Virgin of Candelaria

The Virgin of Candelaria or Our Lady of Candle (Spanish: Virgen de Candelaria or Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria), popularly called La Morenita, celebrates the Virgin Mary on the island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands (Spain). The center of worship is located in the city of Candelaria in Tenerife. She is depicted as a Black Madonna. The "Royal Basilica Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Candelaria" (Basilica of Candelaria) is considered the main church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the Canary Islands and she is the patron saint of the Canary Islands.[1] Her feast is celebrated on February 2 (Fiesta de la Candelaria) and August 15, the patronal feast of the Canary Islands.

Virgin of Candelaria
La Virgen de Candelaria, en Tenerife, Patrona de las Islas Canarias, España.JPG
Virgin of Candelaria, Saint Patron of the Canary Islands.[1]
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Major shrineBasilica of Candelaria (Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria), Tenerife (Canary Islands). This is its main sanctuary, a place where it has its origin as a Marian invocation.[2]
FeastAugust 14–15 (on Tenerife and the Canary Islands), and on 2 February (also on this day in Tenerife, although minor festival). February 2 in Jaro, Iloilo City and the whole Western Visayas in the Philippines. Every February 2 (Tatala)[3] February 1–3 Silang, Cavite
AttributesBlack Madonna with baby in her right hand and a candle in her left hand, embroidered mantle, gilded coronation crown
PatronageCanary Islands as well as Cabildo de Tenerife; Oruro and La Paz (Bolivia), Medellín (Colombia), Puno (Peru), Lajas (Puerto Rico), Mayagüez (Puerto Rico), Manatí (Puerto Rico), Western Visayas (Philippines), Tatala, Binangonan, Rizal (Philippines), Paracale, Camarines Norte (Philippines) and Silang, Cavite (Philippines)

She is also the patroness of the Western Visayas region enshrined in Jaro Cathedral or the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles under the Archdiocese of Jaro (with feast day every 2 February) in the Philippines, and Tatala, one of the barangays in Binangonan, Rizal (also in the Philippines), which celebrates her feast day every February 2. The Municipality of Silang in the province of Cavite, Philippines, also celebrates her feast day from February 1 to 3, with February 2 the main feast day.

Legend and appearanceEdit

According to a legend recorded by Alonso de Espinosa in 1594, 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 of Chimisay (Güímar) by two Guanche goatherds in 1392.[4] This was before the Castilian conquest of the island of Tenerife (the island was not fully conquered until 1496).

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.[1] The statue was taken by the local guanche mencey to the cueva de Chinguaro.

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 the mencey of his conversion and the statue was thus venerated by the Guanches, who moved it to the cave of Achbinico (also known as San Blas – "Saint Blaise").[1] 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.[4] At first, the autochthons 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 and its iconographic identification with this biblical event, the festival began to be celebrated with a Marian character 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 2.[5][6] Before the conquest of Tenerife, the Guanche aborigines celebrated a festivity around the image of the Virgin during the Beñesmen festival in the month of August. This was the harvest party, which marked the beginning of the year. Currently, the feast of the Virgin of Candelaria in Canary Islands is celebrated in addition to February 2 also on August 15, the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic calendar. For some historians, the celebrations celebrated in honor of the Virgin during the month of August are a syncretized reminiscence of the ancient feasts of the Beñesmen.[7]

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).


Eighteenth-century painting depicting the apparition of the Virgin to the Guanches.
Ceramic mosaic depicting the Virgin of Candelaria of Tenerife found in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth (Israel).
Encased image of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Our Lady of Candles) perched atop the facade of Jaro Cathedral in Jaro, Iloilo City, the Roman Catholic patron of Western Visayas in the Philippines. It is the first marian statue crowned in personam without a papal legate by a pope and saint in Asia (John Paul II). Her feast day which is celebrated every February 2, is the largest marian festival outside of Luzon.

The first mass was celebrated at Achbinico on February 2, 1497, and the Adelantado Alonso Fernández de Lugo ordered the construction of a hermitage there, but it was not built until 1526, during the rule of Pedro Fernández de Lugo.[8] This was the site of the Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria. The basilica was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the 19th century.[4] The statue itself was lost when a tsunami carried it out to sea in 1826; the present statue is a copy by Fernando Estévez.[4] The statue of the Virgin is dressed in rich robes of different colors and jewels.

