The Royal Basilica Our Lady of Atocha of Madrid !

Back to my dear Madrid. I have written so many posts on my Madrid and always something is missing, as now. Briefly touch before, need to update this older post to tell you more of the wonderful story of this huge monument call the Real Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Atocha or Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha of Madrid.

I have passed several times and finally saw the Real Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Atocha , very nice, on Avenida de la Ciudad de Barcelona, 1. but main entrance of the parish is at Calle Julián Gayarre 1. It is in the neighborhood of Pacifico, and district of Retiro of my dear Madrid. Very centrally located very near the Atocha Renfe train metro station on the Alfonso XII exit and Menéndez Pelayo metro station on the Gutenberg exit, of metro line 1, Cercanías. Atocha Station and bus lines 10 and 14 are good too.


The image of Our Lady of Atocha, is the oldest in Madrid. The legend traces the devotion to apostolic times, attributing its accomplishment to Nicodemus and its polychromy to Saint Luke, being transferred by Saint Peter’s disciples from Antioch to Spain. It is the chronicles of the 17C that began to provide more realistic data, citing a document where the first reference to the cult of Our Lady of Atocha appeared. It would be a 7C writing by San Ildefonso in which he claimed to have prayed before an image in Madrid whose characteristics would correspond to the current image.  The first documents that mention the existence of a hermitage in which Our Lady of Atocha (Notre Dame of Atocha) is worshiped, date back to 1162, and are some Bulls of the Cathedral of Toledo where the archbishop of that city grants ownership of the hermitage to the Collegiate house of Santa Leocadia de Toledo. And finally, the irrefutable document that shows the existence of an important cult to Our Lady in her dedication to Atocha,was in the 13C, in the Cantigas de Alfonso X el Sabio, where direct reference is made to two miracles of Nuestra Señora (Our Lady= Notre Dame) from “Tocha” from “Madride” in Cantigas 289 and 315. The Dominican friars have been custodians of the image since 1523, the year in which, through fraile Juan Hurtado de Mendoza, confessor of King Carlos V, the hermitage becomes property of the Order of Preachers. Illustrious friars have passed through it such as confessors of kings, theologians, writers, musicians etc. Fr. Bartolomé de las Casas, defender of the Indians (Americas), spent his last years of his life, and here he died and was buried , although the exact place of his grave is not known.


There was always a close relationship between the Royal House and the image of Our Lady of Atocha. According to the chronicles, the kings soon began to visit the Virgin of Atocha: Alfonso VII, Alfonso IX, Sancho IV el Bravo, Enrique II, Enrique III, Enrique IV, Juan I, Juan II and the Catholic Monarchs (Fernando e Isabel). It is said of Felipe II that he never left Madrid without going through the Basilica. Felipe IV visited it 3400 times, as a friar of the house noted patiently. Carlos II wanted his first outing as king of Spain to go to Atocha, and there he went after his wedding with María Luisa de Orleans giving on that occasion a cloak and a diamond crown. Alfonso XII, restored the throne, moved from the Atocha station to the Basilica where he prayed a Te Deum and Salve.  From a very early age it became customary for kings to present princes and infants to their children before the image of the Virgin. So they did, for example, on December 7, 1629, Felipe IV and his wife presenting Prince Baltasar Carlos. Felipe IV brought Prince Carlos before the image a few days after his birth. The relationship between the Royal House and the Basilica has also been maintained during the 20C. The current kings Felipe VI and Doña Leticia approached the temple after their wedding to present the bouquet to the Virgin, and on two more occasions in 2006 and 2007 to present to their Patron Saint their current daughters Princess Eleanor and Infanta Sofia.

In 1808 Napoleon’s troops violently entered the Convent and Church, turning it into a barracks and causing terrible damage. It was then that the historical flags were lost, a memory of Spain’s triumphs throughout history, which decorated the walls of the temple in gratitude. They stole all the gold and silver from the Virgin, burned the library books and demolished many parts of the convent. The friars took the image of Our Lady of Atocha and took it to the Descalzas Reales and later they transferred it to the Convent of Santo Tomás where the religious stayed. The confiscation of 1834 was the second hard blow to the temple, when the Dominicans were expelled and the convent converted into a barracks for invalids and the temple guarded by the Royal Chaplain. With the passage of time the temple threatened ruin and the image was transferred to the parish of Buen Suceso.

On November 12, 1863, Pope Pius IX granted the Church of Atocha the title of Basilica, by means of a Brief pontificate signed in Rome. Thus, it became the first temple in Madrid to receive this title and one of the top ten in Spain. It had been Queen Isabel II who had raised the request for such dignity to the Nuncio to Her Holiness in Spain. The Queen was a faithful devotee of Our Lady of Atocha, and in her temple she had celebrated the Mass of vigils after her marriage, and she frequently went to pray and sing Salve before the image of the Virgin. The Pope, aware of the Queen’s devotion to the image, responded promptly granting the title of Basilica.

In 1924 the Dominicans, who could not forget the Virgin of Atocha who had guarded with so much devotion and affection for four centuries, asked King Alfonso XII to grant facilities to restore the Convent and Church Basilica of the Virgin of Atocha. The works were carried out with the greatest speed and on the first Saturday of November 1926 the solemn transfer of the Virgin was made, from the parish of Buen Suceso to its new church, where she was received by His Majesty the King Alfonso XIII ;and his mother Queen María Cristina, resuming a new era in the cult of the Virgin of Atocha.

The worship was interrupted again in the eventful years of the Spanish Civil War, when the Convent and the Basilica Church of Our Lady of Atocha were assaulted and burned down on July 20, 1936 by Republicans forces; and the religious who could not escape that tragic day were martyred. Everything of value kept in the compound was lost, but God wanted only the greatest treasure in the house to be saved, the image of the Virgin of Atocha that had been removed days before her throne and had been handed over her custody to a family friend of the Community.

The current Royal Basilica fo Our Lady of Atocha was inaugurated on Christmas 1951. In 1963, the Virgen de Atocha School was built, which the Atocha community managed for more than 40 years until it was transferred to the Santo Domingo Educational Foundation, although the friars of the convent continue to participate in pastoral care. Of the college. In 1965 the parish of Our Lady of Atocha was erected, which was a great pastoral impulse in the neighborhood that continues today with intensity.


The official Real Basilica Nuestra Señora de Atocha

The Madrid tourist office on the Basilica

A wonderful story indeed and a beautiful basilica on an area that is grand for walks; see my other post on the street Paseo de la Reina Cristina. The Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha is very much part of the history of Madrid and Spain , hope you have the time to see it, after all walking distance from Atocha train station !

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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