Our Lady of Loreto: Grand Patroness of San Miguel
Text and photos by Antonio De Jesús Aguado
September is the month of patriotic and regional festivities in town, and also, for the past 300 years, celebration of Our Lady of Loreto by the religious community.
The name of Loreto is spread across the city, on streets, and also in a centro neighborhood. The sculpture of the Virgin can be seen in niches and also in churches, such as the Shrine of Jesus the Nazarene in Atotonilco, in an Indian Chapel on the road to La Cieneguita, and in the church of La Ermita that shelters the first Italian image of Loreto in the Villa of San Miguel el Grande, and the most important, the Holy House of Loreto in the Oratorio.
According to Father Josué Alejandro Rodríguez of the Oratorio, devotion to the Virgin of Loreto dates from approximately1291, when the house where the virgin Mary was born was moved to Loreto, Italy, and placed in a garden of laurels (loretum in Latin, from which the name comes). It was being used at that time as housing for Turkish slaves. That house was also said to be the place where the Word of God was made flesh in the Virgin’s womb.
The image of the Virgin does not have arms, and there are two different stories to explain this. In the the first version, the house was moved from Nazareth to Italy by angels supported by the Virgin’s arms; the second version claims that after a war against the Turks, a priest was partially disemboweled. After that, he walked towards the holy house holding his entrails in his hands, also supported by the Virgin’s arms. The priest arrived at the holy house, said a mass, and then passed away.
Graciela Cruz told Atención that in San Miguel, the history of the Virgin is linked to the Canal family, which was devoted to the image. When they settled in the villa, they brought the devotion with them. Father Rodríguez commented that the image of the Holy House of the Oratorio was brought by the Canal family and sheltered there between 1734 and 1736.
According to Graciela Cruz, the image at the Oratorio was brought from Italy and arrived at the port of Veracruz. From there, carefully covered, it was brought to San Miguel. A small chapel was constructed on the salida a Querétaro to receive the Virgin. There the image was uncovered and adorned to prepare her entrance to the villa and to the Holy House “with all the honors that she deserved, not just for being God’s mother, but also for the importance of the Canal family in town,” the historian said. Later, in La Ermita, the neighbors constructed a church and got an image of the Virgin made by a Mexican artist and, according to Cruz, it registers the date of her celebration from 200 years ago.
Cruz assured that in the past the festivity to honor the Virgin was the most important in San Miguel el Grande because on September 8, 1836, the virgin was appointed as Grand Patroness of the Villa of San Miguel el Grande by the Spanish city council, and a celebration to honor her has been held since then. “The inhabitants used to ask for favors from the Virgin in hard times, like times of illness or drought. “There are documents with testimonies of miracles granted by this virgin, such as (recovery) from illness,” assured Cruz. Check the program of the celebration in Qué Pasa.