The Tilma. Still mind-blowing.

If we believe in a God who created the universe from nothing and guides it according to His will, even through nature’s law of which He is the author, then it is not hard to grasp that such a God might from time to time more overtly display His Lordship over the universe and perform wonders, miracles, for the sake of making some point for our edification.

And so we come to a CNA story about the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

This goes into the Just Too Cool folder, sometimes know as Our God Is A Mighty God folder.

My emphases and comments.

Our Lady of Guadalupe ‘completely beyond’ scientific explanation, says researcher

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 7, 2009 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- Researcher and physicist Dr. Aldofo Orozco told participants at the International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe that there is no scientific explanation for the 478 years of high quality-preservation of the Tilma or for the miracles that have occurred to ensure its preservation.  [Remember: Miracles are not always about healing.  Sometimes they are about preservation of harm.]

Dr. Orozco began his talk by confirming that the conservation of the Tilma, the cloak of St. Juan Diego on which Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared 478 years ago, “is completely beyond any scientific explanation.”

All the cloths similar to the Tilma that have been placed in the salty and humid environment around the Basilica have lasted no more than ten years,” he explained.  One painting of the miraculous image, created in 1789, was on display in a church near the basilica where the Tilma was placed.  “This painting was made with the best techniques of its time, the copy was beautiful and made with a fabric very similar to that of the Tilma. Also, the image was protected with a glass since it was first placed there.”

However, eight years later, the copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was thrown away because the colors were fading and threads were breaking.  In contrast, Orozco said, “the original Tilma was exposed for approximately 116 years without any kind of protection, receiving all the infrared and ultraviolet radiation from the tens of thousands of candles near it and exposed to the humid and salty air around the temple.”  [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

Dr. Orozco then discussed the Tilma’s fabric.  He noted that “one of the most bizarre characteristics of the cloth is that the back side is rough and coarse, but the front side is ‘as soft as the most pure silk, as noted by painters and scientists in 1666, and confirmed one century later in 1751 by the Mexican painter, Miguel Cabrera.”

Following an analysis of some of the fibers in 1946, it was concluded that the fibers came from the Agave plant, however, noted Dr. Orozco, the researchers couldn’t figure out which of the 175 Agave species the Tilma was made from.  Years later, in 1975, “the famous Mexican researcher Ernesto Sodi Pallares said that the species of the agave was Agave popotule Zacc,” Orozco explained, “but we don’t know how he reached this conclusion.”  [So… we really still don’t know.]

Before concluding his presentation, Dr. Orozco made mention of two miracles associated with the Tilma.

The first occurred in 1785 when a worker accidentally spilled a 50 percent nitric acid solvent on the right side of the cloth.  “Besides any natural explanation, the acid has not destroyed the fabric of the cloth, indeed it has not even destroyed the colored parts of the image,” Orozco said.  [I think that would qualify: entirely inexplicable by scientific means.]

The second miracle was the explosion of a bomb near the Tilma in 1921.  Dr. Orozco recalled that the explosion broke the marble floor and widows 150 meters from the explosion, but “unexpectedly, neither the Tilma nor the normal glass that protected the Tilma was damaged or broken.”  The only damage near it was a brass crucifix that was twisted by the blast.  [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

He continued, “There are no explanations why the shockwave that broke windows 150 meters afar did not destroy the normal glass that protected the image. Some people said that the Son by means of the brass crucifix protected the image of His Mother. The real fact is that we don’t have a natural explanation for this event.”

Dr. Orozco thanked the audience for listening to his presentation and closed by reassuring them that “Our Lady visited Mexico 478 years ago, but she remains there to give Her Love, Her Mercy and Her Care to anyone who needs it, and to bring Her Son, Jesus Christ to everyone who receives Him.”


The interesting thing about these images, such as the Shroud of Turin, is that as technology develops we continue to find things in them that are inexplicable.

God plans well around how he designed our curiosity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Just Too Cool and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Tito Edwards says:

    When I visited the Basilica in 1994 I was told of the 1921 blast story of the iron Crucifex. It was right in front of the tilma and it seemed as if the crudifex was protecting Our Lady. For after the blast the crucifex was twisted, but it twisted toward the tilma (leaning toward the tilma more like it).

    They explained that it seemed that Our Lord was protecting His mother from the blast. He did a magnificent job because just feet away the tilma, like your posting explains Fr. Z, was left undisturbed.

