Cascade Park

Cascade Park

Friday, February 15, 2019

Lord of the Shawl

When I was in the Historic Center of Mexico City this week, I went to the Plaza of Santo Domingo, which is dominated by the 18th century church of the same name.  It is all that remains of the Dominican monastery which was once one of the largest in the colonial city.

The doors were open (often they are not), so I went inside.  The neo-classical main altar was designed by Spanish-born Manuel Tolsá, the sculptor and architect who changed the face of Mexico City in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

I had recently read about a legend dealing with one of the images in the church.  So I looked at the side chapels until I found it, the so-called "Señor del Rebozo" (Lord of the Shawl).

According to the story, in the Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena, there was a wooden image of Christ carrying the cross.  One of the nuns would pray before this statue every day for more than thirty years.  One cold, windy night, the nun, old and sickly, was in her bed when she heard a knock at the door of her cell.  She managed to get up and answer the door.  There was a half-naked beggar asking for food and clothing.  The nun gave him bread and wrapped a woolen shawl ("rebozo") over his shoulders.

The next day, the nun was found dead in her cell with a beatific smile on her face.  In the church the nun's shawl was found on the shoulders of the image of Christ.  

Years later, the convent was closed down, but the statue, revered as the Lord of the Shawl, was moved to a side chapel in the nearby Church of Santo Domingo.  The chapel is filled with shawls that have been left by devotees in thanks for answered prayers.  

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