The Newest Virgin in Town

Frequently hotels, restaurants and home owners invite me over to identify the saints and virgins present in their art.  Recently an excited woman had me over to view a newly purchased watercolor street scene that I recognized as the procession for the image of Mary of Three Hail Marys, SMA’s newest Virgin to blow into town.

tres aves 2Back in the 1960’s Fr Benjamin Grimaldi Balderas was assigned to the Temple of Good Health.  He felt Maria of Tres Aves wasn’t getting sufficient attention here in SMA.  This image of Mary promotes the notion of saying three Hail Marys when you wake up, and before falling asleep, to recall the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and contemplate your day.  In exchange for these daily meditations Mary will make sure you have blessings including an easy death.   She’s the easiest Virgin to identify in art because she is always labeled with “Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Ave Maria” above her head.

As you can see when in the Temple of Good Health there is nary a millimeter of space available for more symbolic art.  In 1960 Senora Micheala, the long time caretaker of the temple, died freeing up the barn behind the temple where she lived.  Fr. Grimaldi immediately set upon making the space a chapel to Mary of Three Hail Marys.

Until very recently it was a nondescript chapel with the architectural appeal of a 1960’s federal building.  Then the newest mayor stepped in.

tres aves1Each new mayor takes on a project immediately upon entering office that must be done within his or her first weeks in office.  Past endeavors includes building the glorietas (round abouts) you pass upon entering town and painting all the buildings in centro.  The latest mayor opted to restore the exterior of the Temple of Good Health motivating the Church to polish up the inside.

By the end of last year the entire chapel to Mary had been painted with new trim culminating in pineapple strewn chandeliers.  Pineapples are the symbol for welcome from colonial times when sailors returned from voyages placing pineapples on their stoops from far away islands to symbolize their return and welcoming of visitors.   The new trim transformed the chapel into one of the most inviting and meditative in town.  When in the chapel the tranquility surrounds you in such a way you’d have no idea you are a few meters away from the hurly burly of cento.

Saints Matilde (Mechtilde/Matilda) and Gertrude were the first to promote the image of Mary of Three Hail Marys.  Today, a statue of St. Matilde stands beside the image of Mary while St. Gertrude appears to have gone out for cigarettes during the restoration and has not made her way back yet.  It’s part of what I like about giving tours, you never know what saints are going to be in a church on any given day!