The Virgin of Candelaria

The Virgin of Candelaria

The ‘Virgin of Candelaria’ is the subject of the pictures I saw and liked in La Laguna, where we stayed for the first half of our holiday in Tenerife in Spain.

The dark-skinned Virgin is carrying the dark-skinned baby Christ in one hand and a candle in the other hand.

She is wrapped in a gorgeous red garment and somehow she reminded me of a Japanese Kokeshi doll or a Russian Matryoshka doll.Virgin of Candelaria

We found that the real statue of the Virgin of Candelaria can be seen, so we took a series of buses to get to Candelaria.

Candelaria is a small seaside town with a population of about 17,000, which is about 20km south of Santa Cruz, the capital city of Tenerife.

Here, there is a church called Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria and the Virgin is in there.

This church is facing a large square and on the seaside of the square, there are 9 statues of Guanche warriors, the indigenous people of Tenerife.  Tenerife Candelaria

On the day of the Assumption of Mary, the 15th August, apparently this square is packed with people.

Every year, they have about 2 million visitors in this town.

The reason why this Virgin is so popular is that she is the patron saint of the whole of the Canary Islands.

We bought a booklet, which tells the story of the Virgin, in a shop selling religious things on the approach to the church.

In August 1392, when Tenerife was still the Guanche people’s island, when two Guanche shepherds went to the canyon of Güímar, a little south of Candelaria, they noticed that their cattle would not go further.

They approached the point and found a female figure on a rock.

One tried to throw a stone at her, but his arm became paralyzed.

The other tried to damage her with a sharp stone, but instead of the statue, his own finger was injured and a lot of blood gushed out.

Two shepherds went to the king of the tribe to report what had happened.

The king went to see the statue and he was in awe of it.Virgin of Candelaria in Tenerife

He named it ‘Mother of the Sun’ and decided to take it to his cave.

However, none of his followers would touch it as they were all frightened of it, so the king ordered the two shepherds to carry it.

When the two touched it to carry it on their arms, miraculously, their wounds were healed.

The ‘Mother of the Sun’ performed many more miracles after that and it was worshipped by Guanches as their main goddess.

When the Spanish rule started, the statue was venerated as the Virgin Mary.

Unfortunately, the current statue is not the original one.

The original was lost at the time of a bad flood, which demolished the church on the 6th of November 1826.

The current statue was consecrated in 1830.

The current church itself is relatively new and was inaugurated in 1959.

One of the characteristics of this statue is that both the Virgin and Christ are dark, but in fact, they used to be white.

They became dark because of the smoke from the candles and torches.Candelaria

By the way, the Virgin in the pictures we had seen was always wearing some red garment, but the actual statue was wearing a white one.

I thought that she was prettier in red and asked about that to the shop assistant in the religious shop.

She said bluntly “The Virgin changed her clothes”.

“But why?” I persisted and she just said “There are no reasons or rules. She changes clothes as we do”.

I wonder if it is really so…

[ Jan.2019 ]

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