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March 9, 1731
According to the legend, a statue of the Virgin Mary standing almost 3 ½ feet tall, bearing a child in one hand and a green candle in the other (hence "Candelaria"), was discovered on the beach of Chimisay (Güímar) by two Guanche shepherds in 1392. Two Guanche shepherds were pasturing their flocks on the coast. Having to cross the sandy beach going towards a ravine the sheep were frightened and turned back. One of the shepherds, believing that the sheep were alarmed at the presents of someone wanting to steal their sheep went towards the ravine to investigate. He then saw the image of what appeared to be a woman cradling a child in her arms standing on a rock. Having never seen anything like it before, the wooden figure was carved with a dress and adorned with a crown and holding a baby.
It was customary among the Guanche that if a man met a woman alone in a solitary place he must not speak to her on penalty of death. So the shepherd made jesters to the image that she should go away so that their sheep might pass. Since the image made no movement whatsoever nor answered a word to the shepherd, he picked up a stone and jested to her that we would throw it at her. But when he raised his arm to throw the stone his arm became paralyzed. His companion seeing what had happened took warning and stood without movement or speaking a word. Finally they spoke to the image, however there was no response. In order to see if she was a living thing, the two shepherds approached the image with more fear than shame. One of the shepherds had a razor like stone or obsidian knife known as a Tabona which was used for lancing or bleeding. He approached the image intending to cut one of her fingers to satisfy his ignorance and see if she could feel. Placing the finger of the image over his own, he tried to cut the image but instead ended up cutting his own finger without doing any harm to the image. He tried a second time but again ended up cutting his own fingers.
Bewildered by the incident they decided to rush back to their village and tell their story to the local chieftain, Acaymo, the Mencey which was the name given to a monarch or king of the Guanches of Tenerife who ruled a menceyato. The shepherds described their vision and what had happened, one showing him his stiff arm and the other his bleeding fingers. Astonished by their story, the Mency set out with the shepherds as guides to see the image for himself. They found the image right where they had left it. He realized that the "woman" was actually a statue and ordered them to carry it back to his residence at the cueva de Chinguaro. But no one dared take hold of the statue, so the Mency order the two shepherds to take hold of it. The two frightened men finally came forward and upon putting their hands on the statue, a miraculous thing happened, the injuries of both shepherds where healed to the amazement of all present. The Mency and his followers concluded that the statue of the woman must be something supernatural. With this they recovered their valor and lost all fear.
From this period comes the story of a Guanche slave named Antón, who had been baptized a Christian by the Castilian conquerors, escaped from captivity and came to Güímar. On the run, Antón visited the cave of Chinguaro, where the statue of the Virgin of la Candelaria continued to be worshipped by the Guanche as their sun goddess Chaxiraxi. When he saw this statue, he immediately recognized it as "the celestial image of Mary". The other Guanche villagers believed Antón and accepted the Christian faith for themselves.
The Spanish, under Jean de Béthencourt already possessed the eastern islands of the archipelago. In 1464, before the aboriginal inhabitants of Tenerife had been conquered and converted to Christianity, a Spanish nobleman and governor of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura by the name of Sancho de Herrera had heard about the miraculous image on the island of Tenerife.
When the governor of Lanzarote, Sancho de Herrera heard about the miraculous image he sailed across to "pagan" Tenerife and brought the holy statue back to "Christian" Lanzarote.
The statue was placed in the Church, San Salvador, in the town of Teguise where it was greatly adored by the worshippers. But each morning the image was found facing the wall, its back to the congregation. Prayers and penances were of no avail and many islanders were soon struck down by a mystery illness. Realizing that he was to blame; the governor returned the statue to Tenerife. Following the conquest of Tenerife the Spaniards built a chapel on the sea shore to house the Virgin and Child, whom they called Our Lady of the Candle.
The first mass was celebrated at Achbinico on February 2, 1497, and the Adelantado Alonso Fernández de Lugo ordered the construction of a hermitage there, but it was not built until 1526, during the rule of Pedro Fernández de Lugo. This was the site of the Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria. The basilica was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the 19th century. The statue itself was lost when a tsunami carried it out to sea in 1826; the present statue is a copy by Fernando Estévez.
Our Lady of Candelaria
Our Lady of Candelaria was declared patroness of the Canary Islands in 1559, by and principal patroness by Pope Pius IX in 1867. The first mass was celebrated at Cueva de Achbinico, also called Cave of San Blas on February 2, 1497 at what today is the town of Candelaria on the eastern coast of the island of Tenerife.
The legend of the Candelaria, Our Lady of the Candle, goes back almost a century before the Castilian conquest of the island of Tenerife which was conquered by Alonso Fernandez de Lugo in 1488.