OUR LADY OF THE ROUND: La Redonda—Mexico City

The Church of La Redonda (known as Our Lady of the Round) is one of the oldest in the country. It was founded by the renowned and saintly Fray Padre de Gante in 1524 and was dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But one is forced to ask: ” Why the strange name? How did it originate?” It came from the fact that the church has an unusually shaped appearance because of the circular shape of its apse.

Since the early 17th century the image of Our Lady of the Round has been venerated in Mexico City. The image’s origins are Spanish: Franciscans from Spain sent the head and hands of Our Lady’s statue to the church of La Redonda. This was common practice in New Spain (Mexico) where the statue would be completed and vested by Mexican artisans. When an elderly Indian woman saw the parts of the statue she eagerly volounteered to complete it. When she arrived home she saw two men waiting for her whom she had never met before. “We’re master craftsmen and we’re here to finish the statue,” they said. The woman readily agreed and handed over the face and hands.

When she collected the statue three days later the artists had mysteriously disappeared—without their pay! Everyone was struck by the wondrous beauty of the image. It was considered by all as a “work of art wrought through a miracle.”

Many miracles have been associated with La Redonda; two will be related here: In 1670 there was an “extreme scarcity of rain” in the city. The parishioners, in desperation, requested a license from the civil authorities to hold a procession of La Redonda, with the purpose of praying for rain. This was granted but strict geographical limits were placed on the participants. On July 9, the procession was held with spectacular results: a heavy downpour did, in fact, happen!
Strangely, though, the area immediately outside the area of the procession received no rain at all! Not one drop. The area bounded by the limits of the procession was deluged!

On December 11, 1676, a fierce fire erupted in a nearby church, the old church of St. Augustine. There was great fear that the fire would spread and engulf the entire neighbourhood. The image of La Redonda was brought in haste from the church. “When the statue neared the blazing building, the flames ceased at once, as though on command,” reported a chronicle of the event. A spontaneous procession of thanksgiving was formed and over three thousand people, carrying candles and torches, escorted the image of La Redonda back to her shrine.

The church of La Redonda was declared a national monument in 1932. You can visit it yourself today—it is a well-known historical monument (and active parish) in the centre of the city.

Mary Hansen

photography by Mary Hansen