Nowadays, the explanation why there are so many Black Virgins from the Medieval time around this area is quite clear. The experts say that it is not the effect of time, humidity or varnishes as some would have us believe. That black is the original colour because they were made with ancient oriental deities as a reference.
We are telling you this because the Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha is dedicated to a Black Virgin, and there is a legend that goes back to the early days of Muslim domination. You’ll see…
It was the year 720 when the newly arrived armies had not even finished unpacking, their military efficiency had made them gain ground rapidly, and they had already built their fortifications where now, give or take a meter, is Madrid.
The Christians in the area tried to keep their sanctuaries and devotions as they could, and one of them was this Black Virgin. The thing is that one day it disappeared from its place and then reappeared in the middle of a field, among some weeds. This fact that does not seem to be much more mysterious than a simple theft was reason enough to build a hermitage right there. They said that the appearance was due to a miracle and nobody dared to question it. Just in case bonfires got started, you know…
The thing is that the chapel did not seem to be liked by the Moors, and they went for the owners without thinking twice. The handful of Christians left were scared, so much that one of them, Gracian Ramirez, killed his wife and his daughter before the Virgin of Atocha to avoid insults and humiliations.
But it seems that the guy rushed a bit because, in some miraculous way, the legend tells, they managed to defeat the enemy and to finish the victory, when Gracian returned to the hermitage, he found the two sacrificed women alive.
This way the Black Virgin scored two goals in the form of a miracle: first helping the Christians defeat the Moors and second resuscitating the two young ladies.
Like this, many centuries, many calamities and many reconstructions passed until General Prim was born, a well-known Mason who, apparently, felt a great fascination for that image of the Black Virgin and its symbolism. So much so, that the body of Prim was brought before this virgin after his mysterious murder, in 1870, and was buried in a Masonic ceremony.
Furthermore, the Virgin of Atocha also had a long history of worship by the Royal family, who consider her their protector. But as the building that housed her it was quite dirty, the Queen regent Maria Cristina ordered, in 1888, the construction of a new temple to which they added a Pantheon of Illustrious Men.
Unfortunately, the money was finished before the works, and everything was stopped until the Franco regime rebuilt the building as they liked, being crushed afterwards during the Civil War.
And the thing about the Illustrious Men, which had several precedents during the nineteenth century, also didn’t happen in this Basilica of Atocha. To this day it only gathers some political figures such as Canvas or Sagasta, and it doesn’t look like it’s growing. Because who decides who is an illustrious man and if he deserves to be here?