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The Blue Nun - María Jesus de Ágreda

Mystical Missionary to the Indians

By Jay W. Sharp
Author of Texas Unexplained

How the Lady in Blue may have appeared to the Indians.

Of all the tales of lost treasure, ghosts, inexplicable lights, apparitions, spirit horses, unsolved murders and disappearances across the Southwest, the legend of María Jesus de Ágreda - the fabled "Lady in Blue" or "Blue Nun" - surely ranks among the most strange and mysterious of them all. A Spanish nun who, physically, never left her convent in her country's province of Soria, she nevertheless purportedly traveled by spirit - a phenomenon called "bi-location" or "teleportation" - by the Church to minister to Indians in Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas. She left an enduring mark on the folklore of the desert.

North-Central Spain; the Franciscan Poor Clares' Convent of the Immaculate Conception at Ágreda; Holy Communion; the year, 1620: Sister María Jesus de Ágreda, 18 years old, knelt to pray in the chapel. As she chanted, her face grew pale. She began to sway. She slumped into unconsciousness. A beggar, apparently watching her surreptitiously, claimed that a brilliant blue light enveloped her and that her comatose body rose and hovered several feet above the floor. Sister María had experienced her first trance, the springboard to a mystic life that would propel her to fame across Catholic Europe and into New Spain and the American Southwest even though physically, she never in her life left her hometown of Ágreda in the province of Soria, northeast of Madrid. She would become the quintessential expression of the mystic Spain of the 17th century, a religious descendant of figures such as the Discalced Carmelites' Santa Teresa and Jerome Gratian and the painter El Greco, who, collectively, gave voice, energy and imagery to the spiritual dimension of Spanish Catholic life. (An irony in the rise of Spain's mysticism is that Santa Teresa, a central figure in the movement, had Jewish origins - in a land which persecuted those who dared practice Judaism or even bore Jewish blood.)

During her career, Sister María would play a strange and mystic role in the exploration and colonization of New Spain and the Southwest. She would face investigation by the Inquisition. She would counsel the king of the land. She would write what may be the Church's most famous and controversial book in the realm of mysticism, The Mystical City of God. By a strange coincidence, Sister María, like Santa Teresa, had Jewish roots.

She had descended on her father's side from a Jewish convert, or "converso," who had served as the chief tax collector for the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, after they had energized the Inquisition primarily for the purpose of persecuting the Jewish people in Spain.

The Early Years
From the beginning, Sister María, the fourth child of Francis and Catherine Coronel, seemed predestined to mysticism. At her birth, on April 2, 1602, her mother called her a "special blessing" because the labor and delivery had caused relatively little suffering. As María grew into childhood, her parents - extraordinarily pious Spanish nobles who owned a castle at Ágreda - watched her development with increasing anxiety. By the time she was two, they suspected that she might be endowed with some strange gift because she had an uncommon ability to reason. When she reached four, they thought she must be hearing voices from God because she spoke and played with invisible companions. When she was six, they worried about her preoccupation with spirituality and her obsessive compassion for the poor.

The Coronels, hidalgos described as noble and modest by La Fuente in his Historia Eclesiastica de España, began to think of their daughter María as "different," indeed, a trial for the family, especially in comparison with their older children, a daughter and two sons. Mystified, they refused to accept María's explanations for voices they could not hear and correspondents they could not see. Frustrated and disappointed, they disciplined her harshly because she rejected the family's noble life. They made María feel unwanted, wounded and unloved. They watched as she withdrew into the distant and private retreats of her soul, her energies fading, her body failing.

Calling on some inner wellspring of strength at the age of eight, however, María announced to her parents that she had vowed to remain chaste and that she wished to enter a sisterhood. Four years later, she finally gained her parents' approval. She would enter the Sisters of Teresa's Convent of Saint Ann at the nearby city of Tarazona.

