How the image of the Virgin of Almudena survived the eighth-century Muslim invasion

Virgin of Almudena Image of the Virgin of Almudena in the streets of Madrid, Spain | Credit: ArchiMadrid

Every Nov. 9, the Church in Spain celebrates the Virgin of Almudena, the patroness of Madrid, whose image “hides” a peculiar story that might not be familiar to many.

During the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century, the faithful decided to hide an image of the Virgin Mary in one of the towers of the wall that surrounded the Spanish capital. They placed it there in order to protect the statue, since during that time the Muslims eliminated all signs of Catholicism that crossed their path.

Years later, the Spanish tried to recover the image, although without success, since they were unable to find the exact place in the wall where the Virgin had been hidden.

Because of this, King Alfonso VI decided to hold a procession around the wall in honor of the Virgin, which took place on Nov. 9, 1085.

While the faithful processed around Madrid’s wall, part of the wall of one of the towers collapsed. Behind the rubble appeared the image of the Virgin next to two lighted candles.

Since then, the image has been known as the Virgin of Almudena, since in Arabic “al-mudayna” means “citadel,” or “walled military compound.” Under this title, Our Lady was named patroness of the city by decree in 1908.

On the hill where the statue of the Virgin of Almudena was found, a cathedral in her honor was later built, a symbol of the faith of the people of Madrid. It is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.