For 27 years the population of Manjarrés, between Logroño and Nájera in La Rioja, have been saving up to build a hermitage in honour of the Virgin Almedaña. Their efforts came to an end last weekend with the official opening of the little stone building by Bishop Juan José Omella, and Pedro Sanz, the president of La Rioja’s government.
I was asked to take photos of the open air inauguration mass by a friend, Bernado Lopez Montiel, a highly-respected carver from Ezcaray, who spent a month last year making the beautiful virgin and son lime-wood carving which now sits in the hermitage.
The legend of Almedaña dates back to the ninth century when the Christian king, Ramiro I, refused to pay an annual tax of 100 virgins to his Moorish counterpart. During the resulting battle of Clavijo, the Christian forces successfully called upon the apostle James and the Virgin Mary to come to their aid.
Every May there continues to be a pilgrimage of 100 local girls in bridal dress to the old hermitage Hermedaña (an alternative name for Almedaña) located not far away.