Almudena is the name of the Virgin Patron Saint of Madrid and also the name of the Cathedral built in her honour. It is an Arabic word, and it means wall. But… what do the walls have to do with the Virgin? Well, you’ll see.
It was the year 711 when Tarik landed in the South with clearly aggressive intentions. The advance of his armies was so overwhelming that he conquered the entire Peninsula, plus a bit of territory of present-day France.
During the next couple of centuries, the Muslims got on fairly ok with the Mozarabic and their Christian religion, but things got bad, and the Christians from the Manzanares area had to hide some of their sacred objects, among them a virgin, as tradition says.
When Alfonso VI reconquered the city in the eleventh century, no one could find the image of the Virgin since they had hidden it so well, but after many prayers the miracle took place. A procession was passing by the Cuesta de La Vega when part of the old Arab wall collapsed and revealed the much sought Virgin which was undamaged and illuminated by two candles that had not burned out in several centuries.
From this beautiful and believable story, which happened in 1085, comes the name of Almudena, and as a reminder of this, a reproduction of the statue was place where they say the miraculous reappearance occurred.
Nearby is the modern Cathedral of Almudena, its construction began in 1883 by order of Alfonso XII. The king wanted to have a good cathedral in Madrid where he could also bury his beloved wife, Maria de las Mercedes. It seems that the deceased queen was devoted to the Virgin in question, and that helped the monarch’s decision who was in such a perpetual state of melancholy that even the people ended making famous couplets about his misfortune.
They began to build the Cathedral with a Neo-Gothic project by Francisco de Cubas, but things took a little longer than expected and went on, and on, and on… and suddenly, a century had passed.
Finally, the work was finished in 1984, and logically the fashions had changed so much in all that time that the Neo-Gothic style was well gone. It ended up with a neoclassical look that, besides, matched the Oriente Palace.
In the year 2000 at last, after an eternity in El Escorial, Maria de las Mercedes was finally buried here. Obviously, her husband was not here to see it…