Guadalupe It is much more than one of the “most beautiful towns in Spain” (an association which it joined in 2018); It is also the town that shelters the Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe, patroness of Estremadura for a century. And if visiting it any year is already a sensory and spiritual pleasure, doing it in 2021-22 becomes an unforgettable experience for coinciding with its Jubilee Year, a fact that occurs only when the feast of the Virgin coincides on Sunday, as occurs on September 6, 2020, the beginning of the Holy Year. Twelve roads lead to Guadalupe and traveling any of them not only allows you to reach the Jubilee but also to enjoy a unique natural environment among ancient chestnut trees and enchanted forests.
It all started five centuries ago, when Pope Paul III established the first Jubilee Year of Guadalupe, in 1536. It was a way of paying homage to Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image is sheltered in the Royal Monastery that takes her name. A seated black virgin made of cedar wood, Romanesque style, measuring 59 centimeters and weighing 3,975 grams. Since then, it was only celebrated in an exceptional way until 2005, when another Pope, John Paul II, granted the grace of the Guadeloupean Jubilee Year provided that the liturgical feast coincided on Sunday, a fact that happens with a cadence of 6, 5, 6 and 11 years. As in 2020, when the Jubilee began, which will last until September 10, 2022. The next one will be in 2026, so these next 19 months are a unique opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the heart of Extremadura.
Pilgrim in the Jubilee Year
There are twelve roads through Cáceres that lead to Guadalupe: Camino Real, Camino de los Montes de Toledo, Camino de la Jara, Camino de Cabañeros, Camino de Levante, Camino de los Mineros, Camino Mozárabe, Camino Romano, Camino Visigodo, Camino of the Discoverers, Way of Monfragüe and Way of the Jerónimos.
Every year, about 170,000 pilgrims visit the monastery, and the nearby natural spaces, especially the Unesco World Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara, an incredible mountainous massif with seven ZEPA zones (special protection of birds), in addition to Appalachian relief, gorges, shelters with cave paintings, Arab castles, mines … and spectacular panoramic viewpoints.
In Guadeloupe their cobbled streets until reaching Royal Monastery. Once there, after going through the Holy Door of the basilica, comes the ritual of caressing the stones at its entrance, in the nave of Santa Ana, which according to tradition covered the image of the Virgin after being buried to protect her. And, of course, enjoy visiting the church, the Mudejar and Gothic cloisters, the sacristy, the dressing room and the museums of this monastery, declared a National Monument in 1879 and a World Heritage Site by Unesco since 1993.
A legend dating back to the 1st century
Legend has it that the image was made in a sculpture workshop founded in Palestine in the 1st century AD After being venerated in temples of Achaia and Byzantium, Pope Saint Gregory the Great gave it to the Archbishop of Visigoth Seville who placed it in a hermitage just outside the city. But during the Muslim invasion of 711, the Christians, to protect it, deposited it in a box that they hid next to the Guadalupe River (a tributary of the Guadiana that flows through Cáceres), in the Villuercas mountain range.
In the thirteenth century the Virgin appeared to a cowboy from Cáceres, Gil Cordero, and told him that there was a sculpture of her next to the Guadalupe River. Cordero looked for it, found the box with the sacred image, and made a small hut crowding stones in which he deposited the image, being the origin of the first hermitage that housed the Virgin of Guadalupe. The sanctuary began to receive pilgrims from the closest surroundings until –in 1337– King Alfonso XI of Castilla y de León promoted the construction of what –in 1389– would become the Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, run in his origins by the Jerónimos and, since 1908, by monks of the Franciscan congregation.
Marian devotion center
The greatness of this center of Marian devotion is also linked to the great characters of history who have visited it, such as Isabel the Catholic, Christopher Columbus, Hernán Cortés, Carlos V, San Pedro de Alcántara, Santa Teresa de Jesús, Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega or Miguel de Unamuno, among others.