At this critical juncture, just as she prepared to leave her home and family, God - or Fate - intervened to alter the direction of María's life. It happened during a vision, one experienced, not by María, but by her mother, who had viewed her daughter's mysticism as so bewildering and troubling. It came as Catherine prayed. She heard a mysterious and powerful voice issue a command for her and her family to convert their castle into a convent for the Franciscan Order's Poor Clares, donate their possessions to the poor, and abandon their noble family life for the Church. She, María and her other daughter must enter the convent. Her husband must enter a monastery, as their two sons had already done. Believing the command to come directly from God, the Coronel family could only obey.

Ecstatic with the family decision, María quit her plans to enter the Sisters of Teresa's Convent. She would, instead, enter the new convent, which would be called the Franciscan Convent of the Immaculate Conception at Ágreda. She could fulfill her dream of entering a sisterhood without ever having to leave her home.

Several years later, the Coronels had completed the conversion of their castle into a convent. They had given up their possessions to the poor. The formal founding, said María in her introduction to The Mystical City of God, "...took place on the octave of the Epiphany, January 13th, 1518. On the same day we took the habit, my mother and her two daughters; and my father took refuge in the order of our seraphic Father Saint Francis, in which two of his sons had already been living as religious."

Like the other sisters, María, now a beautiful young woman of 17, clothed herself in the simple blue and gray sackcloth habit of a Franciscan nun. She bound it at the waist with a rope with three knots, which symbolized the fundamental Franciscan virtues of the order: poverty, chastity and obedience. She wore the Franciscan Crown rosary, which symbolizes the joys of the Blessed Virgin. She became Sister María a Jesus de Ágreda. At first, she would thrive in the cloistered life of the Poor Clares, the acceptance of the order's tenets, and the reach for a continual union with God. At midnight, the first of five canonical hours of the day, Sister María and the other nuns rose to pray for the impoverished, the sick and the dying. During the day, they worked tirelessly in the convent - sweeping, mending, cooking, gardening, painting, writing - to demonstrate their commitment to the three Franciscan virtues and to procure the glory of God.

As a novitiate, Sister María soared to extreme heights of piety and mysticism, but she was shocked when she won, not admiration, but rather contempt and mockery, from her abbess and the other nuns. For the second time in her life, she felt estranged, wounded, unloved. Again, she retreated into the far reaches of her soul. Again, her health began to deteriorate. In her mind's eye, she began seeing specters of the dead, ghostly images of the living, ethereal shapes of savage animals. She withdrew to pray in private, trying to purge her demons. For all her trials, she loved her sister nuns, forgave them, prayed for them. Sometime during this period, she became profoundly concerned for the native peoples of New Spain and the Southwest, their ignorance of God and the Church, the eternal loss of their souls.

"My heart seemed to be bursting out of my chest," she would say three decades later, "and pining and exhausted, I would go to the most out-of-the-way areas of the house to hide and pour out my feelings..."

At this second critical juncture, her life's course would change again as a result of the intervention by God - or Fate. This time, it happened in the wake of her abbess' alarm about the young nun's physical and emotional decline. The Mother Superior summoned the Provincial of Burgos, Fray Anthorn de Villacre, to hold an ecclesiastical examination. He questioned Sister María at great length, and he concluded at the end of the interview that Sister María a was neither foolish nor mad, but that, in fact, she had attained true sanctity, a transcendent state of spirituality.

The community of Poor Clares, shamed by their unjust humiliations of Sister María, now held her in so much esteem that she became embarrassed by the limelight of their attention, but freed of harassment and mockery, her vitality returned. She ascended to the top of her sisterhood. She was elevated to the position of abbess of the convent in 1627, at the age of 25, an appointment that required dispensation by Pope Urban VIII because of her youth. She became Señora María Jesus de Ágreda.

San Antonio Mission at the Isleta Pueblo on the Rio Grande, in central New Mexico, where Franciscan friars first learned that The Lady in Blue had made spiritual journeys from Spain to minister to the Indians of the Southwest. (Shot from the entrance into the grounds.)

The Raptures
Meanwhile, her mystic life, begun before the eyes of a beggar in 1620, intensified. Almost daily, as she prayed, her spirit soared into the realm of ecstasy, trance, rapture. She saw visions. Her mystical journeys carried her into the presence of God Himself, she told her natural mother and the sisters of her convent, and as if in answer to her prayers, He commanded her to take His message to the native peoples of New Spain, including the deserts of the Southwest.

