OUR LADY OF THE REGLA, Chihuahua, Chih.



Our Lady of the Regla is the patrona of the archdiocese of Chihuahua, the largest and most prosperous state in the country (its surface area covers 70% of that of Spain). As travel guides state: “It was silver that put Chihuahua on the map.” It is Mexico’s leading producer of silver. The northern city was founded in 1709 after lodes of silver were discovered in its environs. Not surprisingly, the first Spanish settlers in the region were miners!

But back to the subject of our discussion: Our Lady of the Regla. What do we know of her? What are her origins? How did she get her name? Most people have never heard of her and hers is a most dramatic history! A history involving one of our most beloved saints, and a history involving one of our most famous explorers.

The endearing, (DISCLOSURE: it is one of my favourite images of Our Lady in Mexico)  life-sized statue of Our Lady of the Regla can be found above the major altar in the magnificent cathedral of Chihuahua, a church known for its “marvellous” baroque-façade adorned with statues of the twelve Apostles. It is reputed to be one of the most beautiful structures in northern Mexico. The church was begun in 1725 by Bishop Benito Crespo y Montroy and was completed in 1789. The “impressive” twin-towered church is constructed of ochre-coloured stone and was built by Jose de la Cruz, the master builder who was in charge of the construction until his death in 1734. In 1891 Chihuahua was established as a bishopric at which time the church was raised to the level of a cathedral. Quite a transformation of the once small, adobe chapel! An elegant marble altar was imported from Italy by Bishop Guizar y Valencia (his story can be found in the archives here for June 2021) and set in place in the cathedral in 1930.

May 10, 1990, was a historic day for the citizens of Chihuahua: St.Pope John Paul ll visited the cathedral on that day. The chair upon which he presided is found in the museum adjoining the nave of the church.

But how did the statue find its way into the cathedral?

One of the wealthy miners of a mine in Chihuahua, Don Antonio de Transvira y Retes, had a fervent devotion to Our Lady of Regla, an image he brought from Spain; he donated it to the cathedral. The statue can be seen by visitors to the cathedral to the present day.

More about the fascinating story of her origins:

From a 17th century written chronicle we read about her history: “It was the year 430.” The vandals invaded North Africa and were near the city of Hippo, home of St. Augustine, the founder of the Augustinian religious Order. He had in his possession his treasured, sacred image of Our Lady of the Regla. Thirty years after his death some Augustinian monks brought the “precious” image to the area of Cadiz. In subsequent years Don Alfonso Perez de Guzman, who founded a monastery of canon regulars, built a castle named Regla. Thus, the name of our statue!

During the Arab invasion of Spain in 713, the friars hid the image in a well underneath a fig tree on the grounds of the monastery. It remained hidden for 616 years until 1329 when it was found by a canon regular of the Cathedral of Leon. Once discovered, the Virgin “received great devotion” principally in the south of Spain, especially in the province of Cadiz, where was built the sanctuary of Chipiona, in her honour. The statue became revered because of its many miracles and devotion to her spread throughout Spain and also to Cuba, Bolivia, Santo Domingo, the Philippines and Mexico.

It is interesting to note that the sanctuary was originally a castle fortress owned by the family of the explorer Ponce de Leon, of history book fame. Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521) is known for leading the first European expedition to Florida. He also served as the first governor of Puerto Rico (Wikipedia). Members of the Ponce de Leon family donated the castle to the Augustinian hermit monks in 1399, who converted it into a church in honour of Our Lady of the Regla, today known as the elegant sanctuary of Chipiona.

A prayer to Our Lady of the Regla found in the cathedral of Chihuahua:

“Oh, Mother, Holy Mary of the Regla, the people of Chihuahua live under your powerful protection!  Guide us by your light and that of your Son and bring us securely to the port of salvation.”