Our Lady of Pucha, Valencia (1223)
According to tradition, the image of Our Lady of Pucha, or Nuestra Senora del Puche, was fashioned by the angels, and made of the very stone of the sacred sepulcher where the most holy body of the Mother of God lay hidden for three days.
After the assumption of the great Queen into Heaven, the holy angels took the statue they had created from Gethsemani to Puche, placing it in a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The statue of Our Lady of Pucha remained there until it was buried beneath a large bell by the religious who lived at that first monastery at Puche when the Moors entered into Spain at the time of the Goths.
This statue remained in the earth for well over 500 years until Divine providence facilitated the happy discovery by the great servant of God Saint Peter Nolasco, founder and patriarch of the Royal Order of Mercy, the year 1237. Saint Peter Nolasco witnessed on four consecutive Saturdays that seven strange lights looking like seven stars were observed at night over the same place. They would seem to drop from heaven seven times, and disappear into the earth, always in the same place. Saint Peter felt certain that this strange phenomenon had a meaning and purpose; so he commanded men to dig about the spot. They had not gone far into the earth when they came upon a bell of prodigious size, beneath which was a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary. Saint Peter took it up in his arms, recognizing it as a valuable gift from heaven, and built an altar upon the very spot where it was buried. This altar became very celebrated for the number of miracles performed there.
The discovery of the sacred image of Our Lady of Pucha was a powerful encouragement to King James I of Aragon, who was resolved to finish the conquest of Valencia at that time. He credited Our Lady of Puche, and the prayers of Saint Peter Nolasco, for his conquest when he received into his hands the keys to the city of Valencia from the Moors. He acclaimed Our Lady of Puche the Patroness of Valencia, and of his entire kingdom.
The holy image was always considered miraculous, and was universally revered throughout Christendom. Popes and kings, and very many people the greatest holiness and nobility came on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Pulce. The powerful protection of Our Lady of Puche was confirmed through many long years, for whenever there was a dangerous storm threatening, the bells in the church bell tower would ring and people would again witness the wonder of the seven stars.
The angels could also often be heard singing soft melodies and sweetest chants in the choir of the church that were heard by the religious, filling their hearts with heavenly rejoicing.
It is recorded that a boy named Jose Carbonell, the son of Agustin Carbonell, was pushed by another boy and fell with his arm landing in the path of a heavy cart. The boy’s arm was crushed so severely that it was soon considered necessary for a surgeon to cut off the arm to save the child’s life.
The following morning the boy’s father went to work at his brother’s farm, from which he could see the church of Our Lady of Pulce. He prayed as he worked with humble supplication and many tears. At the end of the day the father returned home to find the surgeon had just arrived and was undoing the bandages over the boy’s injured arm. Once it was unwrapped, the surgeon cried out, “Gentlemen, what is this? This arm is good and healthy!” In recognition of the favor, the boy eventually took the habit of the Religious of Our Lady of Mercy.
The heavenly image of Our Lady of Puche was eventually taken from Puche to Valencia at the request of the Catholic monarch Philip II. The people followed the venerable Patriarch Don Juan de Ribera, Archbishop of Valencia, on foot in solemn procession on Sunday, 17 July, 1588. All was done with the same solemnity with which the procession of the Blessed Sacrament occurred in this famous city.
The praises of the angels could be heard for sixteen nights in the holy church of Valencia, and the wonder of the seven stars was frequently seen, filling with inexpressible joy the witnesses both inside and outside of Valencia. It is known that the stars have appeared many times on the bell tower of the church of Our Lady of Pucha since then, and not only in ancient times, but they were especially noted between the years 1723 to 1758.