Indians are in fact so devoted to Our Lady that they effectively divinize her. The prelate's desire to instill Marian devotion among the Indians through Guadalupe is therefore misplaced.

If this testimony is accurate, we have an acknowledgement by Bustamante that deep Marian devotion among the Indians even before Montúfar preached in favor of Guadalupe. We know from other testimonies that Indians were present at the Tepeyac shrine in significant numbers, so they surely already had a near-idolatrous (in Bustamante's view) devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Montúfar did not create this devotion, but he now appeared to put the weight of his authority behind it.

According to Gómez, Bustamante said that although some went to the shrine with devotion, others went to do black magic (maleficios). This is probably an early version of the quasi-pagan practices called santería, which is common among peoples of Central America and the Caribbean. Such practices are likely the "offenses against God" mentioned in other accounts of the sermon.

Answering the thirteenth question, Gómez testifies he heard many say that the friar preached well about Our Lady [i.e., about her nativity], "but the rest that he preached about getting rid of the devotion to the Image was very disrespectful (desacatado) against his most reverend lordship". In Gómez's telling, people were offended primarily because of the perceived attack on their prelate. Other witnesses, such as Juan de Salazar, relate that people were offended because their devotion was attacked. Obviously, different witnesses may have heard different things from other congregants, depending on where they were situated. Also, the two motives are not neatly exclusive, for the people may have felt that their devotion was beyond reproach mainly because the archbishop had shown it favor.

Gómez also testified that he had gone to the shrine on one occasion, where he saw many esteemed ladies going on foot, as well as men and women from all walks of life. They gave ample donations to the shrine, and were filled with devotion. The witness did not see any bad acts performed, and everything seemed only to instill devotion. Accordingly, he saw this as something that should be favored and carried onward, especially since "in this land there is no other distinctive devotion where the people have taken such devotion". This holy devotion has caused many to stop going to the gardens, as was the custom previously, and now they go [to Tepeyac] where there are no gardens or any other pleasant things, save to be in front of Our Lady in contemplation and devotion. He likens Guadalupe to the devotion of Nuestra Señora de Atocha in Madrid and other places where he has seen Christians walk one or two or more leagues, and so he considers that Bustamante's preaching against this devotion was disrepectful against his most reverend lordship.

The witnesses considers the devotion of Guadalupe to be without peer in New Spain, but comparable to other highly esteemed devotions in the mother country. His knowledge of the devotion appears to be superficial, since he speaks more as an observer than as one of the extremely devout. This is why he is more concerned that the archbishop was disrespected than that his personal devotion has been attacked. He considers the devotion to be commendable because of the good moral and spiritual effects he has seen in others. Since Gómez, aged fifty-eight, is much older than most of the other witnesses, he is perhaps less likely to be swept up in the fervor of the moment, so he can view the devotion with some detachment. He is evidently not aware of any apparition narrative, but this is only consistent with his casual knowledge of the devotion.

Juan de Masseguer

The investigation might have ended here, had not Juan de Masseguer appeared before the archbishop two weeks later, on Sunday, September 24. Masseguer came to give testimony of what his Franciscan confessor had said regarding the Guadalupan devotion. He was duly interviewed, but not following the questionnaire, due to the unique nature of his testimony. Evidently, word had spread that Montúfar was interested in what the Franciscans were saying against the Guadalupan devotion.

Masseguer, aged about thirty-four, had been in the Franciscan monastery of Santiago in Mexico City (likely in the borough of Tlatelolco), where he was having a discussion with fray Luis, who had previously served as his confessor. This fray Luis was possibly fray Luis Cal, who was the guardian of the monastery of Santiago Tlatelolco in 1566. He is mentioned in the trial of D. Martín Cortés (c. 1566) as a great theologian and preacher who led an exemplary life.

