The Virgin of Candelaria

In 1392, a century before Tenerife was conquered, a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a candela (candlestick) washed up on the shore near modern-day Candelaria. The Guanche shepherds who found the statue took it to their king and, according to legend, the people worshipped it. When the Spanish conquered the island a century later, they deemed the statue miraculous, and in 1526 Commander Pedro Fernández de Lugo ordered a sanctuary be built.

The logical explanation of the ‘miracle’ is that the statue was either the figurehead from a wrecked ship, or a Virgin brought by French or Portuguese sailors, who had been on the island before the Spanish conquest. In either case, the statue was swept away by a violent storm in 1826 and never found. The ornate statue that is today garlanded in robes in the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria was carved soon after by local artist Fernando Estévenez. On 15 August, the day she was supposedly found by the Guanches, the Virgin is honoured by processions, numerous Masses and a re-enactment of costumed ‘Guanches’ worshipping her.

Belén de Candeleria

Over Christmas and the winter months until early February, you can find a huge and elaborate open-air nativity scene erected on Calle los Príncipes next to Bar Mencey. Highly detailed and populated with a galaxy of small figures, houses, boats and more, the model scene is a staggering sight and fascinating to explore, with trees incorporated into the display (the name 'Belén' means 'Bethlehem').