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Candelaria and the Tenerife Black Madonna of the Canary Islands

Updated on January 5, 2015

Candelaria and its basilica

Candelaria is a town on the southeast coast of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. It is most famous for its basilica, which contains the statue of a Black Madonna that thousands of pilgrims travel to visit each year.

The basilica and the Black Madonna have made Candelaria a popular place for tourists too and many excursions come to the town. The Virgin of Candelaria, as she is known, is a big attraction, but so too are the statues of nine Guanche menceyes (chieftains) on the sea wall.

Candelaria photos

Black Madonna in Candelaria
Black Madonna in Candelaria
Basilica in Candelaria
Basilica in Candelaria
Statues of nine Guanche leaders
Statues of nine Guanche leaders

Patron Saint of Tenerife and the Canary Islands

These statues of the Guanche leaders are on the seawall that overlooks the main square and is also conveniently by the basilica, making the location a place where tourists gather to see the sights and take photos.


The basilica is known in Spanish as La Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, and the Black Madonna it houses is actually the Patron Saint of Tenerife and of all the Canary Islands.

In the language of the islands she is called "La Virgen de Candelaria" and she is the object of devotion for very many Catholics who live on the islands.

The Festival de la Canción de Candelaria, on 15 August, is one of the most important religious celebrations on Tenerife because it is the time the pilgrims travel to Candelaria and congregate there, drawn by their devotion to the Virgin of Candelaria.

Candelaria was once part of the Güímar “menceyato” (kingdom) and it still has close ties with its neighbour.

Guanche shepherds

In the island's folklore it is told that way back in 1390, two Guanche shepherds had discovered a carved statue of the Virgin of Candelaria on the Chimisay beach.

The men took the image to the mencey of Güímar who had his palace in a cave, which is now known as Chinguaro's Cave. The story goes that the Virgin was moved again from there and relocated in Achbinico's Cave (now known as the Cave of San Blas) where she was worshipped by the Guanches as Chaxiraxi, their Mother Goddess.

The cave housed the statue of the Virgin of Candelaria from that time on, however, a church was eventually built in 1526. A fierce storm blew up in 1826 that not only brought the church to ruin but also carried the Virgin back out to sea.

Fernando Estévez made a replacement statue in 1830, and La Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, which is where the Virgin of Candelaria resides, was finally inaugurated many years onward in 1959.

The Convent of Los Dominicos, which is located near to the basilica, is the home now of a museum that is devoted to the Virgin of Candelaria's history and legend.

Candelaria has natural volcanic black sand beaches, but because the seas can be very rough at times there it is not a recommended area for bathers.

Candelaria offers many restaurants and bars as well as shops, and there are countless religious objects and images of the Virgin of Candelaria on sale to tourists and pilgrims.

Candelaria is on a number of TITSA bus routes making it within easy reach of Tenerife's capital city of Santa Cruz.that lies further up the coastline. It is well worth visiting to see the Black Madonna, who is the Patron Saint of the islands, and to have a look around the basilica which has become her home.

© 2010 Steve Andrews


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