Why is it called Our Lady of the Almudena?

Puerta de la Catedral de la Almudena

Detail in the Cathedral entrance, Alfonso VI

According to tradition, the name of the patron saint of Madrid came from the place where the figure was found, in the muslim “Almudayna” (citadel).

Before Madrid was named Madrid and even before it was called Mayrit, there existed a Visigoth village that worshipped Christian imagery and especially the image of the Virgin which was supposedly brought to Spain by Santiago Apostol himself. Those Christian “premadrileños” (people who lived in the area of Madrid before Madrid was built) were afraid of the Moorish troops so they decided to hide the image before it was profaned.

In fact, the Alcazar of Mayrit was built in 856 and for almost 2 centuries Madrid was a muslim town until the troops of Alfonso VI reconquered it and converted it to Christianity in 1083.

The miracle and the legend of the wall

While Alfonso VI was in reconquered Madrid, he was aware of the hidden figure of the Virgin so he prepared a procession around the wall of “almudayna” to find it.

The legend says that it was a girl who was supposed to know the exact location, and that important knowledge was passed from generation to generation. Unfortunately, the girl was very young and had forgotten the place of the figure of the Virgin and her mother had already died.

Virgen de la Almudena

Detail in the Cathedral entrance, the miracle of the wall.

The King, who was furious because of the situation, swore that he would find the image even if he had to destroy the whole wall while searching for it even though it meant the easy entrance for Muslim troops to loot (it is important to note that the King had other more important cities to take care of).

The little girl was scared and didn’t want to live under the rule of Muslims anymore, so she prayed and prayed during the procession around city walls until the miracle happened:

The figure of the Virgin glimpsed, all of a sudden one part of the wall opened with flying rocks and then the figure appeared. It was illuminated by the same candles that were there for centuries.

Naturally, the image was moved to the nearby church of Santa Maria (now only ruins remain there) that happened to be called Almudena before the construction of the present Cathedral of Almudena. Unfortunately, the image that is nowadays preserved in the church is a wooden sculpture from the 15th century but its history, the legend and the tradition always stay with us.

Festivity in Madrid: November the 9th

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  • Atlas Ilustrado de la Historia de Madrid – Pedro López Carcelén
  • Hidden Madrid – Mark and Peter Besas
  • Guía de los Edificios Religiosos del Madrid de 1868 – Jose Ignacio Pozuelo
  • Iglesias de Madrid – Pedro F. García y Agustín F. Martínez
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