In 1523, two years after the Aztec capital fell to Cortes, an Aztec man renamed Juan Diego after his conversion to Christianity had a remarkable vision on his way to mass on the morning of Dec. 9. A beautiful dark-skinned woman appeared, declaring herself to be the Virgin Mary. She asked him to tell the Bishop to build a church in her honor.
The Bishop asked for proof of this incredible story. On Dec. 12 the Virgin appeared to Diego again, instructing him to pick flowers from the barren hill where normally none grew. Diego placed the flowers in his mantle. When he reached the Bishop the flowers spilled out before him and a perfect image of La Virgen Morena was emblazoned on the cloak. The stain remains in the cloth today.
The Bishop had a church erected on the spot where Diego received his vision. The Miracle of Guadalupe was officially recognized by the Vatican in 1745 and the church was declared a Basilica in 1904. A new Basilia was built in 1976.
Diego's mantle has been carefully preserved and has been subjected to extensive analysis over the years. Experts have authenticated the fabric as dating to the 16th century but have been unable to determine the type of pigment from which the image originates.