The predominant religion in Matamoros is Roman Catholicism with 85% of the population. Every year on July 4th, the coronation of the Our Lady of Refuge is remembered with a procession in honor of the patroness of the city and a fair with mechanical games, vintages and concerts of religious music.
According to legend, the Jesuit missionary Juan José Güica brought the painting of the Nuestra Señora de Refugio from Italy to Mexico in 1720, following a dream, in which the Virgin asked him to promote devotion to this image to the Franciscans of Zacatecas.
Therefore, the duplications began and over 150 copies were distributed according to the indications of the Holy Virgin. The Lady of Refuge, thus, became one of the best known and most prayed images in Mexico.
In 1793 the Franciscan friars settled in what would later become the current Matamoros, renaming the area with the name of “Nuestra Señora del Refugio de los Esteros Hermosos” (Our Lady of Refuge of the Beautiful Marshes).
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Refuge was built in 1832. Its feast, celebrated in many Mexican cities, commemorates the coronation of the original painting “Refugium Peccatorum” (Refuge of sinners) in the Jesuit church of Frascati in Italy, on July 4, 1717.
In the place of the current Italian church of Frascati, in 1520 there was a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, built at the behest of the feudal lord Lucrezia Della Rovere; shortly afterwards annexed to the church, Monsignor Alessandro Rufini had a chapel erected dedicated to Mary Magdalene.
The two churches are entrusted respectively to the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the chapter of church of Santa Maria in Vivario. In 1554 the congregation of the town nobles began the construction on the site of the current church, adjacent to the other two churches, of an oratory of the nobles, unfinished due to lack of funds.
On 1st March 1560 the Jesuit Fathers, in the person of Father Organtino Gnero, took possession of the church of the Blessed Virgin, the chapel of the Magdalene and the adjacent complexes, giving start to their presence in the city. In 1595, the Jesuits and the Congregation of the Nobles decided to rebuild a single church on the site of the current one, and in 1597 the building was completed, named after Blessed Maria Annunziata (Our Lady of the Annunciation). On November 30, 1694 the Jesuits decided to expand the church. The consecration took place on February 14, 1773 by cardinal bishop Enrico Stuart, duke of York.
PRAYER to OUR MARY, REFUGE OF SINNERS
Mary, most holy, Refuge of Sinners, Most Holy Virgin, who bear in your beautiful title the memory and promise of many graces, here we are, full of confidence at your feet. How many times, Mary, have you prayed for health, rain or peace to the prayers of the peoples you protect! Implore also the health and serenity of our souls by keeping away from us the storm of sin. Be the refuge for sinners and especially be our refuge in the hour of death so that the soul expiring in your arms might be gathered in those of Jesus in paradise. Amen.