Candlemas Madonnas (Virgen de la Candelaria)

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: Explain the devotion to Black Madonnas associated with Candlemas.

A: The Virgin de la Candelaria is a very popular title. We know of more than forty places in Spain and surrounding islands where this title is known and/or commemorated. She is one of the principal patrons of the Canary Islands. Special veneration is given to her in Santa Cruz (Tenerife), in La Orotava (Tenerife), Tijarafe and Las Nieves (Palma), Frontera (Hierro), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria). The same image is known in Andalusia (for example, Parish of San Nicholas in Sevilla, and a number of other places), Guadalajara, Cuenca, Segovia, León, Tarragona, Valencia, Huesca, Badajoz. A related image, usually holding a candle or surrounded by candles is that of Our Lady of Light (Virgen de la Luz). These images are not all identical as the following illustrations may show. There is no correlation between the skin coloring and the light motif. As can be seen there are Candlemas images which are not black. Further, the "blackness" of Black Madonnas varies. Some are really black, other have a dark skin tone of various degrees of brown. The same variety applies to color and style of vestments. The color of the robes frequently changes with the liturgical season. The style of vestments of the Tenerife image evokes, indeed, the Castilian (Isabel of Castilia) fashion. Here again, the sartorial custom is not limited to the Candelaria representations or to that of Tenerife.

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