She was declared patroness of the Canary Islands in 1599, by Clement VIII (and principal patroness in 1867 by Pope Pius IX).[1] The Virgin of Candelaria is widely petitioned to pray for the protection against epidemics, plagues, droughts and volcanic eruptions of Mount Teide and other volcanoes, in a manner similar to the invocation of St. Januarius of Naples to pray for the end of the eruptions of Vesuvius and of St. Agatha of Catania against eruptions of Mount Etna in Sicily.

Between October 1964 and January 1965, the Diocese of Tenerife conducted the largest pilgrimage in the history of the Canary Islands. This time, the statue of the Virgin was walked across the towns, cities and municipalities of the island of Tenerife for the first time in history.

In the basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth (Israel) is a mosaic of the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the Canary Islands,[9] along with those of other Marian devotions famous in Spain.[10]

Every year on February 2 and August 15 is celebrated a big party in honor of the Virgin. These days there are thousands of pilgrims and tourists coming to Candelaria from all points of the Canary Islands and other parts of Spain and 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.[11]

In addition to that, every seven years the image of the Virgin of Candelaria is transferred for two weeks to the cities of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (capital of the island) and San Cristóbal de La Laguna (seat of the Diocese of Tenerife) alternating every seven years between the two cites: in 2002 it was Santa Cruz and in 2009 La Laguna and so to successively.[12]

In the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, the Virgin of Candelaria is venerated as Our Lady of Candles (Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria). Notable of many images in various places where she is a patroness of, the one enshrined in Jaro Cathedral (National Shrine of the Our Lady of Candles) as "Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Jaro" in Iloilo City is visited by pilgrims from around the country and abroad annually every February 2, her feast day. In 1981 Pope John Paul II during his visit canonically crowned the image without a papal legate, the first marian image to receive such stature in the Philippines and Asia.


Basilica of Candelaria and Cueva de AchbinicoEdit

The first great Sanctuary to the Virgin of Candelaria was constructed in 1668. After a fire destroyed the ancient basilica, a larger church (the current basilica) was built. The current basilica dates to 1959 and it was constructed on a former hermitage, and can hold 5,000 people.

The Cave of San Blas was the first Christian church of the Canaries. It was here the early inhabitants of the Canary Isles first revered the Virgin of Candelaria. The cave is located behind Candelaria's Basilica and is a site of pilgrimage. Achbinico's cave has historical significance as it was here that many baptisms of guanches took place.

National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles (Jaro Cathedral)Edit

The Jaro Cathedral (National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles)

The Jaro Cathedral (National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles) in Jaro, Iloilo City, Philippines, which is the mother church under the catholic Archdiocese of Jaro that oversees the provinces of Iloilo, Antique, Guimaras and Negros Occidental in Western Visayas region, is dedicated to the Virgin of Candelaria, the patroness of the Western Visayas region, Romblon, and Negros Occidental. The feast of Candelaria held every February 2 is one of the largest Roman Catholic feasts dedicated to Marian devotion in the Philippines. The Candelaria of Jaro's image was found in 1587, the year when the town of Jaro was established as a parish. Later, she was transferred to the newly built Jaro Cathedral during the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines around 1700s and 1800s. The cathedral where she is enshrined has been declared a National Shrine of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (the only Marian shrine in Visayas and Mindanao).

Her image perched atop the facade of Jaro Cathedral is the first and only marian image crowned personally without a papal legate by a pope and saint in the Philippines and Asia, by Pope John Paul II.

Virgen de Candelaria Chapel (Tatala, Binangonan, Rizal)Edit

This is the only chapel in Binangonan, Rizal, that venerates the image of Virgen de Candelaria. Its feast day is celebrated every February 2 with the blessing of the candles and a Solemn Mass. After the Mass, there is a traditional Pandanggo or Prusisyong Karakol in honor of the Virgen de Candelaria de Tatala.

Our Lady of Candelaria Parish Church (Silang, Cavite)Edit

Our Lady of Candelaria Parish Church (Silang) was founded in 1595 and dedicated in honor to Our Lady of Candelaria in 1640. Also commonly known as the Silang Church, it is a Roman Catholic parish in the municipality of Silang, Cavite, in the Philippines under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Imus. It is known for its Spanish colonial architectural style and the rococo influenced retablos. The Church with its retablos was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines on 4 February 2011.

