The Eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe


The Missionary Image of

Our Lady of Guadalupe

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This is the story of a miracle that took place in what is now Mexico City.


In 1525, four years after the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes, , an Aztec Indian named Quauhtlatoatzin was baptized by a Franciscan priest who gave him the Christian name, Juan Diego. 


Before the Spaniards brought the Church to the  people of "Mexica", the Aztec and Myan indian populations were, of course, pagan.  The high priests of the Aztec religion offered human sacrifice to their gods. Their principle pagan gods demanding human blood sacrifice were Texcatlipoca and   Huitzilopochtli. Their less-demanding god of sacrifice was Quetzalcoatl, who did not require human blood sacrifice. They also worshipped the goddess Tonantzin, believed to be a manifestation of the Earth Mother, Coatlicue.



As many as 20,000 human beings were sacrificed annually to Texcatlipoca or Huitzilopochtli. The hearts of the victims were cut out and laid on the altar atop the Aztec temple, which, in design, were pyramids that rivaled those of Egypt.  Many victims were captured warriors, but the murdered thousands included thousands of  unwanted or conscripted children.


On December 9, 1531, on Tepeyac hill, in Guadalupe Hildago, near the Aztec capital city of Tenochititlan, (now Mexico City) the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, appearing as a Myan Indian princess.  She was dressed in a cinctured royal maternity robe with an azure-colored middle-Eastern outer mantle and veil.  Her mantle was covered with stars. (More on these 'stars' later.


In this apparition, the Blessed Virgin Mary became known as the virgin of Guadalupe, because the location of her apparition was Guadalupe Hildago, now in the northeastern section of Mexico City.  The Aztecs called her "te coatalxopeuho"; "she who crushes2 the serpent”.1


Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, identified herself as the woman in Genesis, who, according to the traditional translation, “will crush the head of the serpent with her heel." 4

In the Missionary Image portrayed above, one can see that the left leg is slightly elevated and bent at the knee---as if she were about to step on something.  The left moccasin is not showing from under the royal maternity robe; the right one is  visible.


The Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe also shows 'grand proportions', or perfect anatomical placement of joints and limbs.  Also by bone measurement, it is revealed that the apparition of the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe was 4 feet, 8 inches tall.5 This estimation of height was confirmed by St. Bernadette at Lourdes in 1858, whose height was also 4 feet, 8 inches.5



In the native language of  Nahuatl, the Blessed Virgin Mary asked Juan Diego to go relate to the local bishop her request that a church be built on Tepayac hill. She spoke these words to him:


"Know and have understood, you the littlest of my sons, that I am the ever-Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the true God by whom there is life; of the Creator from whom everything exists; Lord of heaven and earth. I intensely desire that you erect me here a temple, in order to show and give all of my love, compassion, aid and defense in it, for I am your pious Mother, to you, to all of you together the residents of this land and the rest of my devotees who call upon me and trust in me; to hear there their laments and to remedy all their miseries, sufferings and pains. And in order to realize what my clemency endeavors, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico and you will tell him as I have sent you to show him what I much desire, that here on the plain he may build for me a temple. You will tell him exactly what you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be certain that I will thank you well and you will much deserve that I recompense the work and fatigue with which you will strive to attain what I entrust to you."


When she appeared to Juan again, he told her that the bishop did not believe him.  She told him to return to the bishop the following Sunday and repeat her appeal to him a second time.  When the Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan a third time, he told her that the bishop wanted some proof of her apparitions.


On December 12th, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan for the fourth and last time.  Juan's  uncle had been seriously ill and he on his way to summon a priest to give him the last rites of the Church.  He even took an out-of-the-way path to try to avoid the most holy Mary so that he could accomplish his mission.  The Blessed Virgin appeared to him anyway and told him not to worry; that his uncle would be cured.  She said to him:


"No estoy Yo a qui que soy tu Madre" 

(Am I not here who am your Mother?)


Here is the text of her message to Juan Diego:


"Listen and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son. Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety, or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? Do not let the sickness of your uncle worry you because he is not going to die of his sickness. At this very moment, he is cured."1


As for the sign that the bishop requested, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe told Juan to pick some Castilian roses that were growing nearby.  Now it was winter and the presence of roses in December, especially at that location, was miraculous.  She told Juan to place the roses in his ayate or tilma, a sort of a front and back cape, which was made out of coarse cactus cloth.  She told him to take the roses to the bishop and  not to open his tilma until he was standing before him.


