Monday, September 7, 2009

The Blessed Mother's Gift to San Ildefonso de Toledo

The see of Toledo claims Saint Eugenius as its first bishop. Saint Eugenius was a first century Roman. The information is a little sparse during the Roman persecution, but we know of many martyrs. Saint Leocadia was one of them. She lived during the persecutions of Diocletian which sent to heaven a multitude of Spanish martyrs. She was beaten and tortured and then thrown into prison, never giving in to apostasy. She died on December 9, 304. She is the patroness of Toledo. After the end of the state sponsored persecution, we have record of the bishops of Toledo until the 10th century. During this time, the Church in Toledo grew and helped keep the Spanish Church unified. This was done in a large part through several of the Councils of Toledo (400-700)- the twelth in 681 declaring that the diocese of Toledo was the primary see in Spain. The see was vacant from 926-1058 during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. On May 25, 1085, King Alfonso VI of Castile and Leon conquered Toledo, driving the Muslims out. With the Reconquest of Toledo, Bernard de Toledo became archbishop and in 1088 was declared Primate of Spain by Pope Urban II (who called for the first crusade). Following Bernard, there is an unbroken line of bishops of Toledo up to today.

One of the most interesting bishops and stories of the Church in Toledo is of San Ildefonso (Saint Ildephonsus). He was born in 607 and bishop from 657-667. He had great devotion to the Virgin Mary. In fact, his best known work is titled De virginitate perpetua sanctae Mariae adversus tres infideles. One day while he was in the cathedral of Toledo, the Blessed Mother descended to the floor in front of him. There she gave him a chasuble, the outermost liturgical vestment of a priest. The chasuble was a gift for his devotion and defense of her. The rock has been preserved and placed in the current cathedral of Toledo (cathedral photo above or see beautiful altar and retablo here). I was privileged to be able to visit the cathedral and kiss the rock that the feet of the Virgin rested on. Above the place there is a sign that reads:

Cuando la reina del cielo / puso los pies en el suelo / en esta piedra los puso / de besadla tened uso para más vuestro consuelo.
(When the Queen of Heaven placed her feet on the ground, in this rock she placed them. Kiss it for your consolation.)

Tóquese la piedra diciendo con toda devoción: veneramos este lugar en que puso sus pies la Santísima Virgen.
(Touch the rock saying with all devotion: We venerate this place in which she put her feet, the Most Holy Virgin.)

The photo above is a painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo- of the descension of the Virgin.The photo below shows the Cathedral of Toeldo in Spain
Source : Jonathan Knox, Gainesville, Florida, United States

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