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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Travel Tales: Fiesta de la Almudena

Feast of the Patron Saint of Madrid

Two years ago today we happened to be flying into
Madrid to begin a few weeks of traveling around our
beloved Spain.  Arriving in the airport, we noticed it
was deserted.  We took the Metro into the city and
again, no one was around.  We got off in Puerta del
Sol, the center of Madrid and were shocked to see
it so quiet. 

As we pulled our luggage through the
cobblestone streets, heading to our hotel near Plaza
Mayor, we started noticing everyone we saw were
dressed in native costume and mantillas and capes.

Never ones to miss something exciting, we followed
them, luggage and all.  When we walked through the
gates of Plaza Mayor we saw it filled with people.
A few locals told us this was the Fiesta de la Almudena,
the patron saint of Madrid.

We dropped our bags off at our hotel and hurried
back to watch the festivities.  One of the volunteers
happened to be an American exchange student and
she filled us in on what was going to happen.  There
would be a Mass in the Plaza, followed by a procession
through Puerta del Sol and then the statue would be
taken back to the Cathedral where flowers would
be taken.  You needed a ticket to get into the seating
area but we were happy to watch from behind the
barricades.  After awhile the American exchange
student found us and said she could get us in if we
wanted. Of course!  And with that we were ushered
into the the VIP section. 

All was well, we were seated with the local
politicians, the movers and shakers and from
the amount of security, I wouldn't be surprised if
there were a few royals as well.  The Mass began,
the statue was paraded in, our Spanish is not
strong enough to say Mass, but we followed
along in English and the locals seemed happy
that at least we knew how to say the Mass.
When it came time to kneel, there were no
kneelers, you knelt on the cobblestones ~ this
is Spain after all and they take their religion
very seriously.  One thing that we were not
familiar with was the Song Leader (pictured
above), during each song he would stand and
wave his arms wildly to get the crowd singing.
I found him a bit scary.
Sometime before Communion, the inevitable
happened.  When one takes the night flight
across the ocean and hasn't slept for over 24
hours, it happened ~ we hit the wall.  During
Mass in Plaza Mayor, in the VIP section,
behind barricades that would make it very
hard to leave.  We reached that point where
our eyes would not stay open and we each
started dosing and then catching ourselves
and jolting awake.  So now, we look like we
are drunk, in Mass, in the VIP section, behind
the barricades...  I whispered to Mr. W, "We
HAVE to get out of here."  But how?

So we hatched a plan, when people got
up to go to Communion, we would just
slip out.  We didn't realize that Communion
would be given out over the barriers.  There 
was no way out!  Finally, we saw a little
abuelo  (grandfather) slipping between the
barriers and we followed him, not our most
gracious moment but better than the Americans
passing out during Mass.  We followed the
little man as if we were escorting our grandfather
to the restroom.  And then we crashed.

We could hear the procession from our
hotel room but sleep overtook us. 

After a nap we decided to walk over to
the Cathedral in Plaza de la Almudena.
As we were walking there we noticed
everyone was carrying flowers, when we
arrived we saw why, people bring flowers
in adoration of their patron saint.

The Cathedral Santa Maria la Real de
La Almudena is located just across from
the Royal Palace in Madrid.  The reason
La Almudena is the patron saint of Madrid
is because a statue of La Almudena was
brough to Spain by the Apostle Saint James.
The statue was hidden in the city wall of
Madrid in 783 by the Christians as the Moors
were about to take over the city.  Two candles
were lit near the statue when it was enclosed
in the wall.  Two centuries later, Madrid was
liberated but no one remembered where the
statue was.  A procession was held and the
wall crumbled away, revealing the statue
and legend states the candles were still
miraculously burning.

Back in Plaza Mayor, the local Madrilenos
were performing traditional songs and dances
in native costume.

And as night fell in Plaza Mayor, we
did what we always do when we are in
Madrid.  We took our evening paseo, two
laps around Plaza Mayor, before saying
buenas noches.

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