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Servants of the Lord & the Virgin of Matará

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The Cross of Matará

In 1971, the Cross of Matará was rediscovered near the Salado River. The tradition existed that the Cross sustained the indigenous groups who lived there in Matará and that they considered the Cross to have supernatural powers. In honor of the Cross, the Argentine Episcopal Conference choose it to adorn the cover of the Roman Missal in 1982.

The origins of this cross date back to the 16th century, approximately 100 years after the discovery of America. Made from mistol (an indigenous tree), the Cross is composed of two parts: the vertical piece of wood that measures 47 centimeters in length and the horizontal piece that measures 17 centimeters. They are united by wooden two nails and have been assembled perfectly. The tapered lower extreme of the vertical beam was undoubtedly designed to be placed in a wooden base, and thus permit the Cross to remain free-standing.

During the 16th century, the Jesuits established various missions throughout South America in order to evangelize the native people. Because these people did not have writing, the Jesuits could not leave them the teachings of the Gospel in books. But so that they would be able to remember and to teach others, they decided to carve the mysteries of the faith in wood. This was how the Cross of Matará was born. It is a special cross containing the good news of the Gospel inscribed on its surface with drawings—the same Gospel that drew the first missionaries to the lands of the Americas.

Through the artistic work with its particular signs and images, one can encounter an entire message deposited in the Cross. Therefore we will try to penetrate the significance or symbolism they represent.

The motifs perfectly cover the entire surface of the Cross, except for three sectors that do not present a single symbol and where you can appreciate the virgin wood, its conserved state in good condition. In order to study it better, we have divided the Cross into five parts.