Was This Statue Of ‘Our Lady Of The Forsaken’, Carved By Angels?  

Was This Statue Of ‘Our Lady Of The Forsaken’, Carved By Angels?  

She is the patroness of the city of Valencia, Spain, and the statue dates back to a priest’s desire to help the bullied. 

Legend tells, on 24 February 1409, a Friday at the beginning of Lent, a  mercedarian priest called Father Joan Gilabert Jofréwas on his way from the convent on Mercy Square to St. Catherine’s (Santa Catalina) cathedral church in Valencia, Spain to say Mass. On the way, on Silverworks Street, (now Martin Mengod Street) he witnessed the lynching of a mentally ill man and intervened to save the man. 

Father Jofre hurried over to the small crowd and demanded they stop hurting one of God’s children. Father Jofre rescued the man, who suffered from mental illness, and brought him to the Mercedarian monastery where he was given shelter and had his wounds tended to. The following Sunday at Mass, he preached his first homily about the mentally ill.

In the homily, he included a plea for funds to start a place to care for and shelter people afflicted with mental illness. 

A manuscript of Manuel Calvo dated 22 December 1848, reads:

“En la present ciutat ha molta obra pia é de gran caritat é sustentació: emperò una n’hi manca, que’s de gran necessitat, so es un hospital o casa on los pobres innocents é furiosos fossen acollits car molts pobres, innocents e furiosos van per aquesta ciutat, los cual passen gran desayres de fam e de fret e injuries, per tal como sa innocènsia i furor no saben guanyar ni demanar lo que han menester en sustentació de llur vida, e perço dormen per les carreres e perijen de fam e de fret, e moltes malvades persones no havent Deu devant sa consciència; los fan moltes injuries e senyaladament allà aon les troben endormits, los nafren i maten y algunes fembres innocents; aconteix així mateix que los pobres furiosos fan dany a mòltes persones anant per la ciutat. Aquestes coses son noties a tota la ciutat de València, perquè serià sancta cosa é obra molt sancta que en la ciutat de València fos feta una habitació ó hospital en què semblants folls é innocents estiguessin en tal manera que no anassen per la ciutat ni poguessin fer dany ni els en fos fet”.

Translated, the passage reads:

“In this city, one finds many very important pious and charitable works; however, there is one great need, and that is a hospital or a house where the innocent, the poor and the mad can be cared for. There are many such people wandering this city, suffering from cold and hunger because they cannot earn a living or ask for help. They sleep on the streets, starving and cold. Many wicked people, who do not have God in their hearts insult them, point at them when they are asleep, injure and kill them and rape innocent women. It also happens that some of those who are mad attack citizens on the streets. Everyone in Valencia knows this. It would be a very good thing, a very Holy work if Valencia were to build a house or a hospital where the innocent poor and the mad could be housed so that they would not be on the streets being hurt nor making trouble.”

He was so forceful in his words that the merchants, craftsmen, and businessmen at the Mass gave generously. The money became available, and before long a home and hospital were opened and dedicated to the Blessed Mother under the title of “Our Lady of Innocents.”

On August 29, 1414, a Brotherhood was founded and dedicated to caring for the mentally ill. It was called the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Insane and the Forsaken Innocents.

A situation arose that resulted in the name soon being changed: A famine had struck the land, and many children had been orphaned. The Brotherhood quickly extended its care to not only the mentally ill but to the many orphaned children wandering the streets of Valencia. They refined the title, and the new dedication was to Our Lady of the Forsaken.

Father Jofre and his brother friars realized the hospital was lacking a prayer room. They built an oratory and when they were finished, knew it was missing something; that something was a statue of their patroness, Our Lady of the Forsaken. Since there was no such statue, they entered into prayer for help in acquiring one.

Legend has it that soon after, three handsome young men knocked on the door seeking refuge. They offered to carve the needed statue as payment for allowing them to stay. They only asked to be left alone to work for at least three days. The friars accepted the offer.

As the three days went by, the three young men remained locked inside the room. The Friars would listen by the door, but no sound was ever heard. At the end of the third day, they again knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Finally, they forced open the door only to find the three men gone. Who were these handsome men? Their identity was never discovered but most folks quickly came to believe they were angels sent by God. Thus began the legend called “Elferen els angels” — “Made by the Angels.”

What the Friars found in the center of the room was a magnificent statue that the men had created. Miracles began to happen, starting with the wife of a member of the Brotherhood. Paralyzed and blind, she was completely cured. 

The statue was considered “majestic and protective.” The people saw in the depiction of Our Lady a representation of goodness, mercy, and assistance.

In 1885 the statue was named the Virgen de los Desamparados or Our Lady of the Forsaken and declared the Patroness of Valencia.

Today, there is a Basilica of Our Lady of the Forsaken in Valencia, where the statue is on display. Every year on the second Sunday of May, a huge festival is held in honor of Our Lady of the Forsaken. As St. Bonaventure said:

When all human help fails, it is imperative that we not despair. For normally in this extreme situation, the divine help of Mary comes.

Virgen de Los DesamparadosOur Lady of the Forsaken, please pray for us.

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