The image of the Blessed Virgin Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus dates back to the 16th century in the Spanish city of Madrid where she is called Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery). In 1598, the image was rescued from irreverent hands and enthroned in the home of a married couple. The woman and her unborn child were to die and her husband prayed intently to our Lady of La Leche to grant his wife a safe delivery. Our Lady heard his prayer and thereupon, his dying pregnant wife and child were saved. Together, the couple spread the news to other families about our Lady’s power with God. Soon after, the devotion became famous throughout Spain. Becoming aware of our Lady’s intercession, King Philip III, who was the ruler during that time, personally undertook the erection of a shrine in honor of our Lady of La Leche.
More than twenty years later, the early Spanish settlers brought a replica to the United States and enshrined it at the Mission of Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, Florida. It was the first shrine ever to be dedicated to the Blessed Mother in the United States and was established on the very spot where the first parish Mass was offered 55 years earlier. The original chapel, built around 1615, was destroyed by gunfire during the colonial days and later, by a hurricane. The present chapel now houses a replica of the original statue that was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War of March 13, 1936.