The witness told fray Luis that he was on his way to Our Lady of Guadalupe, because he had a daughter with a bad cough. The friar told him to forget about that foolishness (déjese de esa borrachera), because we are all [i.e., the Franciscans] upset about it (estamos mal con ella). Masseguer asked, "Father, do you wish to take away from me my devotion?" The friar responded:

No, but truly I say to you that it appears to me that you offend God and do not gain merit, because you give a bad example to these natives, and if his lordship the archbishop says what he says, it is because he is following his own interest, and he is over sixty and already delirious.

Again, a Franciscan friar walks a fine line between permitting the Spanish to show legitimate devotion to Our Lady on the one hand, yet on the other hand urging them to refrain from this devotion to Guadalupe because of the bad example it sets for the Indians. The motive he imputes to Montúfar - "following his own interest" - likely refers to the belief held by many friars that the archbishop wanted to collect tithes or alms from the Indians. This was certainly one consequence of greater control by the archdiocesan church, but Montúfar appears to have desired authority over the Indians as a matter of right, not because his church needed additional revenue. Fray Luis acknowledges the sincerity of the prelate's Guadalupan devotion when he explains it as senility. Montúfar is not cynically promoting a devotion in which he does not believe, much less did he invent it. On the contrary, according to fray Luis, he is just one more among the many who have been deluded or deceived.

Masseguer, being a native of Barcelona, pointed out that a similar devotion was practiced to Our Lady of Monserrat, just seven leagues away. There were lamps sent by the pope and the kings of Spain, France, and England, and by many other lords. Fray Luis said that each person's devotion cannot be taken away, but that was not approved, save that all came from heaven. Masseguer pressed for a direct answer: "Father, tell me if this devotion is good or bad, for which you prevent me from going there." The friar responded, "I say that you more offend God, that you do not serve him, for the love of these natives."

Masseguer testified he had gone to the shrine more than twenty times, and yesterday (September 23) he went there to bring his young daughter, who was choking on a bad cough. He entrusted her to Our Lady, gave his alm, and had a Mass said for her, after which the girl was cured. Evidently, the friar had not succeeded in discouraging his devotion.

More generally, the witness said, there was a great devotion in all the city for the said Image of Our Lady, which was visited frequently by all types of people, from city noblemen to Indians. He knew that some Indians had become lukewarm in this devotion, because the friars had commanded it, according to fray Luis. Judging from the reaction of the Spanish devotees and the fact that the Indians were especially devoted to Our Lady (as Bustamante attested), it is likely that the Indians moderated their devotion only externally, to appease the friars.

He also knew that fray Bustamante's sermon on the feast of Our Lady's nativity (September 8) had caused a great scandal to the audience and throughout the city. This was because, after a "marvelous and divine" sermon about Our Lady, he then showed himself to be opposed to the devotion to the said image of Our Lady. He heard many people of quality say that they were scandalized. Fray Bustamante lost much of his reputation throughout the city. In response to what he said against the Image, the devotion has only grown more, and even more people go there now.

This testimony gives us a glimpse of the aftermath of the notorious sermon two weeks later. Already, the sermon proved to have had no noticeable effect, except on the external devotion shown by some Indians. Overall, the devotion continued to grow, even among those, such as the witness, who had been friendly with the Franciscans. Fray Bustamante had been a greatly admired preacher, yet opposition to the devotion was enough to place a man with an otherwise excellent reputation into general disfavor. The layman Masseguer felt compelled to testify against his former confessor. Such was the hold that the devotion of Guadalupe already held over the hearts of the people in Mexico City.

None of this establishes the veracity of the apparition narrative, of course. At most, it shows that Our Lady of Guadalupe was a widely and deeply held Marian devotion in 1556, grounded mainly in the belief that the Image could work miracles. In a sense, this was true even after the apparition narrative became publicized, for it is the hope in miracles that best explains the continuous recourse people have to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The apparition narrative gives them confidence that this hope is well founded, which is why miracles are seen as confirmation of its truth, though we naturally cannot accept this as historical verification. There are many holy images whose veneration has resulted in miraculous cures, but most of these have no claim of heavenly origin. This witness, like the others, maintains silence about the apparition narrative, though he provides other facts giving context about how the devotion may have originated and developed.

