Today is a holiday here in Madrid: the Feast of Our Lady of Almudena. She is the representation of the Virgin Mary that is the protectress of the city. Almudena means "city wall."
Last year I blogged about how her miraculous story is all legend and little fact:
This year I must report that the legend even more false than previously thought. Basically, it says that the statue, brought to Madrid by the Apostle James the Great, had been hidden in the city wall to protect Her from Moors, who came in around 711. However, as has long been known, there was no city or town of Madrid at the time, and thus no city wall.
It is true that the Moors created a fortified outpost at the site of Madrid shortly after 850, which included a wall.
Legend says the statue was melodramatically recovered from the wall by Madrid's Christian community after the town was reconquered by King Alfonso VI and El Cid in 1085. This may be apocryphal, but historians had believed that a town had grown up around the fort by then.
But recent archeological excavations of the area around the walls next to the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral show that there was no town when King Alfonso came through: just an outpost of Moorish soldiers staffing a watchtower. No civilians lived there. They all arrived later to create a little farm town named after the matrix of springs that watered its fields: a town of Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
In any case, if the statue of the Virgin ever existed, it was lost about 600 years ago, although exactly how that happened remains unclear. The current statue (see photo, which I took at the Almudena Cathedral) was made in the 1500s. "Almudena" is still a traditional name for girls in Madrid.
What is an undeniable fact is that I have the day off.
— Sue Burke