Strange letters on the original carving of the VirginEdit

In the carved drapery of the Virgin of Candelaria original there were strange sequences of letters whose meaning is still unknown. These were:

  • Band on the neck: ETIEPFSEPMERI
  • In the belt: NARMPRLMOTARE
  • On the left sleeve, by the candle: LPVRINENIPEPNEIFANT
  • At the bottom of the robe: EAFM IRENINI FMEAREI
  • On the back of the cape: NBIMEI ANNEIPERFMIVIFVF

There have been numerous theories proposed on possible meanings over the years, including that the evangelizing friars of the Canary Islands wrote devotions to the Virgin Mary in the context of the original (Insular-Amazigh) Guanche language, while attempting to transcribe them into Roman letters.[13]

In the Americas and PhilippinesEdit

The cult of the Virgin of Candelaria swept America due to the emigration of Canarians. They brought the devotion as a symbol of their culture, somewhat similar to the diffusion of the cult of St. Patrick by Irish emigrants. On the other hand, the Candelaria image brought to the Philippines has a white image with a child.

She is widely venerated in South America and the Caribbean, where she is the patroness of Oruro and La Paz (Bolivia), Medellín (Colombia) (which was founded as Villa de Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria de Medellín), Mayagüez (Puerto Rico) (which was founded as Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Mayagüez), and Manatí (Puerto Rico) (which was founded as Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y San Matías).

In the Cathedral of San Fernando of Texas (the oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States) is a replica of the Virgin of Candelaria, which is a facsimile of that venerated in the Canary Islands. This is because the city of San Antonio was founded by Canarians.

In the Philippines, she is the patroness of Western Visayas and Negros Occidental, and a white version with a child is found in the Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo: it is either of local heavenly origin since its discovery was miraculous being found floating in a river, changing in weight and growing in size or it may be brought by the Spanish immigrants during Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. Her feast is celebrated every February 2 with pageantry where the Fiesta queen is chosen from prominent Spanish-Filipino families in the district of Jaro. The image and statue is located atop the cathedral and is the only Marian statue crowned by pope and saint in the Philippines, during the visit of Pope John Paul II.

The first church of Dilao (now the District of Paco in Manila) was initially dedicated to the Virgen de Candelaria, until its Parish was named to San Fernando. Until now, the Virgin is considered the secondary patroness and attributions are manifested throughout the post war church structure.


The Virgin of Candelaria is identified or syncretized with other holy entities from other religions:[14]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Virgen De Candelaria - Islas Canarias". Archived from the original on 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  2. ^ Presentación de Jesús al templo (Fiesta de la Candelaria) y origen de la advocación
  3. ^ "Tenerife Festivals". Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  4. ^ a b c d "Diva International.The Black Madonna : Virgin of Candelaria". Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  5. ^ Medio siglo de fervor en Candelaria
  6. ^ Historia de la Virgen de Candelaria, en página de turismo de Tenerife
  7. ^ Álvarez Delgado, Juan (1949). Sistema de Numeración Norteafricano. A. Numerales Canarios.- B. Sistema Numeral Norteafricano: Caracteres. Estudio de lingüística comparada sobre el sistema de numeración y cómputo de los aborígenes de Canarias. Madrid: Instituto Antonio de Nebrija (CSIC).
  8. ^ "Historia:docs:Milagros Virgen Candelaria". Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  9. ^ "Cristianos en Tierra Santa". Archived from the original on 2014-12-05. Retrieved 2015-02-14.
  10. ^ La patrona extremeña será entronizada en la basílica de la Anunciación ("The Extremaduran patron will be installed in the basilica of the Annunciation"). 26/02/2012, in
  11. ^ "All roads lead to Candelaria for Virgin worship - Daily News - Tenerife - ISLANDCONNECTIONS.EU". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  12. ^ "La Virgen de Candelaria ha visitado la ciudad 38 veces". (in European Spanish). 2009-05-09. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  13. ^ Jara Vera, Vicente; and Sánchez Ávila, Carmen (2017). "Linguistic Decipherment of the Lettering on the (Original) Carving of the Virgin of Candelaria from Tenerife (Canary Islands)". Religions. 8 (8): 135. doi:10.3390/rel8080135.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "Virgen de Candelaria, syncretism". 2004-02-27. Archived from the original on 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2010-08-23.

External linksEdit