La Almudena - Madrid's Feast Day

November 9th is the feast day of the Virgin of Almudena (Virgen de la Almudena) and it is an official holiday here in Madrid, which means no school!

Story of Madrid's patron saint

Prior to the invasion by Muslims in the 700’s, town people of what is today Madrid, hid a statue of the Virgin Mary in their city wall. Three centuries later, when Christian soldiers recaptured Madrid, the city wall crumbled before them, revealing the statue with two burning candles on each side - still burning after 300 years! The virgin was named after the Arabic word for city, Al Mudayna. The town made the Virgin of Almudena their patron saint and dedicated their cathedral after her, where one can find the statue today.

Feast day activities

Madrileños (people of Madrid) celebrate this feast day with passion. This was not going to be a lazy, hang around the home day, no we went out to the join in the festivities. First, there is a large mass for thousands in the main plaza of Madrid, la Playa Major, followed by a procession with the statue of the Virgin of Almudena. The streets were overflowing with thousands of people cheering and even some in traditional Spanish costumes. As we approached the cathedral, Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, I noticed flower vendors everywhere selling carnations and roses. After paying three euros for a small bouquet, I headed to the outdoor chapel and gave my offering to volunteers who placed my flowers into the chicken wire wall, which quickly became a solid wall of flowers.

The patron of Madrid statue in the background is surrounded by a wall of flowers

Madrileños celebrate in traditional Spanish clothing

Traditional dessert

Not far from la Playa Major, a famous pastry shop, La Mallorquina, displays special cakes called Corona de la Almudena. This coffee cake ring can be plain or filled with a custard or cream filling. We bought one filled with chocolate whipped cream. In addition to the pastry, we were given a miniature statue of the Virgin of Almudena and a gold paper crown. Once home, we hid the statue in the soft chocolate whip cream of our cake (symbolising the hiding of the statue in the wall, but we skipped the burning candles). After cutting the cake, we distributed the pieces, not knowing who would receive the slice with the statue. My sister was quick to discover the statue in her slice, and was crowned queen for the day!

Corona de la Almudena cakes on display at a pastry shop
A small statue of Saint Almudena is hidden in the cake


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