- La Chinita
In the mid-16th century the Spanish painter Alonso de Narvaez created a portrait of the Virgin of the Rosary. He painted in pigments from the soil, herbs and flowers of the region of modern Colombia, and his canvas was a rough 44 inch x 49 inch cloth woven by local Indians. The image of Mary is about a meter high, and stands about a half moon. She has a small, sweet smile, both her face and the Child’s are light colored, and she looks like she’s about to take a step. She wears a white toque, a rose-coloured robe, and a sky blue cape. A rosary hangs from the little finger of her left hand, and she holds a sceptre in her right. She holds the Christ Child cradled in her left arm, and looks toward him. Christ has a little bird tied to his thumb, and a small rosary hangs from his left hand. To either side of Mary stand Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Andrew the Apostle, the personal patrons of the colonist, Don Antonio de Santana, and monk, Andrés Jadraque, who commissioned the work.
In 1562 the portrait was placed in a rustic chapel. It was exposed to the air, the roof leaked, and soon the damage caused by the humidity and sun completely obscured the image. In 1577 the damaged painting was moved to Chiquinquirá, Colombia, and stored in an unused room. In 1585 Maria Ramos, a pious woman from Seville, cleaned up the little chapel, and hung the faded canvas in it. Though the image was in terrible shape, she loved to sit and contemplate it.
On Friday 26 December 1586 the faded, damaged image was suddenly restored. It’s colors were bright, the canvas cleaner, the image clear and seemingly brand new. The healing of the image continued as small holes and tears in the canvas self-sealed. It still has traces of its former damage, and the figures seem brighter and clearer from a distance than up close. For 300 years the painting hung unprotected, and thousands of objects were touched against the frail cotton cloth by pilgrims. This rough treatment should have destroyed it, but it healed and survives. In 1829, Pope Pius VII declared Our Lady of Chiquinquirá patroness of Colombia, and granted a special liturgy. In 1897 a thick glass plate was placed over it to shield the painting from the weather and the excess zeal of the faithful. The image was canonically crowned in 1919, and in 1927 her sanctuary declared a Basilica.