There are eight gates, each weighing approximately 700 pounds. For three-quarters of a century – from 1922 until 1997 – these gold colored gates surrounded the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe at St. Vibiana’s Cathedral in Los Angeles.
Traditionally, gates symbolize the threshold of an entrance into a new life and communication between one world and another world. Gates represent the protective, sheltering aspect of the Great Mother. In Christianity, the Virgin Mary is the Gate of Heaven. Passage through the gate, especially for those in spiritual poverty, leads to rekindled spiritual understanding. Proverbs 8:3 associates the gate with mystical wisdom.
The eight gates at St. Vibiana’s stood before a shrine commemorating the Virgin of Guadalupe, who, in 1531 appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico. Her appearance served as a bridge between the old Aztec world and the new world of the conquering Spanish conquistadors. The miraculous manifestation of the Virgin’s image imprinted on a peasant’s cape was reported to the Vatican. The Vatican accepted the occurrence as a bona fide miracle, and a sanctuary was erected on the spot in 1533. In 1695, construction on a new sanctuary began, followed by the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1976. Tantamount to the Shroud of Turin, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s shrine remains second in visitors only to the Vatican. Pilgrims come from all over the world to kneel before the shrine. Her image, according to the Boston Globe, “May be the most venerated picture in the world.” She is the benefactor and symbol of Mexico.