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Our Lady of Guadalupe

Christopher Zoukis
Contributing Writer

But the eight gates no longer reside in St. Vibiana's.



The Miraculous Gates

Virgen de Guadalupe

The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe has been used to give hope to marginalized people, instill a sense of cultural identity in others and encourage communities to fight for their human rights. December marked the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. | Photo: George Yepes, 2009 | Link | Guadalupe, Virgin, Religion, God, Mary, Painting, Art,

The Miraculous Gates

Christopher Zoukis
Contributing Writer

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[Comments] There are eight gates, each weighing approximately 700 pounds. For three-quarters of a century ' from 1922 until 1997 ' these gold colored gates surrounded the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe at St. Vibiana's Cathedral in Los Angeles.

Traditionally, gates symbolize the threshold of an entrance into a new life and communication between one world and another world. Gates represent the protective, sheltering aspect of the Great Mother. In Christianity, the Virgin Mary is the Gate of Heaven. Passage through the gate, especially for those in spiritual poverty, leads to rekindled spiritual understanding. Proverbs 8:3 associates the gate with mystical wisdom.

The eight gates at St. Vibiana's stood before a shrine commemorating the Virgin of Guadalupe, who, in 1531 appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico. Her appearance served as a bridge between the old Aztec world and the new world of the conquering Spanish conquistadors. The miraculous manifestation of the Virgin's image imprinted on a peasant's cape was reported to the Vatican. The Vatican accepted the occurrence as a bona fide miracle, and a sanctuary was erected on the spot in 1533. In 1695, construction on a new sanctuary began, followed by the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1976. Tantamount to the Shroud of Turin, Our Lady of Guadalupe's shrine remains second in visitors only to the Vatican. Pilgrims come from all over the world to kneel before the shrine. Her image, according to the Boston Globe, "May be the most venerated picture in the world." She is the benefactor and symbol of Mexico.

St. Vibiana's Cathedral in Los Angeles was built in 1876. The cathedral's architecture exudes the Spanish Baroque style. Upon completion, in tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a shrine was placed in the cathedral, and the eight gates added later. The eight gates represent the superiority of old school master craftsmanship, being hand forged and fitted, rather than welded. Even utilizing modern fabrication techniques, the cost of duplicating the eight gates would exceed $300,000. Not only are the eight gates true works of art, they also contain a vicarious element to anyone who beholds them. This vicarious element is a precious prize, pregnant with mysterious symbolism. The eight gates project an efficacious immediacy, that is, everything the Virgin Mary intended for her faithful ' the mystical phenomenon of a bridge from the present physical/spiritual reality to another reality, the reality of compassion, healing, and charity, which are necessary and certain.

When a pilgrim approaches the gates, the mystical phenomenon of Our Lady of Guadalupe is translated into mental and physical existence. Existence becomes the steady succession of this marvelous reality, which reflects the activity of the universe. Irregularities and absurdities cease to exist. Virtue is the order of the day. The gates denote the point of alliance between intellect and faith, science and religion. In this fashion, in this faded age ' made opaque by pervasive arrogance, fiscal crises, moribund schools, collapsing social structures and dependence on hypertechnology ' something wonderful occurs. Individuals develop into the fullness of humanity.

Ecclesiastic and scientific researchers have analyzed the mysteries associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe at great length. After performing their analyses, the religious and secular authorities concluded the phenomenon was not a hoax. In 1666, the Catholic Church executed a formal inquiry into the validity of the miraculous appearance. The inquiry authenticated the miracle ' the Virgin Mary had appeared four times to Juan Diego. Later, in 1956, the Catholic Church engaged two ophthalmologists to examine Mary's eyes, based on the claim that tiny figures were reflected in her eyes. The ophthalmologists magnified Mary's eyes 2500x. They reported observing both Aztec and Franciscan figures in the irises of the image's eyes. Scrutinized once more in 1977, using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques, investigators determined that the image was devoid of any type of sketching or drawn outline, which would permit a human artist to create such a painting. And the method used to generate the image could not be identified. Most notably, in 1981, Philip Callahan subjected the image to a three-hour infrared examination. He reported that the entire painting looked as if it had been accomplished by a single brush stroke.

On August 7, 2009, Dr. Aldofo Orozco, an acclaimed physicist, speaking at the International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe, told the audience that there was no rational, scientific explanation for the image's perpetuation and preservation. For 478 years the image has remained in pristine condition, despite time and circumstances. Dr. Orozco stated, "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."

According to Dr. Orozco, a painted copy of the image, made in 1789, testified to the miraculous preservation of the Tilma. "This painting was made with the best techniques of the 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." After eight years, the painted copy was almost completely disintegrated.

