Infanta Elena of Spain has joined a host of people in making a pilgrimage to the statue of Jesus of Medinaceli in Madrid. On the first Friday in March every year, tens of thousands of people pay tribute to the icon. Spain’s royals have taken part in the custom for centuries and this year, it was the older sister of King Felipe VI who continued the practice.
The Infanta, who is third in line to Spain’s throne, was greeted by sizeable crowds as she arrived at the Basilica of Jesus of Medinceli in central Madrid on Friday March 1st 2019. She was welcomed to the church, which is run by a community of Capuchin monks, by the group’s provincial minister, Benjamin Echeverria. Also there to greet her were Carlos Coca, Guardian of the Fraternity of Capuchin Fathers, and Gregorio Blanco, Brother of the Fraternity.
Infanta Elena processed through the central nave of the church towards the image of Jesus of Medinaceli. The statue was carved in the 17th century in Seville and taken to the Spanish station of La Mamora in Morocco for soldiers to pray to. It was captured when the stronghold fell to Moulay Ismail in 1681 and rescued by the Trinitarians who brought it to Madrid. A procession and the March veneration of the statue began soon afterwards with Spain’s royals joining in from the beginning. The basilica in which it is now kept was built in the early 20th century on the site of the church constructed to house it on its initial return to Spain. That building was funded by the Duke of Medinaceli.
This year, the Infanta spent several minutes in quiet reflection before the statue before performing the usual homage of kissing the icon’s foot. She also spent time talking to those who care for the church, which is a popular place of worship for the people of Madrid as well as being a well known tourist destination. Elena was also presented with a new book about the statue. Veneration of the icon continued throughout the day as so many people wanted to take part. Queues had begun to form two days before the traditional event.
The Infanta, who is the eldest child of King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain, last made the pilgrimage to the statue in 2014. In 2018, King Felipe VI was present at the event.