Intact Virgin Mary painting found in rubble after California church fire

Workers found a mostly unscathed 18th century painting of the Virgin Mary buried beneath the rubble of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, the 249-year-old church that burned down in July, officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said in a statement, Thursday, Oct. 15.

They discovered it on Sept. 15 — a day known to some Catholics as the Feast Day of Our Lady of Sorrows.

It’s a Cathollic holy day dedicated to the Virgin Mary when she’s often depicted with a sad or anguished mien — a common representation known as Mater Dolorosa, Latin for “Mother of Sorrows.”

“La Dolorosa” is the Spanish version of this phrase.

Out of all the depictions of the Virgin Mary, that’s the one workers found buried under the rubble. It was the only work of art left in the church to survive the fire, the statement said.

The mission’s communications director, Terri Huerta, was among the first who heard about the painting’s unlikely survival, it says. She soon recognized the significance of the date.

“My God. This is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows,” Huerta reportedly said, according to writer Gregory Orfalea in a story for Angelus, the Archidiocese of Los Angeles’ publication.

“We want Mission San Gabriel to be a place of healing,” Huerta said. “That we found ‘La Dolorosa’ in ashes but surviving on her own feast day — it’s encouraging.”

The painting “La Dolorosa,” a depiction of of Our Lady of Sorrows on her FeastDay, was found amid the rubble left by the fire that destroyed the main sanctuary of Mission San GabrielArcángel. (Photo by Daniel Macias/Angelus News) 

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Neither Huerta nor other church representatives were available for an interview on Thursday, Oct. 15, when requested by this newsgroup.

It’s unclear how many paintings or other works of art were in the church at the time of the fire; church officials had cleared out most of the valuables ahead of the fire, planning for a renovation that would honor the church’s 250th anniversary next year, according to a letter from Archbishop José Gomez.

The painting was found under a burnt crossbeam in the church’s baptistry, Orfalea wrote, surviving “despite some holes and blistering around her clearly Hispanic” face.

Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrated Mass at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel on Sunday, July 12 at 11 a.m., following a fire that damaged the Mission’s church. The Mass was held in the Mission’s Chapel of the Annunciation. on Sunday, July12. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG) 

The church’s insurance company has pledged to restore the painting and any others caught in the inferno, Orfalea explained.

He recounted a story from 1771 when an Our Lady of Sorrows painting was unfurled to the Tongva Indians, apparently winning them over in the process. This is not that painting, but church officials told Orfalea they had that one in storage.

“So, in a sense, there are two miracles at Mission San Gabriel,” Orfalea wrote. “One in 1771, the other in 2020, each involving a different ‘La Dolorosa.’”

Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrated Mass at the Mission San …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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