May 5

Our Lady of Europe, Gibraltar

In thanksgiving for the reconquest of Spain by Christian forces in 1492, the Catholics of Gibraltar converted a mosque into the shrine of Nuestra Señora de Europa. Beneath a lighthouse tower, Our Lady presided over the Straits, its mariners, and the continent of Europe for over two centuries. But in 1704, the British captured Gibraltar and pillaged the shrine. They mutilated the wooden statue of the Virgin and Child and threw it over the cliff. A fisherman found the floating pieces and took them to Father Juan Romero de Figueroa at the church on Main Street (now the Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned), who carried them to Spain for safekeeping while the Church of Our Lady of Europe served as a British guardroom. There across the bay in Algeciras, the Capillita de Europa housing the repaired statue became a focus of devotion. A replica was placed in Gibraltar's cathedral. In 1864, the Bishop attended the First Vatican Council, where he got Pope Pius IX interested in building a new shrine to Our Lady of Europe. Two years later, the new church was completed. The original statue returned to Gibraltar from Algeciras, where a replica replaced it. But military occupation during two World Wars left the shrine in such disrepair that in 1960 it was torn down for construction of the Old People's Home. In 1961, the government of Gibraltar returned the original chapel, the former mosque, to the Catholic Church. In 1962, it was renovated and reopened as the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, where the statue was reinstalled on October 17, 1961. In 1979 Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Principal Patroness of the diocese of Gibraltar under this title. The feast of Our Lady of Europe was celebrated on May 30 until 1980, when the Vatican authorized its transfer to May 5, then celebrated as Europe Day in honor of the Council of Europe's founding on May 5, 1949. 


"Our Lady of Europe," booklet, The Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, Gibraltar, c1985
Our Lady of Europe, (Shrine's site)
"The Shrine of Our Lady of Europe," 
"The Shrine of Our Lady of Europe," (picture)

Also commemorated this date:

Gospa od Zeceva, Zecevo, Dalmatia, Croatia (Lady of Zecevo Island)
Notre-Dame de Compiègne, Abbaye Saint-Corneille, Oise, Picardie, France. Church consecrated, 877.
Notre-Dame de la Consolation, Houdelaincourt, Meuse, Lorraine, France. Chapel blessed, 1922, following WWI vow.
Notre-Dame de la Victoire, La Garnache, Vendée, Pays de la Loire, France. St. Louis de Montfort blessed chapel, 1712.
Maria Regina Martyrum, Berlin, Germany (Mary Queen of Martyrs). Memorial church for Nazi-era martyrs consecrated, 1963.
Madonna del Lavoro, Dubino, Sondrio, Lombardy, Italy, Nuova Olonio district (Madonna of Work)
Beata Vergine dell'Adorazione, Fivizzano, Massa-Carrara, Tuscany, Italy
Marie Reine de la Paix, Port Louis, Mauritius (Mary Queen of Peace). Foundation stone laid, 1940. Shrine inaugurated Aug. 15, 1940.
Onze Lieve Vrouw onder de Linden, Thorn, Maasgouw, Limburg, Netherlands. Statue crowned, 1985.
Matka Boża Płaszowska, Cracow, Poland. In Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Płaszow district. Late 1400s painting crowned, 1991.
Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación de los Santos Mártires, Carrión de Calatrava, Ciudad Real, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain (Our Lady of the Incarnation of the Holy Martyrs). Statue crowned, 1929. Town patron. Fiesta on Easter.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly