The Basilica of Candelaria, short for Basilica of the Royal Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Candelaria (Basílica de Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria), is on the south coast of Tenerife and is one of the most important Catholic churches on the archipelago. Inside, it holds the Patron Saint of the Canary Islands, the Virgin of Candelaria (Virgen de la Candelaria).
Specifically, it is in a small and idyllic fishing village, Candelaria, crowning an enormous plaza known for being the entry point to the Basilica and for the dozens of statues that were erected at its door in honour of Tenerife’s pre-Hispanic inhabitants.
The Basilica is a wonder, as it has been declared a Site of Cultural Interest, a Marian Shrine, and a minor basilica. It was built upon a previous building, and the current structure was completed in 1959.
It’s an ideal place to spend a relaxing day, by getting lost in Candelaria’s narrow streets, trying the tasty dishes in one of its many restaurants, and discovering the small details that make Tenerife a unique island.
On 1st-2nd February and 14th-15th August, hundreds of Canarians walk from different parts of the island to the Basilica as an offering to the Virgin. The pilgrimage has more cultural and traditional significance than religious.
During these days of pilgrimage, the Basilica stays open all night and various masses are held, then in the morning, several events take place.
The Basilica in Detail
The first thing we encounter when we enter the Basilica is the Sala de las Velas, where the faithful leave candles as an expression of devotion or to make a specific request.
The Virgin of Candelaria is in an alcove just behind the altar, presiding over the masses and the Basilica. She can be accessed at the end of mass, when it is custom among the worshippers to kiss the cape which covers her.
We can also find various chapels, like the Capilla de Sagrario and the Capilla del Cristo de la Reconciliación. The first, next to the sacristy, is a representation of Christ’s Last Supper next to his Apostles; the second, is one of the church’s treasures and a place of penance, which represents Jesus Christ on the cross.
We also come across dozens of beautiful stained-glass windows inside which portray different religious events. We can find windows with allusions to the Virgin Mary, representations of angels and archangels, and scenes more relevant to local history, such as those which represent the apparition of the Virgin of Candelaria to the Guanche people.
Likewise, there are dozens of mural paintings, which are the work of Canarian artist José Aguiar Garcia. They are located throughout the Basilica, and naturally, they are all full of references to Christianity.
Around the Basilica
In addition to the aforementioned statues in honour of the guanches, and the popular plaza at the foot of the Basilica, we can find a fairly affluent area; a constantly moving place, where restaurants, shops, cafés, and terraces come together to form a commercial mosaic.
Near the Basilica, you’ll also find the Candelaria Beach (Playa de Candelaria). It’s a welcoming beach with volcanic sand that is mostly visited by local residents.
Candelaria is a wonderful village, with lots of charm and full of little treasures. It has marvellous streets and an extensive area with shops and restaurants.
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