So, Juan Diego walked obediently into town and went to the bishop's residence.  When he was admitted into the presence of Bishop Zumarraga, Juan opened his tilma right in front of him.  The Castilian roses cascaded to the floor between the two men. In amazement, the bishop brought his hands to his face and  fell to his knees; but not at the sight of the roses; he was astounded at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that had been miraculously imprinted on the front of Juan’s tilma.  It was the same image that appears at the beginning of this story.


It is important to realize that Our Lady of Guadalupe was appearing---invisibly--- in the room at the same time that Juan opened his tilma in front of Bishop Zumarraga. Our Lady left a miraculous visual imprint of this apparition on Juan's tilma.  In other words, when we look at the image on Juan’s tilma, we are seeing the mystical sign that the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe left for us in order to depict her apparition in the room. Evidence for this is specified in studies of the corneal reflections in the eyes of the imprint of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan's tilma.


After leaving the bishop's residence, Juan went home and found that his uncle had been cured, just as the Most Blessed Virgin had said. In the years following the apparition, because of the graces from God that came through Our Lady of Guadalupe, almost the entire population of Aztecs and Myans were converted to Christianity. 


More than 470 years have passed since Our Loving Mother appeared to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepayac, in a northeast suburb of what is now Mexico City.  During those centuries and decades, three basilicas have been constructed in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  But the story does not end.  As Juan's tilma endures the centuries, the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe will continue forever.


*       *       *


The cactus cloth that made up Jaun Diego's tilma has a useful life span of about ten to twenty years.  After about fifty years the cloth disintegrates and breaks up into small pieces.  Juan's tilma continues to hang on display in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  It has survived floods, fires, explosions and other various hazards.


Over the centuries, science has studied Juan's tilma.  Scientists are always baffled as to how the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was applied to the cactus cloth.  It is simply too rough in texture to paint visual depictions of tiny and delicate anatomical structures.


In May of 1979, studies by infra-red photography were undertaken by Dr. Philip C. Callahan, a research biophysicist at the University of Florida. He ruled out brush strokes, over-painting, varnish, sizing, or even preliminary drawings by an artist in the body of the image. Damage from the 1629 flood was apparent at the edges of the tilma. He concluded that the original image on the tilma has qualities of color and uses the weave of the cloth in such a way that the image could not be the work of human hands.3


Scientists eventually discovered that the eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as imprinted miraculously on Jaun’s tilma, contained human shapes reflected on the cornea of each eye.  With the aid of computer technology, some investigators have imaged human figures in the corneal reflections.  For example, some scientists say that there are four or more persons imaged in the corneal reflections of the right eye. 


For the following presentation we did not use an imaging computer---but simply outlined the corneal images in Photoshop.  The reason that we claim seeing only two human silhouettes in the corneal reflections is that we only outlined images that were contained within the corneal area of the eye.  The sclera, the white portion of the eye, does not reflect images as does the cornea, which has the dark background of the iris and the pupil to create a mirror effect.


Above is the un-retouched photographic print of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that we scanned for the following presentation.  It is an extremely high quality fine-grain print that was processed in Mexico City in the 1990s. However, if one could scan the actual tilma of St. Jaun Diego, one would find that much more information would be available from the image. We will include a footnote at the end of this presentation regarding the technical aspects of the work performed.


Following are labeled images of the eyes of the apparition that were miraculously imprinted on the tilma of St. Juan Diego.  Every retouched image will be paired with a technically-identical un-retouched image. Below, from top to bottom, are retouched and un-retouched images:

2. Retouched corneas are on the top and un-retouched corneas are on the bottom.

3. Above, Our Lady of Guadalupe is appearing above Juan and the Bishop. As she views the scene below her, it is reflected on her corneas. Juan's hat is missing from the above painting, but most certainly he would have had a hat to protect him from the scorching Mexican sun and sudden tropical rain showers.

Following is the retouched image of the right cornea:


4. The images are the retouched reflections of the right cornea---of Juan Diego and Bishop Zumárraga.  Juan has just opened his tilma.