By comparison, "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. 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 by the Mexican painter, Miguel Cabrera."

Not only was the image on the Tilma a miracle, but miracles continued to escort the image's passage through time. In 1785, nitric acid was inadvertently spilled on the Tilma. Regarding this incident, Dr. Orozco stated, "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."

The second miracle occurred in 1921, when a bomb exploded in close proximity to the Tilma. The force of the blast shattered the marble flooring, blew out windows 150 meters away, and warped a brass crucifix. The Tilma and the glass pane protecting it remained unscathed. Dr. Orozco said, "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."

The eight gates of St. Vibiana's Cathedral in Los Angeles are the portal to this miraculous manifestation of the power of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

But the eight gates no longer reside in St. Vibiana's. For the Northridge earthquake of 1994 damaged the cathedral. Declared unsafe, St. Vibiana's was closed up, and architects began planning Our Lady of the Angels, which would replace St. Vibiana's. Meanwhile, construction crews descended upon St. Vibiana's, dismantling the interior of the cathedral. Stained glass windows, marble fixtures, altars, along with various other artifacts were crated up, and hauled away to storage, where they would await completion of the new cathedral.

Dan Giles, former social worker and poet, was a member of the construction crew charged with taking apart St. Vibiana's. Giles and his crew removed the pews, which were either transported to a Korean church or placed in storage. Once that job was accomplished, a construction supervisor instructed Giles to disassemble the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Giles was to remove the steel gates and stack them in a stairwell next to the parking lot. The gates had been installed in 1922, in response to the 1921 bombing of the original image in Mexico, because St. Vibiana's parishioners were determined to protect their shrine in Los Angeles from a similar attack.

A few years later, in 1999, the cathedral business manager asked Giles how much he would charge to remove the gates, haul them away. Giles responded that he would take them, no charge. The manager issued Giles with a receipt for the gates, which Giles transported to his home. A neighbor offered Giles $3000 for one of the eight gates. Giles refused the offer.

To Giles, it seemed blasphemous that the shrine had been dismantled and the eight gates simply tossed aside like so much trash. The gates were not only the physical embodiment of a miraculous religious narrative, they were precious sculptures, genuine examples of fine art. Therefore, Giles dedicated himself to the task of finding an appropriate home for the gates. Giles believed the gates transcended organized religion. The gates were intended for all mankind. When the Virgin Mary made her appearance in 1531, she did so in affirmation of her Son, the person of Jesus, who offered love, justice, and eternal life to everyone.

Giles' devotion to the message of the eight gates inspired his poem, "Realistic Happiness."

    What is the nature of being and reality within this essentially mental Universe of more than 100 billion
    Galaxies, where every atom of every-thing was once exiting an exploding nova star,
    Yet science has no answer for the source of life or mentality?
    Paradoxically, there is no such thing as a solid any-thing.
    Every-thing is subatomic empty space: and yet we are in it, we are of it, and we are
    Self-aware. How then can the primal-cause not be self-aware?
    The measuring intellect is without question a priceless tool; however
    Love is, and has no equal for healing dis-ease when we are in need of
    Refreshing from the "slings and arrows" of daily logistics.
    Physics has proven an intimate inter-connection of each human
    Consciousness with all others as our anger, greed and love degree
    Resonates one with another. Correspondingly our neuro-patterns accumulate
    Reflections in the environmental mirror.
    We heard "the cynic has a lonely harbor." We heard that Socrates said,
    "Death brings either dreamless sleep or we will be with our attitude equal."

For the last twelve years, Dan Giles has sought an appropriate location for the eight, gold colored gates. He has offered the gates to numerous museums and cultural centers, including the Mayor's Commission of Olvera Street, in Los Angeles. In each instance, discussions broke down for one reason or another. For two years the gates were on display in Portland, Oregon, where they could be viewed at anytime of the day or night. A documentary film was made about the eight gates and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Entitled "Gift of Love," in 2005, the film was honored with an award at the international film festival in Goa, India.

At the present time, Giles has settled on an eBay auction for the eight gates. The auction will be non-Catholic, and funds from the winning bid will be used to establish a scholarship fund. He believes a scholarship fund will satisfy the revelation of the eight gates and Our Lady of Guadalupe: "She the gate that bore the child."


Christopher Zoukis

Christopher Zoukis, Contributing Writer: Christopher Zoukis is the author of Education Behind Bars (Sunbury Press, 2012), a comprehensive guide to prison education. Mr. Zoukis blogs at here and here. He's a PEN American Center award winning writer, legal commentator, and American Bar Association member (Criminal Justice Section/Section of Litigation). See... (more...)