On 13th July 2005 the Augustinian community at Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico celebrated the 450th anniversary of the donation of the statue of Mary in their church.
Called la Virgen del Socorro (literally, the "Virgin of Help"), the statue was given by the Augustinian who as Provincial in Spain in 1533 had first sent Augustinians to the New World – to New Spain (Mexico).
The Provincial was the famed Thomas of Villanova O.S.A., who now is a saint of the Catholic Church and the patron of studies within the Order of Saint Augustine.
By 1555 when he donated the statue to Morelia, Thomas of Villanova was Archbishop of Valencia, Spain, and only a year away from his death.
(Morelia had originally been called Valladolid until its name was changed after the independence of Mexico from Spain.)
The church in Morelia was dedicated to Santa Maria de Gracia ("Holy Mary of Grace"). This was one of the particular titles by which the Order of Saint Augustine offers devotion to Mary, the mother of Christ.
Its construction began about the year 1552. A convento (community residence) for up to thirty Augustinians was built beside it.
Much progress was made after the year 1566, when Alonso de la Vera Cruz O.S.A. was the provincial superior of the Order in Mexico.
This convento at Morelia was the central house for the Augustinians working in the Michoacán region of New Spain (Mexico), and the largest Augustinian house there.
It was also the residence for students who were joining the Order of Saint Augustine.
This church of the sixteenth century (see photo at right) features colonial windows and Renaissance effects in it entrance. The window bears the image of Saint Augustine.
Its facade has some plateresque (carving into stone surfaces) features, which was the work of local artisans under the direction of Augustinians in the community.
This stone carving includes the emblem of the Order of Saint Augustine, a heart and arrows, which is located above the main door. The smaller bell tower on the right side of the building (see photo at top right) was the original bell tower, and at that time was the highest vantage point in Morelia.
Photos (at right)
Picture 1: Facade.
Picture 2: Nave of the church.
Picture 3: Altar, with statue given by (Saint) Thomas of Villanova.