Soon afterward, as she knelt in prayer at the foot a Cross, she entered a trance. Spiritually, she saw darkness melt into daylight. She felt the temperature of the air change. She saw bronze-skinned men and women in the vast wilderness of the Southwestern United States. They used the jawbones and teeth of animals to fashion weapons. "Their foods were primitive," she said in later years, "and for light they used wooden torches." She realized that these people, who included both nomadic hunters and gatherers and sedentary villagers and farmers, were those to whom she was to bring the word of God. She knew that she had been transported there by a process the Church calls "bi-location" or "teleportation."

Over the next decade, Sister, then Señora, María paid more than 500 spiritual visits, sometimes two or three a day, to the Indians, she said. She instructed them in the fundamentals of the Faith, speaking to them in their own language. Her spirit carried rosaries from her cell to give to her charges. She healed the sick. She won converts. She urged them to contact Franciscan friars at the missions of the Río Grande pueblos and to solicit the construction of new missions for other tribes. If necessary, she would give her life, she said, to save a single Indian soul.

She told the stories of her enraptured visions to her mother and to the other nuns in the convent, and soon the stories of the spiritual journeys of the youthful abbess spread throughout Spain, across the Atlantic and into New Spain. And to the Holy Office of the Spanish Inquisition.

Spirit to Spirit
Mexico City, the archdiocese, late 1620's: Francisco Manzo y Zuniga, archbishop elect of Mexico and member of the Royal Council of the Indies, had received a report from a fellow priest in Spain, telling of the purported spiritual journeys of Señora María Jesus de Ágreda. She had ministered, according to the report, to tribes she called the "Titlas" and the "Jumanos." The Archbishop knew that a tribe of villagers and farmers called, not "Titlas," but "Tejas," occupied a region in the northeastern reaches of Spain's American empire. He knew that a tribe of nomadic hunters and gatherers called "Jumanos" - the same name used by Señora María - occupied part of the northern Chihuahuan Desert and the southern Great Plains.

At once, Manzo y Zuniga understood the importance of the report. He knew that Spain, having failed to find treasure in the American Southwest since colonization begin in 1598, had turned her attention to conversion of the Indians - not only as a religious mission but also as a national obsession - and to expansion of empire. He knew that miraculous journeys like those claimed by Señora María would serve as powerful inspiration for his missionary priests in the Southwest and would likely prompt increased support from the crown. He knew that he had to verify the story, if he could.

San Antonio Mission at the Isleta Pueblo on the Rio Grande, in central New Mexico, where Franciscan friars first learned that The Lady in Blue had made spiritual journeys from Spain to minister to the Indians of the Southwest. (Shot from the entrance into the grounds.)

On May 18, 1628, Manzo y Zuniga drafted a letter to his missionaries in New Mexico, directing them to investigate Señora María's tales. Report back to me, he said, any tribes in the wilderness who have learned of the Catholic faith from some source other than the missionaries themselves. "This will no doubt redound in great spiritual and temporal advancement to the glory and service of our Lord," he said. He dispatched the letter with Fray Esteban Perea and 30 Franciscan friars and lay brothers, who would soon depart Mexico City on the long trek up the Camíno Real de Tierra Adentro to begin missionary service on the northern frontier.

Fray Perea would relieve Fray Alonso de Benavides, Superior of the Franciscan Missions of New Mexico since 1622 and a man renowned for his skill and bravery under the hardships of the frontier. The friars and lay brothers would reinforce the Franciscan missionary effort which had begun at the end of the 16th century. Their service had been financed from the meager treasury of Philip IV, King of Spain, who himself was destined to be touched by Señora María.

