February 9

Virgen de África, Ceuta, Andalucía, Spain

The statue of the Virgin of Africa, patron of the Spanish city of Ceuta in north Africa, is a pietà depicting Mary with the dead Christ in her lap. The absence of such imagery in Byzantine art casts doubt on the story that after Emperor Justinian gave it to Procopius, the Roman governor of the area, it was hidden underground during the Muslim period (c711-1415) and then found on a hill that was radiant with supernatural light. More likely, the wooden statue was around 40 years old in 1421, when Henry the Navigator sent it to Ceuta after conquering the city for Portugal. On February 9, 1651, a plague ended when the statue was taken in prayerful procession and placed on the wall of Ceuta facing Gibraltar. In accordance with a vow city leaders made then, officials process annually on this date to the Iglesia de África for a thanksgiving mass and floral offering. The main feast day of the Virgin of Africa is August 5, preceded by a novena beginning July 26, under the auspices of the Confraternity of Santa María de África. The statue was canonically crowned on November 10, 1946. The Virgin of Africa was declared patron of Ceuta on November 24, 1949, and proclaimed Perpetual Mayor on March 5, 1954. (Picture and information from "Virgen de África, Patrona de Ceuta," El Centinel de Ceuta, May 15, 2008, centineladeceuta.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/virgen-de-africa-patrona-de-ceuta/.)



Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly