The original image of Our Lady of Almudena in the Almudena Cathedral
By Jack Wright
If it’s 9 November it’s time to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Almudena, co-patron saint of Madrid with San Isidro. At GUIDEPOST, we never tire of reminding our friends to go join the quaint and colorful celebrations. It’s after all one of the most castiza (classic, traditional and authentically Madrileña) fiestas you’ll ever find. Therefore it gives you a unique opportunity to look into the heart and soul of Madrid, touchingly described by Enrique IV, King of the Crown of Castile from 1454 to 1474, as “muy noble y leal villa” – and be a part of it if only for just a few hours.
We have a good article on this memorable fiesta, “DAY OF THE ALMUDENA, A ROMP IN THE SOLEMN FEAST,” by Douglas Jau.
Incidentally, why is Madrid fondly called “Villa y Corte”? Like most European capitals, Madrid sprang from settlements, an aldea (village), if the settlement was small, or a villa, a bigger settlement one step away from the privileged charter of a city granted by the king. Madrid enjoyed a stable population in the old walled alcazar (citadel) that the Moors built in the second half of the ninth century, where the Royal Palace on Calle Bailen now stands. But it was not until 1202, more than 100 hundred years after the Reconquista of Madrid (1083), that the settlement became a chartered villa, thanks to Alfonso VIII, King of Castile from 1158 to his death in 1214.
That accounts for Madrid being a “Villa”.
Then in the 1560s Felipe II, King of Spain between 1556 and 1598, moved his court from Toledo to Madrid, making Mayrit (Madrid) the capital of the global Spanish Empire. (As it is the capital of the Kingdom of Spain today.) This is the history behind “Corte”.
The 2017 celebrations of the Almudena in the Villa y Corte includes
8 November: Night vigil presided by Cardinal and Archbishop of Madrid, Carlos Osoro Sierra, in the Almudena Cathedral, Calle Bailén 10.
9 November, The Feast of Our Lady of Almudena
• Mass officiated by the Archbishop: 11:00 AM, Plaza Mayor
• Renewal of the Voto de la Villa (“Vow of the Villa”) by the Mayor of Madrid: “This Villa vows to attend the festivity of Our Lady always and ever . . .”
• Religious procession in honor of Our Lady of Almudena following the Mass. Route: the old streets of Madrid – Plaza Mayor, Calle Sal, Calle Postas, Calle Esparteros, Calle Mayor, Calle Bailén, Plaza de la Almudena.
Many Madrileños will be joining the procession in their chulapo and chulapa finery: mantillas, mantones de manila, head scarves, figure-hugging ankle length dresses with ruffles in the layered skirts and carnations on their heads for the proud and flirty ladies. The chulapo attire for the gentlemen consists of a vest with carnation on the lapel, dark tight pants, a black or grey cap, short boots and sometimes a white neckerchief.
• Concert, Almudena Cathedral , 5:00 PM
• Monumental floral offering all throughout the day and into the night, Plaza of the Almudena Cathedral. At 6:00 PM those whose name is Almudena are called on as special guests to render homage to their saintly namesake.
The festivities will continue till Saturday, 11 November. During which time, you’ll find the chulapos and chulapas promenading in Plaza Mayor and the surrounding castiza streets. They’ll drink and dine on callos a la Madrileña, bocadillo de calamares and croquetas de bacalao chased by cañas (draught beers) in traditional bars.
Feel like binging too? You should at least try and enter into the spirit of the fiesta!
Don’t forget to grab a piece of the gigantic Corona de Almudena, pastry in honor of Our Lady of Almudena especially made by 70 bakers. But if you should miss the eat, you could always buy your own. Recommended bake shops: La Riojana, Calle Mayor 10; La Santiaguesa, Calle Mayor 73; and Horno de San Onofre, Calle San Onofre 73 or at the Mercado de San Miguel, Plaza de San Miguel s/n.
Featured image/Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA3.0
Chulapo &/ Chulapa at the religious procession/Douglas Jau
Cathedral/Luis Garcia (Zaqarbal) CC BY-SA3.0
Chulapos and chulapas in a traditional bar/Tamorlan, CC BY-SA3.0
Corona de Almudena/Viviendo Madrid via Instagram, CC BY2.0