Fray Perea and his party arrived at their initial destination, the San Antonio Mission at the Isleta Pueblo on the Río Grande, in central New Mexico, on July 22, 1629, where they were welcomed by Fray Benavides. Even with all the pending business of transferring duties of the Superior and assigning missions to friars and lay brothers, the Franciscans turned anxiously to a review of the archbishop's letter. Fray Benavides must have been astonished to learn of Señora María a Jesus de Ágreda's claims that she had traveled by teleportation to minister to the Titlas, or Tejas, and the Jumano Indians. "...we were in complete ignorance of it," said Benavides, "nor had we ever heard of Mother María de Jesus." Fray Perea must have been equally astonished to learn that a delegation of 50 Indians and their principal chief had recently encamped near the Isleta Pueblo, requesting that the Franciscans send them missionaries. The Indians' tribe? Jumano!

They had come from their range somewhere to the east.

They had been visited, they said, by a woman who dressed in blue.

She had taught them about the Faith, speaking to them in their own language. She had won many converts. They wished to be baptized, to live as Christians. She had urged them to solicit missionaries.

Fray Benavides said that the Jumanos had come in increasing numbers to request missionaries every year since 1620, the year of Señora María's first mystical journeys to the Southwest. He could never meet their requests because of a shortage of friars. He said that this year, they seemed more convinced than ever that the Franciscans would answer their pleas.

Fray Juan de Salas, a veteran of frontier service under Fray Benavides, said that the Indians had told him in years past of the woman who dressed in blue - the Lady in Blue. Salas had not likely misunderstood what they had told him. He spoke several Indian dialects. He had, however, disregarded the story.

Impossible, he thought. The Church would never send a young woman - a nun! - into the wilderness alone to minister to the Indians. The Jumanos must have heard about Christianity from other Indians. He never would have dreamed that a religious figure from Spain to come only in spirit to minister on the frontier.

"We called [the Jumanos] to the convent," said Benavides. Fray García de San Francisco, who had just traveled with Fray Perea up the Camino Real, showed the Indians a small painting of Mother Luisa of Carrion, another convent of Poor Clares. An older woman, she wore the blue habit of her order.

Did the Jumanos' Lady in Blue look like the lady in the portrait?

Our woman wears a blue cloak, like the one in the picture, the Indians told the Franciscans, but ours is young and very beautiful. She comes to us from the sky. The spirit of Señora María Jesus de Ágreda? The Jumanos, almost certainly profound spiritual animists like other hunting and gathering tribes, seemed to see nothing strange in a mystical experience.

They seemed perfectly comfortable that their visitor should arrive through a celestial medium.

With the letter of Francisco Manzo y Zuniga in hand, Fray Perea, new Superior of the Franciscan Missions of New Mexico, knew that he had to investigate the Jumanos' claims more extensively. Within days, he dispatched Friar Juan de Salas, Friar Diego Lopez and three soldiers - all he could spare - to accompany the Jumanos in their return to the tribe's home range, hoping to learn more about the Lady in Blue. Father Benavides would wait for a report before departing the Southwest for Mexico City.

The friars, soldiers and Jumanos traveled hundreds of miles eastward, through the Mescalero Apache lands, crossing mountain ranges, desert basins, high plains and rolling plains.

At length, they came to a river whose waters carried red sediments from the land upstream, and they found 12 Jumanos waiting for them. The Indians, from a village of the tribe, seemed to have known just when and where to meet the friars' party. On their own, the Indians knelt and kissed the hems of the priests' robes.

They venerated the crosses that hung from the friars' necks.

Hurry, the Indians urged, their village suffered from drought, impoverishment and hunger. Their shamans had already tried to persuade them to move to a better location, but the people had elected to wait for the priests, who would come - the Lady in Blue had told them - in a matter of days. The village celebrated the missionaries' arrival with two wooden crosses, festooned with flowers decorated with the help, the people said, of the Lady in Blue. Indian women thrust their infants forward, pleading for blessings. The Indians' calls for missionaries had at last been answered.

For several days, the friars conducted masses, baptized the Indians, taught prayers and healed the sick. The word spread quickly. Other tribes, including the particularly insistent Tejas Indians, sent representatives to solicit visits to their villages.

To the disappointment of the tribes, the friars, their supplies running low, had to return to the San Antonio Mission at the Isleta Pueblo. They had to report the news to Perea and Benavides. They promised the Indians that the Franciscans would return.