Intriguingly, the witness adds, without being asked, one last thing that the "guardian of Santiago" [fray Luis] told him. "If I wanted to take possession before the lord archbishop, I could take it, and with more just title." This is a bold claim, as the Franciscan suggests that the monastery of Santiago Tlatelolco should have legitimate title over the shrine at Tepeyac. This may imply that the Franciscans at Tlatelolco were somehow involved in the establishment of the little adobe chapel. Otherwise, it is strange to suggest the Tlatelolco monastery would have a special claim to a shrine located a league to the north. We are again left with a tantalizing hint of possible early Franciscan involvement in the devotion at Tepeyac, notwithstanding their current opposition.

Masseguer was evidently aware of the volatile nature of this claim to title over the shrine, so he hastened to assure the archbishop that this was not said in public, but fray Luis only contradicted the archbishop out of envy. In other words, the friar had no intention of actually pursuing this claim, but spoke out of frustration that this shrine had effectively fallen under the jurisdiction of the archbishop, and was now being used to undo much of the Franciscans' evangelizing work. We cannot yet say for certain, however, what the Tepeyac devotion was like prior to the wave of miracle claims around 1556.

The archbishop commanded Masseguer to keep this last claim by fray Luis a secret, under pain of excommunication. Evidently, Montúfar knew something of the basis for the Franciscan claim to the shrine, and did not wish to create a public power struggle over it needlessly.

Significance of the Testimony

The Información of 1556 is not concerned with establishing the historical origin of the Guadalupe shrine and its image, but only with investigating what fray Bustamante and other Franciscans had said against the devotion after Archbishop Montúfar had given it his public approval. The city was scandalized not only by the friar's contradiction of their prelate, but for his attack on a devotion had already taken deep root among Spaniards of all social stations. As a juridical matter, however, fray Bustamante committed no canonical offense by opposing a lay devotion, no matter how popular or revered. Even if the miracle claims (under separate investigation) were proven, it would be licit for a Catholic to doubt them publicly, as long as he did not disrespect his prelate in doing so. The lack of any serious punishment against fray Bustamante, therefore, is not a proof that the Guadalupan devotion was considered doubtful or unworthy of belief.

Still, the Información provides a potent argument from silence that the apparition narrative was not widely known in Mexico City, if it was known at all. No one makes the slightest allusion to any apparitions or a miraculous origin for the image, though the subject matter of the investigation should make such an interjection highly probable. Francisco de Salazar posits only the title 'Mother of God' as the foundation of the devotion. Not only were the witnesses ignorant of any such narrative, but so were the Franciscan friars, who, doubting the devotion, would have certainly declaimed any assertion of heavenly origin as especially idolatrous. It is possible that Bustamante said the Image was “painted by an Indian” in order to contradict legends to the contrary, but none of the nine witnesses seem to be aware of any miraculous origin. Montúfar himself seems to have been unaware of the apparition narrative, since he ordered an investigation of miraculous cures, yet did not investigate what would have been the far greater prodigy of the image’s miraculous painting.

We can say with confidence, then, that the apparition narrative was unknown in Mexico City in 1556. Indeed, the Guadalupan shrine had little significant devotion in the city until very recently, around 1555, when claims of miraculous cures began. This does not eliminate the possibility that there was a Marian devotion at Tepeyac prior to 1555, but it must have been very small, known only to the Indians of Cuautitlán and its vicinity. There was, after all, an existing adobe chapel there with a painted image of Our Lady. If the Información does not destroy the Guadalupan History, as the anti-apparitionists proclaimed in the late nineteenth century, it at least forces us to rethink how the devotion developed.

The picture that the Información gives does not strictly contradict the apparition narrative's basic authenticity, but is consistent with the history of other shrines in sixteenth-century Spain. First, there would be a vision or miracle of some sort, which was the reason for building the shrine in the first place. In late medieval and early modern Spain, when the Virgin Mary appeared, she almost invariably asked for a chapel to be built on a specific spot, where she would thenceforth provide grace to the people of the nearby town or village. The shrine's origin story and other documents would be preserved by town officials, who jealously guarded them even from the parish priest, who was often from another town. [William A. Christian, Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1981), pp. 20, 70-125.]

