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2 February 1497: Celebrations start in Tenerife for Our Lady of the Candelaria

Shrine of Our Lady of the Candelaria, Colmenar.
Shrine of Our Lady of the Candelaria, Colmenar. / SUR
  • The celebration is particularly important in the Canary Islands and notably in Tenerife

Our lady of the Candelaria is celebrated every 2 February in a number of towns and villages across Spain, South America and even in the Philippines.

The celebration is particularly important in the Canary Islands and notably in Tenerife, where the legend of Our Lady of the Candelaria comes from, but also in Colmenar in the Axarquía, and the two places are linked through her.

Legend has it that two Guanche (native Berber people of the Canary islands) goatherds discovered a statue of a woman bearing a child in one hand and holding a green candle in the other (hence ´Candelaria'), on the beach of Chimisay, Tenerife in 1392. This was before the island was conquered some years after the Spanish Reconquest, in 1496.

The legend goes that one of the goatherds tried to throw a stone at the statue, but his arm became paralysed and the other tried to stab the finger of the statue with a knife but it was his own finger that was stabbed instead.

Antón, a Guanche who had been enslaved and converted to Christianity during the Spanish Reconquest, returned to Tenerife after his release and recognised the statue as that of the Virgin Mary. She became widely acknowledged as a Catholic symbol by the Guanches, who moved her to the cave of Achbinico (also known as San Blas) and the first celebration of Our Lady of the Candelaria took place on 2 February 1497.

Our Lady of the Candelaria was declared patron of the Canary Islands in 1559 by Pope Clement VIII.

The original statue was a medieval gothic sculpture with dark colouring and clothing, which was washed away during a storm in 1826 and replaced with the replica in 1830.

The image is the most important in Tenerife and even today the cave is one of the most important pilgrimage centres on the Canary islands.

Candelaria is widely prayed to for protection against epidemics, plagues, droughts and eruptions of Mount Teide and other volcanoes.

In Colmenar, Our Lady of the Candelaria is one of the town's two patron saints. According to legend, a shrine in her honour was built on high ground as a sign of gratitude from sailors from the Canary Islands whose lives had been saved by local people during a violent storm that hit their ship just off the coast of Malaga during the 17th century. Ever since then Our Lady of the Candelaria has been celebrated on 2 February in the town.

The Colmenar shrine is known as Ermita del Santuario or Convento de la Santísima Virgen de la Candelaria.

A procession takes place through the streets of the town, terminating at the shrine with a fireworks display.

Our Lady of the Candelaria is also patron saint of Benagalbón and Genalguacil, as well as villages in Seville, Cordoba and Granada. In Jaén the festival is known as La Virgen de las Roscas.