With evidence in hand for the spiritual journeys of the Lady in Blue, Fray Benavides returned to Mexico City. He reported to Archbishop Francisco Manzo y Zuniga. He then left for Spain, planning to visit the Poor Clares' Convent of the Immaculate Conception at Ágreda to interview Señora María herself and investigate the story further. He would, he promised, report back to the Franciscans in the New World.

Face to Face
North-Central Spain, the Franciscan Poor Clares' Convent of the Immaculate Conception at Ágreda, late April 1631: Fray Alonso de Benavides interviewed Señora María Jesus de Ágreda. He wrote reports on the interview to Spain's king, Philip IV, and to the Pope, Urban VIII, and he wrote his promised report to his Franciscan brethren in the New World.

"First of all, I must state," said Benavides, "that María a de Jesus... has a beautiful face, very white, although rosy, with large black eyes. Her habit... is the same as our habit. It is made of coarse gray sackcloth, worn next to the skin, without any other tunic, skirt or underskirt. Over this gray habit comes the one of white sackcloth, coarse, with a scapulary of the same material, and the cord of our father, Saint Francis. Over the scapulary there is a rosary. [The nuns of the convent] wear no sandals or any other footwear except some boards tied to their feet, or some hemp sandals. Their cloak is of heavy blue sackcloth. They wear a black veil.

"She told me so many tales of this country," said Benavides, "that I did not even remember them myself, and she brought them back to my mind.

"...this blessed Mother told me that she had been present with me at the baptism of the Pizos [Piros, a Pueblo tribe of New Mexico] and she recognized me as the one she had seen there. Likewise she had helped Father fray Crostobal Quiros with some baptisms, giving a minute description of his person and face... ...once when the father was in his church baptizing, many Indians came in and all crowded around the door and that she with her own hands pushed them on, getting them to their places so that they would not hinder him; they looked to see who was pushing them and they laughed when they were unable to see who did it...

"She also told me all we know that has happened to our brothers and fathers, fray Juan de Salas and fray Diego Lopez, in the journeys to the Jumanas [at the village near the river with the waters laden with red sediments], and that she asked the latter and instructed them to go and call the fathers, as they did. She gave me all their descriptions, adding that she assisted them.

"...it seems to me that her answer is going to bring your paternities great consolation and encouragement..."

In her own letter to the Franciscan missionaries, Señora María said, "The events which I have reported [to Benavides during the interview] happened to me from the year 1620 to the present year, 1631, in the kingdoms of Quivira [Gran Quivira, one of the Salinas Pueblos in east central New Mexico] and the Jumanas, which were the last ones where I was transported..."

The Inquisition Comes Calling
Like a magnet, Señora María's fame as a mystic drew the attention of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, which believed that those who claimed a supremely important mystical inner light - "alumbrados," they were called - raised a potential new kind of threat to the Faith. In the 16th century, alumbrados challenged ecclesiastical authority and priestly functions. They claimed extraordinary spiritual powers. Some translated mysticism into sexual orgies, holding that sexual union between man and woman equaled holy union between man and God Himself. Alumbrados died at the stake in an auto de fé (euphemistically, a "proceeding of faith") in Sevilla in 1630 and in others in Toledo in the early 1640's. Alumbrados ranked close to Jews, Moors and Protestants as foes of the Inquisition.

Señora María, a possible alumbrado mindful of her Jewish roots, came under investigation by the Inquisition in 1635 and in 1649. Under pressure of the Holy Office, she argued that she did the work of the Church during her spiritual journeys, which ended, not in 1631, as she had said originally, but in 1623.

Ultimately, in a report to Fray Pedro Manero, General Director of the Order of Our Father Saint Francis, she said, "Whether or not I really and truly went in my body is something about which I cannot be certain. ...it is not surprising I have questions in my mind...

"Still, it seems to me that at times I would see the world at night in some places while in others it was day, in some the weather was calm and in others rainy, and I beheld the sea and its beauty. But all of this could have been the effect of the Lord showing it to me..." Señora María never had to stand trial, possibly because of yet another intervention by God, or Fate, specifically, a visit by the king, Philip IV.

