How the Virgin Mary came to settle down in in Candelaria basilica

MOST countries have national shrines, but few of them can claim a beginning as unique, and a history as chequered, as the one in Candelaria.

As everyone knows, it is named the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Candelaria, and is a centre of devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The origin reaches back for more than 600 years, when, according to legend, two shepherds, members of the Guanches, who inhabited the islands for more than 2,000 years, discovered a wooden image of a woman on the shore following a storm.

She was depicted with blonde hair, wearing a brightly-coloured dress. She was also carrying a child in one hand and a candle in the other.

And, after a number of unusual incidents associated with the image, the shepherds became convinced that it had miraculous powers. The chief of the tribe, to whom they delivered it, also arrived at that conclusion.

The image, placed in a basilica-shaped cave, was an object of veneration, and it became a major goddess of the Guanche pantheon, after many years,

Adventurers from the Kingdom of Castile, later to be a Spanish province, conquered the Canary Islands in the 1470s.

They were accompanied by the missionary Franciscan and Dominican friars, who converted the native population to Christianity.

The religious devotions and practices, popular before their arrival, including an image of the candle-carrying woman. And, in time, that devotion morphed into devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The image was installed in a chapel and shrine, built by order of the governor of the islands in 1497.

The Dominican friars, who were placed in charge of it, built their convent next to it. The Royal Marian shrine of Our Lady was enhanced when Pope Clement VIII declared the Virgin Mary to be patroness of the Canary Islands in 1559.

Tragically, the sanctuary and the Dominican convent were destroyed in a 1789 fire. However, the image was saved, only to go missing in a subsequent flood. But a new image was commissioned, and consecrated in 1830.

After the inauguration of an anti-clerical, Madrid administration in 1836, the Dominicans were expelled from their convent and the sanctuary.

They returned in 1922, and, immediately, set about the construction of a basilica on the site of the original church and sanctuary, which was completed in 1959.

Surrounding the basilica is a large square, with one side bearing a line of huge, life-sized figures of the nine Guanche chiefs, who ruled various parts of the islands when the Castilian adventurers arrived.

The imposing basilica building is one of Spain’s major pilgrimage shrines, and is a prime attraction for the many thousands of tourists visiting Tenerife each year.

If you haven’t yet had the sheer joy of seeing the basilica and its surroundings, then waste no time, whatever your religion!


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Posted by on Feb 8 2019. Filed under Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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