I have been asked by tourists in the past, why all the shops are closed on 15th. August and I have to tell them that it is a Bank holiday. This led me to investigate the background to this ‘Fiesta’ which as you know the Spanish people and particularly the Canary Islanders love!
Last Monday 15th. August, the Feast of the Assumption, is celebrated each year to commemorate The Virgin of Candelaria popularly known, on the Island of Tenerife as La Morenita, The centre of worship is the town of Candelaria. She is depicted as a Black Madonna. The “Royal Basilica Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Candelaria” is considered the main church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the Canary Islands, and she is the patron saint of the Islands.
According to a Tenerife legend, a statue of the Virgin Mary, bearing a child in one hand and a green candle in the other (hence “Candelaria”), was discovered on the beach at Chimisay by Guanche goatherds in 1392. One of the shepherds tried to throw a stone at the statue, but his arm became paralysed; the other tried to stab the statue with a knife but ended up stabbing himself.
Later, Antón, a Guanche who had been enslaved and converted to Christianity by the Castilians, returned to Tenerife and recognized the statue as that of the Virgin Mary. He told of his conversion and the statue was then venerated by the Guanches, who moved it to the cave of Achbinico (also known as San Blas), however, the statue was stolen and taken away to Lanzarote. It was later returned to Tenerife after various events, including an outbreak of the plague, occurred on Lanzarote. At first, the indigenous people identified the statue with their goddess Chaxiraxi (the mother of the gods), but later the Christian conquerors imposed the idea that the statue was that of the Virgin Mary.
After the appearance of the Virgin, the festival became a Marian celebration in the year 1497, when the conqueror Alonso Fernández de Lugo, celebrated the first Candlemas festival dedicated especially to the Virgin Mary, coinciding with the Feast of Purification, on February 2nd. Before the conquest of Tenerife, the Guanche aborigines celebrated with the image of the Virgin during the Beñesmen (Harvest) festival in the month of August. Currently, the feast of the Virgin of Candelaria in the Canary Islands is celebrated on February 2nd. also on August 15th. the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the Christian calendar.
The original statue was a medieval gothic sculpture with dark colour and clothing similar to that of the Virgin of Lluch (patron saint of Mallorca) and the Virgin of Montserrat (patron saint of Catalonia).
For the festival Mass the statue of the Virgin is dressed in rich robes of different colours and jewels. She was declared patroness of the Canary Islands in 1559. The Virgin of Candelaria is widely petitioned to pray for the protection against epidemics, plagues, droughts and volcanic eruptions.
Between October 1964 and January 1965, the Diocese of Tenerife conducted a pilgrimage, the statue of the Virgin was walked across the towns, cities and municipalities of the island of Tenerife for the first time in history.
Every year on February 2nd. and August 15th. there is a big celebration is celebrated in honour of the Virgin. These days thousands of pilgrims and tourists come to Candelaria from all parts of the world. The feast day is marked by a solemn procession and a religious ceremony, although its most famous component is a re-enactment of the discovery of the statue, with locals dressing up as Guanche natives.
The Prayer of The Virgin Mary – The Magnificat
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, and his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm. He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he hath sent empty away. He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his seed forever.