Following is the un-retouched image of the right cornea:
 5. This is an un-retouched image of the right cornea. As in No. 3, above, the large area above Juan’s body could only be his hat, hanging on the back of his head by its drawstring, as he is facing the bishop with his head looking down at his tilma. Notice the reddish photographic print grains where the roses fell at the knees of the bishop. Also, the bishop seems to consistently have reddish grains on his torso. 
Following is the retouched image of the left cornea: 

6. The images are the retouched reflections of the left cornea. Notice the different positioning of the figures from those of the right cornea.  This is due to the stereoscopic effect of one eye being nearer an object than the other eye. The Blessed Virgin’s right eye was rotated laterally and her left eye was rotated medially. Because of the positions of Juan, the bishop and Our Lady, her right cornea shows a frontal reflection.  The left cornea shows a reflection on the inferior-lateral-dorsal aspect. This is also clearly evident in image No. 2, above.

Following is the un-retouched image of the left cornea: 

Because of the commentaries of previous studies performed on the tilma, something should be said about the black figure (below) appearing on the scans of the right cornea.  Upon gross examination with a magnifying glass, this figure, which appears immediately near the bishop's back, is most certainly not a reflection of the right cornea, as it appears in front of the eye itself. Following is the un-retouched scan of the right cornea:


7. The mysterious black figure which appears near the bishop's back was not retouched. It can be seen in the above scan and in No. 4 scan, above. There is a spatial difference between the surface of the right cornea and the black figure. This is evident because the resolutions of the black figure and the surface of the right cornea are obviously dissimilar. This is exactly the perspective acquired when using a magnifying glass to grossly examine the photographic print. Possible explanations that have been offered to explain the black figure are: that it is an angel with wings; there are two figures instead of one; it is an artifact which has attached itself to the tilma after the apparition. We maintain that it is not in the interest of qualifying the miraculous authenticity of the tilma to investigate the black figure, because, optically, it is plainly anterior to and separate from, the surface of the right cornea, existing in its own plane.


The Constellations


There has been a study on Juan Diego's tilma that concludes that the stars on the mantle of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe are in the exact positions of stellar constellations that were in the skies over Mexico in December of 1531. Following are two images. The left image is a constellation map from a documented source.6 The right image is the Missionary Image that has been retouched to enhance the locations of the stars on the mantle of the image.






We agree with the general impressions of previous investigations and observations of the tilma of St. Juan Diego, that, in any age, it would be humanly impossible to create the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let alone the dozens of minute images within the image itself---without the aid of computer technology---coupled with the challenge of imprinting the image on rough cactus cloth by any means available.  A lengthy dissertation would be required to discuss the discoveries associated with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  This is beyond the scope of this presentation.  After further investigation, we are sure that you will agree with us that the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego in February of 1531 are authentic and miraculous.

Technical Aspects


The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in No. 1 above is a JPG image of 56KB.  All of the images of the eyes were cropped from a scanned  image identical to No. 1, except that it is a BMP image of 45 MB. The scanner resolution for the BMP image  was set, after experimentation for resolution v. file size; at 400 (3400 x 4680).  Exposure automatically read at 4 and gamma read at 2.16. The only manual setting was shadow, at 40.





2English and Latin translation notes on Genesis 3:15:  "her seed" (semen illius): illius, a bi-gender pronoun, refers to Christ, the seed of Mary; "she shall crush"(ipsa conteret): "ipsa" is feminine because it refers to "the woman" (mulierem), Mary; "ipsus" would be masculine. English: (Gen3:15; Douay-Rheims; Tan) Latin: (Gen3:15; Biblia Sacra Vulgata v.; Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart)  “Always, it is by her humility and by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman (ipsa) crushes the head of Satan.” (Cf. Note on Gen3:15, Douay- Rheims v.; Cf. Liturgy of the Hours.

3 Rengers, Christopher OFM Cap. Mary of the Americas . St. Paul - Alba House, Staten Island, New York, 1989

4See “The Immaculate Conception and Other Truths of Mary” on this Web site: www.holyhillcross.com

5Dan Lynch, postulator for the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, The Abundant Life, EWTN.

6 Testoni, Manuela. Our Lady of Guadalupe - History and Meaning of the Apparitions . St. Paul - Alba House, Staten Island,     New York, 2001.


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