    Deo gratias!

  2. Ellen says:

    I’d love to see this some day. That is my favorite image of Mary.

  3. Magpie says:

    Truly wonderful and edifying. Thanks for posting this Fr Z.

  4. tewter says:

    These miracles are truly great. In addition, God knew that the 20th century skeptics would try to debunk the truths of Guadalupe so He made it so that the reflections of Bishop Zumarraga, Juan Diego, and the translator at the time St. Juan Diego opened the tilma would be discovered in the eyes of the image. This has been verified by ophthamologists. I wonder what else miraculous will be discovered in this image. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of my web site. I am very attached to her.

  5. I have read that even the best photographs of the image cannot do justice to its beauty. One of these days, I’d like to be able to see it for myself.

    (Too bad it’s housed in such an ugly basilica…)

  6. JosephMary says:

    I had the blessing of a pilgrimage to Mexico City for December 12, 2003. It was an incredible experience and the spiritual energy was such that only being in the rosary procession of Lourdes comes close to equalling. And I was privileged to go behind the altar and to be as close to the tilma as one can be. Lots of tears that day on everyone’s faces…tears of joy.
    There was that offering of a whole people to Jesus through Mary. The whole journey was ineffable.

  7. Hamburglar says:

    Thanks for posting this. I remember seeing this story some time after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton viewed the image, in which this conversation took place.

    Clinton: “Who painted it?”
    Priest: “Well, God did!”
    Clinton: “No, really. Who painted it?”

  8. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.

    I have also been there and have seen the Tilma and it is beautiful. What I find interesting is that this is the only “picture” we have of Mary and it converted millions at that time and continues to bring many to her Son even now. This image is from her hands so to speak. Is this how she wanted to show herself to the people at that moment in time or is this how the mother of our Lord looked at Christmas, in Egypt, as Jesus was growing up, at the foot of the cross, etc.? All the other images we have, though also beautiful, are the works of man. I believe the Tilma is the work of Our Lady by the power of God Himself, that’s why it has not turned to dust!

    Tom Lanter

  9. Jaceczko says:

    Why are there two basilicas?

    Old one time of construction: 1531–1709. New one time of construction: 1974–1976.

    Now shift the ground to Washington, D. C. Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Construction time: 1920–still not complete (a design for the mosaic of the main dome, made by CUA architecture students, was just accepted this fall). Recently, during 50th anniversary (of the “completion” of the structure) celebrations, the staff of the Shrine have been pointing to this fact in connection with the Shrine’s complete lack of building debt. Kudos to the bishops and planners of the construction of the Shrine for not rating fast time of construction ahead of beauty and being debt-free. Don’t take “it’s too expensive” for an answer! It’s akin to what I was recently told when I asked “Why don’t we have Latin Mass?” I was told, “We don’t have enough priests.” (!)

    Does anyone know of any other American churches that have made the sacrifice of patience to get the beautiful church they wanted (and preserve its long-term financial integrity)?

  10. Thomas in MD says:

    We have a lovely children’s book “The Lady of Guadalupe” by Tomie DePaolo and my 5 yo loves it. When we asked her what she wanted for christmas this year- you guessed it: a statue of “Mary at God-a-lupe” and a first aid kit! Both will be under the tree.

  11. irishgirl says:

    I have never been to Mexico to see the ‘original’ tilma, but I have seen a full-scale ‘copy’ of it, courtesy of Dan Lynch, a retired lawyer and judge from Vermont. He has brought it a few times to the Upstate NY area.

    I always laugh at the ‘exchange’ between Hilary Clinton and the priest at the Basilica..

  12. Penguins Fan says:

    The tilma is a painting drawn by the hand of God. God can override the laws of physics if He so desires.

    The image of Our Lady on the tilma communicated so much to the Aztec people who had no written language. Our Lady’s hands in prayer, her robe with the stars as they were on December 12, 1531, the images in her eyes….

    I have a book written by a Florida scientist, Jody Brant Smith, a Methodist from Pensacola. He spent some time examining the tilma and concluded that there is no scientific explanation for the existence of the tilma or the Image of Our Lady.

    I have seen Dan Lynch’s copy as he has brought it to Pittsburgh a few years ago.

    Hilary Clinton is a buffoon, but then again, most the politicians in Washington are buffoons, regardless of party.

Comments are closed.