A New Friendship
The Franciscan Poor Clares' Convent of the Immaculate Conception at Ágreda, 1643: Philip IV, presiding over the implosion of the Spanish empire, en route to the battlefields of Aragon and his war with France, took a detour expressly to meet Señora María face to face for the first time. He came to seek her solace and counsel. In a strangely forged friendship, a Franciscan nun with Jewish heritage, became, by mutual understanding, the king's moral superior and his intellectual equivalent. She described herself as the doctor and Philip IV, as her patient.

While Spain sank into a tar pit of rebellion, warfare and financial collapse, Philip IV yielded vision and leadership to "Favorites," relying on Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, other ministers and patchwork councils and juntas to save Spain.

The king spent himself in sexual orgy, dispatching his stream of mistresses to the convent as he tired of them. Tormented by guilt, he lay for hours in his burial niche in the Pantheon of the Infantes at La Escorial, contemplating his death. He exchanged letters almost weekly with Señora María for two decades.

She advised him on politics, warfare and finances. And morals. "Everyone deceives the king," she wrote. "Lord, this monarchy is coming to an end and everyone who does not try to set this right will burn in hell." As always, she fretted about the poor. "Your Majesty should command your advisors to take pity on the helpless poor and your hardpressed vassals, not laying any new burdens on them or wringing blood and sweat from their brows by depriving them of life's necessities." She even called on her visionary power to relay consoling words to the king from his dead son Baltasar Carlos.

In the end, Señora María proved to be a better mystic than advisor. Philip IV sired 30 illegitimate children, and Spain's downward spiral continued.

The Mystical City of God
In her journeys by teleportation, or bi-location, to New Spain, Señora María gave impetus to the Franciscan enterprise of converting the Indians to the Church. In her investigation by the Inquisition, she eluded the flames. In her correspondence with a king, she called futilely for morality and reason in governance.

In The Mystical City of God, Señora María tells, in exhaustive detail, the story of her most extraordinary mystic adventure - her spiritual meetings with the Virgin Mary. Touching on one of the rawest nerves in 17th century Christendom, she portrayed the Virgin, often in graphic detail, as a full partner and spiritual equal to her son, Jesus. Señora María first began to think about writing the work in 1627, about the time she became abbess of her convent. "I received many commands from the Most High and from the Queen of heaven to write her holy life, and I continued with fear and doubt to resist these heavenly commands during all that time until the year 1637, when I began to write it for the first time," she said in Chapter I. She produced 400 pages in the first 20 days. At the direction of a confessor, who believed that women should not write, she later burned the finished manuscript as well as other works, but that was not the end of it. "...I had to endure most severe reproaches on this account from my superiors and from the confessor, who knew my whole life. In order to force me to rewrite this history, they threatened me with censures. The Most High and Queen of heaven also repeated their commands that I obey. By divine favor I began re-writing this history on the eighth of December, 1655, on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

"I saw a great and mysterious sign in heaven; I saw a Woman, a most beautiful Lady and Queen, crowned with the stars, clothed with the sun, and the moon was at her feet. The holy angels spoke to me: 'This is that blessed Woman, whom Saint John saw in the Apocalypse... I was made to see such wonders.'"

Relying on her mystical contacts with the Virgin Mother, Señora María told a detailed story that greatly transcended the Bible or other early Christian works. At the end of each chapter she reported on her spiritual conversations with the Virgin, who explained the significance of the experiences.

The Mystical City of God would grow to monumental proportions, with the English translation reaching four volumes and 2676 pages.

It did not appear in print until 1670, five years after Señora María died at her convent on May 24, 1665, at the age of 63. Over time, her book prompted intense controversy, especially over the issue of Immaculate Conception. In Rome in 1681, the Inquisition condemned the book. Pope Innocent XI forbade the faithful (outside of Spain) to read it. At the Sorbonne in Paris in 1696, an assembly of scholars rejected the book. A half century later, however, The Mystical City of God found acceptance.

It has now been published, with Church approval, dozens of times in several languages. It is an enduring monument to Señora María Jesus de Ágreda.

