Every Spanish city seems to recognize at least one historical figure who plays an important role in its history, and we believe it is worth knowing what one you have in your city so you can celebrate appropriately. Today we are focused on the Lady or Virgin of Almudena, the Lady of Madrid.
Note: to learn more about the Patron Saint of Madrid, another important figure, check out this post on San Isidro.
Who is she
The Lady of Almudena refers to a statue that has deep historical ties to Madrid (see next section). The Lady is dressed relatively simply and has a baby in her arms.
This celebration in Madrid for this figure is quite unique due to the special history that the Lady of Almudena has in the city (in fact, you will probably find little celebration around this figure elsewhere). Every year on the 9th of November, people will gather from around the city to celebrate and honor this figure. And, while we recognize that many Spaniards are Catholic without being extremely religious, the celebration of the Lady of Almudena revolves mostly around different Church events.
While it is pretty much universally accepted that the statue that now represents the Lady of Almudena cannot be the original because it is not old enough, it is thought that the original was a statue of Mary and Jesus, brought to Spain by Saint James (the Patron Saint of Galicia) as he spread the word about Christianity. Madrid appears to have been an early adopter of this religion and, when the Moors invaded the country, devout followers hid the statue. Its location was said to have been passed down from mother to daughter until, eventually, it was forgotten.
However, unlike in other parts of the country that remained under Muslim rule for centuries more (such as Andalucía or Al-Andalus), Madrid was conquered by Catholic rulers again about 300 years later by King Alfonso VI. It is said that he knew about the hidden Catholic statue and began looking for it in and around the almudayna or the word that the Muslims used for citadel or the fortified (walled-off) area of the city.
When looking for the statue, they say that many people came together and prayed and, eventually, a wall fell down, presenting the statue to the group. In some versions, it says that there were even burning candles, around the statue, that must have been burning for 300 years. When they found the statue, people started to call it the Lady of Almudena after the Muslim word for wall, almudayna, where she had been hidden.
The statue has had several homes since its rediscovery and now resides in the Cathedral of Almudena.
Like we mentioned previously, the celebrations around this figure are primarily Catholic. Therefore, if you want to participate in the celebration of the Lady of Almudena, our recommendation would be to partake in the mass on the 9th of November and enjoy the procession with the statue. The main mass will take place in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor and the procession will leave from there and head to the Cathedral. During the mass and procession you will probably see people offering flowers to the Lady as a sign of devotion.
If you are looking for a slightly less religious celebration, many families will be in Plaza Mayor around lunch time eating traditional dishes at bars. If you only eat one thing, let it be the corona de la Almudena (literally translated to “the crown of the Almudena), a sweet treat that is only made for this celebration and is somewhat similar to a roscón de reyes.
Have you joined this celebration? Let us know more in the comments!