Crowds celebrate return of Our Lady to Valladolid

 An event that took place 400 years ago was re-enacted last week at Valladolid when the Vulnerata - a small mediaeval statue of Our Lady - was carried in procession from the cathedral to the English college. The story begins with the Spanish Armada in 1688. Following the defeat of Spain, Protestant English raiding parties led by Sir Francis Drake rampaged around the Spanish coast. One group landed at Cadiz where they destroyed churches and mutilated statues and religious objects. In San Lucar de Barrameda there were a number of English Catholic residents, descended from sailors who had settled in the area. They rescued the statue of Our Lady which had been badly damaged - the child cut from the body, arms removed and face slashed. When Margaret of Austria heard the story she asked them for the statue - so she could pray before it for the Protestants of England. The English community from San Lucar de Barrameda delivered it to her. In 1600, Queen Margaret gave the statue to the recently established English College (St Albans) at Valladolid. She wrote a beautiful devotional poem in Spanish and carried the statue herself in procession from the Cathedral to the new chapel at the college. The chapel, partly paid for by the Borgias, is built in a lavish Baroque style, on the round, with gilt features made from beaten gold coins. A series of petal-shaped panels in the dome depict the history of the Vulnerata statue. Fr Paul Billington, director of the Catholic Missionary Society and former student from the college who attended the event said: "It was a marvellous fiesta - very lively. The Cathedral was very full for the Solemn Mass. When we went out into the piazza there was a huge crowd waiting. It took over an hour an a half, following in the footsteps of Queen Margaret, to walk the short distance to the chapel." He added: "The Vulnerata statue is quite small, perhaps three foot high. She has been given a new crown and the chapel has been refurbished. It looks beautiful."

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