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Crystal Caravel Chandeliers – San Luis Potosí, Mexico

The ex-votos are a guy Tribute that is common in Roman Catholicism. In Mexico they are mostly votive images (like those in the former monastery of Churubusco), created in honor of a saint or figure, either to thank them for a miracle or a favor already received, or in the hope of a future one. In San Luis Potosí, however, a special pair of ex-voters continues to cause intrigue in the Basilica of Guadalupe and the Church of San Francisco.

These ex-votos date from 1788 and were probably made by Joseph Antonio Otaegui. They are shaped like the caravel, a boat used on Portuguese and Spanish colonial expeditions. Otaegui is known to have built at least one other lost Murano glass boat chandelier – although some believe it could have been seven in total. The three caravels would correspond to the footage used by Christopher Columbus and his crew on their first trip to America: La Pinta, La Niña and La Santa María.

Legend has it that the caravel chandeliers were commissioned as a tribute by seafarers who believed they had been saved from shipwreck by Saint Francis Assisi himself and were originally donated to the Church of Saint Francis in the city of Real de Catorce. The church authorities found the chandeliers too remarkable for the city and decided to relocate them to the state capital, San Luis Potosí.

Well known in the city, the two surviving caravels even became the subject of a work by the famous poet Ramón López Velarde.

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