A purely local devotion would become much broader when news of some miraculous cure or prophecy at the shrine spread. This happened at Loreto and various Spanish shrines (notably St. Mary of the Cross at Cubas), often many decades after the shrine was built. This would drive pilgrims to the shrine, and there would be more reported cures, with a snowballing effect creating throngs of new devotees, many of whom are completely ignorant of the shrine and its history, save that it works miracles.

A similar process may have been at work with Guadalupe. In this case, the seer Juan Diego was from Cuautitlán, so the Guadalupan devotion was a collective commitment made by that town only. Being Indians, the townspeople would have ample reason to regard any priest or friar as being an outsider with the respect to local tradition, and would have been reluctant to share the apparition narrative with the Spanish clergy or religious. The hostility shown by several Franciscans toward the cult at Tepeyac would give them all the more reason for discretion. We know from the Peruvian inquisition that the Indians were able to hide their devotion to huacas (terrain features imbued with divine properties) for centuries from the Catholic clergy.

Bustamante suggests that the Spaniards are setting a bad example for the Indians, but by "the Indians" he means those of Mexico City. Evidently, they were just as new to the devotion as the Spanish of that city, though unfortunately we have no indigenous testimony from the 1556 Información, as there were likely no Indians in attendance.

While we can explain the 1556 testimony in a way that is consistent with the authenticity of the apparition narrative, we still need positive evidence that the narrative did indeed exist prior to that time. If the narrative was known only among the Indians of Cuautitlán, and Bishop Zumárraga has left us no record of the incident, we must see if there is any other source from the mid-sixteenth century, however fragmentary, that gives us cause to believe that there is an historical basis for the apparition narrative that became widely known by the late 1580s.

If we cannot find such evidence, this would suggest that some or all of the apparition narrative was of later invention, devised to reinforce the legitimacy of an already accepted devotion. There is historical precedent for this sort of development as well. For example, around 1580, it was reported to a Castilian government survey that the shrine of Nra. Sra. del Remedio at Fuensanta, Albacete was established because people found a spring there that was judged to be miraculous, since it was well above the ground water level and was able to cure various infirmities, including blindness. Yet in 1648, a Trinitarian monk explained the shrine's origin with a story about the apparition of a statue which told a seer that it wished to be venerated on that site. [Christian, Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (1981), op. cit., pp. 83-84.)] This later apparition story is historically doubtful, and likely served the purpose of explaining why that particular site was favored with miracles.

Still, even seemingly doubtful origin stories might have a sound historical basis. The providential discovery of a crucifix at Griñon (Madrid) in 1569 was immediately documented by a juridical investigation, where witnesses described the appearance of a cross in the sky above the crucifix, as well as heavenly scents and miraculous cures. The sensational details of these early sworn depositions went unmentioned, however, in a 1579 government survey of local devotions. [Ibid., pp. 89-90.] Evidently, people were reluctant to share such details depending on who was asking. Thus it is possible that the aforementioned apparition narrative of Fuensanta was historically authentic, but simply not reported to the government survey.

If anyone knew of the Guadalupe apparition narrative in 1556, they may have had good reason to be reticent about sharing these details with public authorities. The Indians, we learn from the Información, were fearful of the Franciscans, and toned down their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe in order to appease them. If the mere suggestion that the Image could work miracles was offensive to the friars, they surely would not have countenanced the idea that it was painted by heavenly power.

These scenarios are all speculative, yet they outline the range of possibilities compatible with the state of the evidence so far. If we are to determine which scenario the evidence prefers, we must complete our inquiry with an examination of all remaining sixteenth-century evidence that might refer to the apparition of Our Lady at Tepeyac.

Continue to Part IX

© 2011 Daniel J. Castellano. All rights reserved. http://www.arcaneknowledge.org

Back Top