The Continuing Legend
While few on New Spain's northern frontier and the Southwest had even heard of The Mystical City of God, the legend of the Lady in Blue continued to grow in the region long after her death. In the 1680's, the Spanish mounted an entrada into Texas, not only to tighten the nation's grip on empire, not only to bring Christianity to the Indians, but also to investigate the Indians' continuing stories about spiritual visits by the nun from Ágreda, the Lady in Blue. Because of her instrumental role in prompting the early colonization of the state, Señora Maríaa Jesus de Ágreda can fairly be regarded at the Mother of Texas.

In 1690, a quarter of a century after Señora María's death, a Tejas Indian chief in eastern Texas asked Damian Manzanet, a Franciscan missionary, for a piece of blue baize in which to bury his mother. He specified blue, the missionary said, "because in times past [the Tejas Indians] had been visited frequently by a very beautiful woman, who used to come down from the heights, dressed in blue garments, and they wished to be like that woman."

In 1690, during a visit by the Jesuit missionaries Fray Eusebio Kino and Fray Juan Matheo Manje to the Pima, Yuma and other villages in Arizona, the Indians told them, said Manje, that, "A beautiful white woman carrying a cross came to their lands. She was dressed in white, gray, and blue... She spoke to them, shouted, and harangued them... The tribes of the Río Colorado shot her with arrows and twice left her for dead. But coming to life, she left by air."

Some reports, without offering sources, have suggested that the Lady in Blue continued to make appearances in the Southwest until well into the 20th century.

Today, more than three centuries after her death, Señora María's body lies in a small crypt at her convent in Ágreda. According to some reports, the corpse, like those of a few Catholic mystics and saints, has never decayed. A Spanish physician, Andreas Medina, who examined the body said, "What surprised me about this case is that when we compared the state of the body, as it was described in the medical report from 1909, with how it appeared in 1989, we realized it had absolutely not deteriorated at all in the last eighty years."

More strange tales in Jay's book Texas Unexplained.

eBook texas unexplained

 

 

Important Sources

The Blue Nun, TMB Web Site, Internet

Bolton, H. E., "The Spanish Occupation of Texas", The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, July, 1912

Evans, E. H., "The Mysterious Lady in Blue", Arizona Highways, September, 1959

Fehrenbach, T. R., Lone Star, A History of Texas and the Texans, Collier Books, A Division of the Macmillan Publishing Company, New York

Hodge, F. W., Hammond, G.P., Rey, A., Fray Alonso de Benavides, Revised Memorial of 1634, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque

Karney, B., Mary Ágreda, "The Lady in Blue," A Study of Mary of Ágreda, Spain -- Seventeenth Century Franciscan Abbess, Web Site, Internet

Kenney, M. M., "Tribal Society Among Texas Indians", The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume I, July, 1897, to April, 1898

McCaleb, Spanish Missions of Texas, The Naylor Company, San Antonio, Texas

Miller, R. R., Mexico: A History, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman and London

Schmitt, E. J. P., "Ven. María Jesus de Ágreda: A Correction", The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume I, July, 1897, to April, 1898

Shea, J. G., History of the Catholic Missions Among the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1529 - 1854, AMS Press, New York

Williams, M., The Story of Spain, Ediciones Santana, S. L., Malaga Spain

Yoakum, Esq., H., History of Texas From Its First Settlement in 1685 to its Annexation to the United States in 1846, Facsimile Reproduction, The Steck Company, Austin, Texas


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Profile of the Spanish Franciscan Missionary
The Native American Peoples of Our Western Deserts
Life on the Margin: the Jumanos, Sumas and Mansos
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Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly NM offers the opportunity to learn about Southwestern Indian history from the earliest Anasazi to the Navajo Indians who live and farm here today. Its primary attractions are ruins of Indian villages built between 350 and 1300 AD at the base of sheer red cliffs and in canyon wall caves.

Laughlin - Lake Mohave - Colorado River
In the summer, Katherine's Landing at the southern end of Lake Mohave is a hub of activity. It has fuel, a general store, a restaurant and a snack bar. The Colorado River south of the dam offers many recreational opportunities. Take a look at this river destination!

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