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Our Lady of Valvanera (Spain)

Although the Virgin of Valvanera was venerated in the Rioja region in northern Spain, she was also popular in Mexico in the mid-1760s. The artist Cabrera gave this representation of the Madonna the features and skin tone of a young Mexican woman in the painting shown here. 

According to legend, the sacred image known as Our Lady of Valvanera is a "true portrait" of the Virgin Mary carved from life by Saint Luke and taken to Spain before the year 700. The miracle-working statue is said to have been hidden, along with a chest of relics, in the hollow of an oak tree in a remote valley in the mountains of La Rioja at the time of the Muslim conquest of Spain. An angel revealed Its secret location in the 10th century to a repentant thief-turned-hermit, Nuño Oñez. Oñez and the angel who told him the location of the sculpture can be seen in the background on the right.

In another version of this account, it was a shepherd who saw a bright light coming from a cave, and upon investigating, he found the statue of the Virgin Mary with a lighted candle beside it. The shepherd took the statue to the nearby village of Anguiano, but it miraculously returned to the cave where it was discovered. This was interpreted as a sign that a monastery should be built there to house the statue, which eventually became the Monastery of Valvanera.

The monastery was built by monks who were followers of Saint Dominic, and it became a place of pilgrimage for many Catholics in the region. The statue of Our Lady of Valvanera was placed in the monastery's chapel, and it became the centerpiece of the monastery's spiritual life. The statue's miraculous powers were said to be responsible for many healings and other acts of divine intervention.

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