SAN ANGELO, Texas — On the morning of September 24, 2022, Kay Campbell, expert and guide at The Painted Rocks Native American pictograph site recreated the unique, 1,000-year-old images of the famous pictograph site at the Lady in Blue sculpture monument in downtown San Angelo. The legend behind this figure marked the beginning of Christianity in West Texas starting in what is now present-day San Angelo.
Mrs. Campbell painted the rocks around the Lady in Blue sculpture monument with a process used long ago which consisted of grinding hematite and mixing it with fats to penetrate the limestone rocks. This work is part of the preparation for the dedication of the sculptured monument in the spring of 2023.
The bronze sculpture created by international sculptor, Vic Payne recognizes the historical and cultural contributions of the Jumano Indian Nation to the history of the State of Texas including the 17th-century appearance of the Catholic nun Sor María de Jesús de Agreda, also known as “The Lady in Blue,” to the Jumano people beginning their conversion to Christianity.
From 1620 to approximately 1631 according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Angelo records have shown that the Lady in Blue made more than 500 appearances to the native people without ever leaving her monastery in Agreda. The Jumanos did not know María Agreda by her name but claimed that their knowledge of the Catholic faith had been taught to them by a beautiful young woman who had been wearing a dazzling blue cape.
The lovingly given nickname, “The Lady in Blue,” came from her blue robes worn by members of the Order of the Immaculate Conception who were also known as Conceptionists. Across the Atlantic Ocean, María Agreda resided in a Franciscan convent located in Agreda, Spain, in the province of Soria and by the age of 18 she was said to have been able to describe in great detail the Jumanos and the other Indian tribes in the American Southwest without ever having set foot outside her convent.
Records have indicated that the Lady in Blue was seen in what would later become West Texas, near present-day San Angelo. According to Bishop Emeritus Michael Pfeifer, the historical markers placed on Rio Concho Avenue serve as reminders of where the first Mass was celebrated between the Franciscans and Jumanos which is said to have been orchestrated by the Lady in Blue securing San Angelos’s place in Texas History. This first missionary effort is recorded to have happened more than 45 years before El Paso and more than 80 years before San Antonio according to Authentic Texas.
María Agreda passed away in 1665 and her remains can still be viewed at the convert where she once lived. Currently, the ecclesiastical authorities in Texas and New Mexico are working with the Vatican to initiate the beatification process that will lead to her sainthood.
In Jumano tradition it is said that as she was leaving from her final visit everywhere her blue cape brushed bluebonnets sprouted, forever memorializing her in the very soil of Texas history.