In the town of Candelaria on the East coast of Tenerife, some 20 km South of Santa Cruz, Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, 1530 copy of older, lost original, life size wood.
The Virgin of Candelaria
La Morenita (Dear Dark One)
Patronness of the Canary Islands
According to legend, this statue washed up in Tenerife at the end of the fourteenth century, shortly before the Canary Islands were occupied by Spain and when the native African inhabitants were still Pagans.
Once upon a time there were two shepherds who used to lock their livestock in a cave at the end of the day. One day the animals refused to go in and seemed scared. Looking around to see what upset them, the shepherds saw the statue of Our Lady near the mouth of the cave on the edge of the water. They thought she was a normal living woman, and since men weren't allowed to talk to or approach women outside of settlements, they motioned to her to go away. When she didn't respond, one of the shepherds decided to throw rocks at her. Immediately his arm became paralyzed. The other man became angry and pulled his knife on the Virgin, but it only cut himself. At that they fled in fear to the palace of the king to report these strange happenings. The king and his council went to the cave at once. Since nobody dared to touch Our Lady, the king ordered the two shepherds who had already been injured by the Mother to pick up the statue and bring her to his palace. The moment they touched her with a peaceful intention, they were healed. Now the king understood that this woman was a benevolent supernatural thing and he decided to carry her himself. However, after a little while he had to ask for help because she was too heavy to carry alone. That's why today there is a big cross at the place where the Virgin was found and at the place where the king had to ask for help, there is a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, another famous icon of the Blessed Mother.
The Virgin of Candelaria was brought to a cave near the palace and worshipped as an unknown goddess. After some time a certain youngster called Anton recognized who she really was. He had been converted while enslaved by Spaniards and then escaped home to his island. Now he taught the king and his court the Christian faith. Once they got to know the "Mother of the Sustainer of Heaven and Earth," they moved her to another cave near the sea for public veneration.
The statue once was stolen by Spaniards, but they returned her after a plague broke out that was felt to be a punishment for this sacrilegious robbery.
In 1826, an unusually high tide washed Our Lady back out to sea and she was lost. The present statue was carved to replace the original.
The Virgin of Candelaria was officially declared Patroness of the Canary Islands in 1867 and canonically crowned in 1889.(*1)
Many faithful still go on pilgrimage to the Virgin of Candelaria. Especially around August 15th, the feast day of the assumption of the Virgin into Heaven, it is customary for college students and families to spend a day or two hiking to their Mother. They are rewarded by great processions and festivities reenacting the legend of the Black Madonna.