Feast of the Virgin of Almudena in Madrid Date in the current year: November 9, 2024

Feast of the Virgin of Almudena in Madrid The feast of the Virgin of Almudena (Virgin de la Almudena), celebrated on November 9, is a major holiday in Madrid since she serves as the city’s patron saint. It is a public holiday in the municipality.

The Virgin of Almudena is a medieval icon of the Virgin Mary. According to the most widespread legend about the origin of the statue, it was brought to Spain by Apostle James the Great. In 712, local residents hid the image of the Virgin inside the walls surrounding Madrid to protect it from being captured by the advancing Muslim forces. That’s how the image got its name: it is believed to have been derived from the Arabic term “Al Mudayna”, which means “fortress” or “citadel”.

In 1085, King Alfonso VI León and Castile, also known as Alfonso the Brave, reconquered Madrid from the Moors, and his soldiers began to search for the statue. After days of fruitless searching, the residents began to pray, and a miracle happened; the part of the wall hiding the icon crumbled, revealing the statue and two burning candles.

The original statue (if it truly existed) has not survived to this day. The image of the Virgin of Almudena that is currently housed in Almudena Cathedral is made in the late Gothic style and was probably created in the late 15th or early 16th century.

Almudena Cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Royal of La Almudena (Santa María la Real de La Almudena), is the archiepiscopal see of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. Its cornerstone was laid in 1883 by King Alfonso XIII, who wanted to be buried there alongside his first wife, Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans. The cathedral is assumed to have been build on the site of a medieval mosque destroyed by Alfonso VI’s forces during the reconquest of Madrid.

The initial project of the cathedral, designed in the Gothic revival style, was created by Francisco de Cubas, a renowned architect and politician. In 1911, the burial vault of the cathedral was opened, so that Maria de las Mercedes’ remains could be re-interred there. However, the cathedral was not finished because the construction was abandoned during the Spanish Civil War.

When the construction resumed after World War II, the project designed by de Cubas was altered. New architects adapted it to a Baroque exterior that would match the Royal Palace, located across the plaza from the cathedral. As a result, both facades and the dome of Almudena Cathedral are Neo-Baroque, the crypt housing the icon of the Virgin of Almudena is Neo-Romanesque, and the interior is Neo-Gothic as originally indented, but at the same time uniquely modern. The cathedral was completed and consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.

The feast of the Virgin of Almudena is an important event for all residents of Madrid and an official municipal holiday. The celebration begins in the morning of November 9 with a mass at Almudena Cathedral, followed by a procession that ends at the Plaza Mayor, where concerts, theatre performances and other festive events are held during the day.

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