VIRGIN OF REGLA
A. History of the Virgin ReglaAlthough devotion for the Virgin Regla has dark parts (like the origin of the “Regla” name or how the religius image was brought into the Ponce de Leon Hermit) we do have a bibliography on the Sanctuary and the Regla Virgin.
It all started with the image of the Virgin of Regla, the image worship began in the XIV Century in the Guzmanes Castle. This is a wood carving image of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic stile, although Leyend, as is usual, has it that the image came from ancient times, in this case, from St. Agustin time.
B. First Stage (1399-1600)In the first stage, the Virgin was venerated in the Castle hermit. As result of the heroic deed in the siege of Tarifa , in 1294, King Sancho IV granted Alonso Pérez de Guzman the place between the mouths of the rivers Guadalquivir and Guadalete. Alonso was obliged to build three Castles, one in Trebujena, other in Regla and another one in Rota to defend the frontier. Some years later, he married off his daughter Hernán Pérez Ponce de Leon, and give Rota town as dowry, whose municipalty included Regla Castle (Chipiona started to be considered as a town from 1490).
The battle of Salado, in 1340, displaced the reconquest frontier inside, consequenty, the Ponce de Leon Castle lost his strategic value and was converted into an augustinian monastery. Augustinians arrived Regla in 1399, but at that time the devotion to Virgin Regla was already established in the region.
The donation letter given by the Ponce de León in 1399, recomended works to convert the Castle into a Church and authorized augustinian community: “in this Hermit we could build the cementery and the bell tower and everything else needed to found the monastery”.
The work began early. The convent was built around two bigs courtyards. Next to the mudejar cloister were built several convent spaces such as the porter´s lodge, the chapter house and the refectory; the rooms were set in the first floor.
During the XVI Century the monastery increases its net worth with vineyards, pinewoods and fishing corrals, but remained a poor monastery,and was only enough to survive. What really increased in the area was the devotion for Virgin Regla. Proof of its importance is the Eugenio IV papal bull of 1445, in 1478. The pope in reply to a community request, granted indulgences to the faithful who “devoutly visits the monastery and the church”.
C. Second Stage (1601-1835)During XVII Century continued increasing the devotion and the fame of Virgin Regla. Fishermen and sailors used to go the santuary to thank the favors of the sailors virgin. Because of its location, ships going to or returning from America, saluted the virgin, whose monastery was the last thing the sailors saw before entering the ocean. “There are no any ship in our nation, and many others from abroad, sailing alone or in squad, which does not saludate our Lady when discovering her house, with numerous salvos of artillery, when going in or out from Cádiz, whose waters are far away the windows and outside land of the monastery”.
The Century XVIII marked a turning point. The new Bourbon dinasty and the permanent looted by pirates, the loss of the power of the nobility and, consequently, the loss of the help of the Arcos and Medina Sidonia dukes and so on. All these circumstances made the Sanctuary lost its importance. Nevertheless, along XVIII the worship increased with ornate baroque rituals, novenas, conventual procesions, and so on. Horozco said that it was the “religious image with greater devotion in this land, with several and clear miracles”.
Devotion to the Virgin Regla was brought to other places like America and Philippines by sailors and missionaries. Nowadays is venerated in Bani (Dominican Republic); in Tovar, Venezuela, where this Virgin is the city Patron from 1709; holder of Cathedral´s Chihuahua (Mexico); she is also venerated in San Pedro de los Milagros, (Colombia), and also from XVIII in Regla Parish, in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu Philippine Island.
D. Third Stage (1935-1882)The disentailment of ecclesiastical property. Those years dropped like a stone on the Sanctuary and Regla convent: the properties were taken, indluding the archives and the library, and even the cloister tiles. The virgin image was carried to the Parish. Regla sanctuary was then one kilometer away from the town and remained abandoned for 15 years.
Under these cirumstances, the infants of Orleans visited the Sanctuary on July 1, 1851. Anoine de Latour, the secretary who accompanied the infantants, in the written testimony of the visit, talked about the bad conditions of the church. The ilustrius entourage has the opportunity to see the broken walls and the abandoned building. The infant decided the monastery has to return to what it was in the past.
De Latour said legislation did not allow to restore the conditions abolished to the members of the religious order, including augustinians, but it was posible to rebuilt the church. . “Les Infants ne le pensares pas. Aussitot, par leer soins, une liste de souscription courut sur toute la côte et dns les villes voisines, et, des une liste de souscription courut sur toute la côte et dans les villes voisines, et, des l´anne suivant, au mois de septiembre, la cloche du monastere, retrouvée souys les flots, annonçait joyeusement a toute la contrée que Notre-Dame de Regla allait reprendre posesión de son sanctuaire”
On September 7, 1852, the virgin came back to the old altar; after a crowdy procesion which brought back the virgin to her place. The infants appointed a chaplain in charge of the custody and cult of the Sanctuary.
E. Fourth Stage: Arrival of the Franciscans (1882)This long parenthesis in history which started in 1835 was closed in Septiember 1882, whith the arrival of the franciscan community, in a solemn mass presided by the Bishop of Cadiz, accompanied by the provincial authorities, the crew of navy ship “Vulcano” and the population of the town. That day started a new stage.
With the arrival of franciscans the cult adquieres its higher Glory. In few years the Community reached almost a hundred members, that resides attend the training needs (Regla became a school to train missionaires bound for the Holy Land and Morocco) and restore the broken building walls, they rised the cult and reachad a high importance in the liturgical function. The popular devotion is shown not Orly in the crowded procesión every September 8, but also in the daily mass in the sanctuary, becoming a pilgrimages center.
Ntra. Sra. De Regla Sanctuary remains being the place to where people from Andalucia continues visiting this virgin. But it is also a place where important mess are celebrated, where the organ and the choir perform gregorian cant and the annual sacred polyphony. Regla is a place with teachers, library, preachers, converences…This new situation gave great importante to the Sanctuary. An ephemeris took place in 1954, when the pontifical delegate, Cardinal Segura, canonically crowded the Virgin Regla, in a public act prepared by franciscans in which villagers, visitors and people from Sanlucar, Jerez and El Puerto de Santa María participated. Newspapers and “Regla”, monthly magazine of religious information (then, published in the Sanctuary) covered in detail the information of the event.
In conclusión, is not easy to summarize the history of the image, so we have only emphasized the most important events along its more six centuries of history.
The leyend tells us that, when Hippo was besieged by Vandals, disciples of St. Agustine, Bishop of this African City, fled by boat with the Virgin image. According to this legend the image would come from year 300 AD, and was commissioned by St. Augustin to be placed in his oratory.
On July 2, 443, the sea took the boat to Chipiona coast, and there they founded a monastery on the ruins of any older construction. When the arrival of the Arabs, the prior Simon, in 713, hid the image, some mess utensiles and a burning candle, into a well under a fig tree.
In 1330 a Canon from Leon Cathedral, who was crossing the Iberian peninsula sat to rest under a fig tree, then he had a vision revelated him where the virgin had been hid for 617 years. In that place was placed a cross, and some years later the Ponce de León family donated his Castle to become a church where people could worship the virgin.
Jesus España (Franciscan Community)
Juan Luis Naval (chronicler of the town)