The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe graces the gravestones of many of the departed – particularly in cemeteries which are populated by the deceased of a Mexican heritage. The country of Mexico is over 80% Roman Catholic with about 100 million faithful – many with a great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of Mexico, as well as a national symbol appearing on everything from bumper stickers to jackets to gravestones.
The second stanza of the Hail Mary prayer clearly indicates the importance of the Blessed Mother in death: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Who better to ask for assistance at the time of death, than the Mother of Jesus? The closeness of Mother and Child implies a great ability for Mary to act through her Son as an intercessor or mediatrix for the living and the dead, not yet in heaven. Our Lady’s words also resonate with the loved ones of the deceased, she said to Juan Diego on December 12, 1531, “Am I not your mother? Am I not life and health? Have I not placed you on my lap and made you my responsibility? Do you need anything else?”
The story of Our Lady’s appearances in December 1531 to, now, Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin near Mexico City is familiar. The famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma (mantle/cloak) and is now enshrined in the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It shows Our Lady with golden rays of the sun radiating from behind an indigenous face with a star-studded navy-blue cloak. She stands on a crescent moon above an angel with vibrantly colored wings; and around her midsection is a black ribbon reflecting that she is pregnant. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe incorporates much symbolism representative of her heavenly nature and her superiority to the Aztec gods of the sun and moon; this message was an important overlay when Saint Juan Diego went from the site of her appearances to him on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City to see the local bishop to petition him to have a church built on the site in acknowledgement of the Mother of the True God. Juan Diego was able to overcome the bishop’s inaction for construction of a church when the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on his tilma as Juan Diego was presenting Castilian roses to the bishop. A church was built on the Tepeyac Hill by the bishop, and was gradually enlarged over the years as many people came to venerate Our Lady under this important title in Mexico and throughout the world.
As indicated above, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe includes much symbolism. Shown below are some of the symbolic items which are present in the images shown on the gravestones in these photos.
Tilted Head and Lowered Eyes – the Blessed Virgin’s posture is one of humility illustrating her commitment of “yes” to be the bearer and Mother of Jesus.
Sun – Behind the Lady are the rays of the sun. The sun played a key role in the Aztec civilization that was still in place in the early 16th century; and the Blessed Lady appearing in front of the sun, implied that she was greater than the Aztec sun god. She hides the sun, but its rays shine forth.
Moon – Similarly, she stands upon the moon, showing her superiority to the Aztec moon god and that she is greater than the night.
Stars – The stars on the mantle are a sign of Our Lady’s heavenly nature. It is said that the arrangement of the stars is consistent with the constellations seen in the sky of Mexico at dawn of December 12, 1531 (one of the dates of Our Lady’s appearance to Juan Diego).
Sun, Moon and Stars, with the pregnant Mother – taken together these symbols clearly harken to the passage from the Book of Revelation which reads, “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.” (Rev 12:1-2).
Maternity Band – The black band around the Lady’s waist was the sign of a pregnant woman, a mother who is about to give birth.
Angel – A cherub with eagle’s wings carries the Lady. Cherubs in the Old Testament represented thrones of God, i.e. carriers of royalty. The four colors of the wings are thought to represent the four cardinal points indicating that the message that the Virgin brings is for everyone throughout the world.
All websites were accessed on or about 12-1-2022 and are considered to be useful, reliable and secure, but users should view the websites at their own discretion. The author or the website https://www.churchwonders.com is not responsible for those sites’ code or content.
Aleteia – https://aleteia.org/2017/12/12/the-hidden-symbolism-of-our-lady-of-guadalupes-image/ – The hidden symbolism of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s image
Dan Lynch Apostolates – https://www.jkmi.com/what-s-so-special-about-the-missionary-image
International Marian Research Institute – https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/t/twelve-stars-in-revelation-meaning.php
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – https://bible.usccb.org/bible/revelation/12 – Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
World Population Review – https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/highest-catholic-population