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Virgen del Val, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain

Commemorated on Third Sunday of September
Virgen del Val, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
In 1184, a hired laborer fell into the Henares River. Unable to swim and fearing he was about to drown, he prayed for help, and at once the Virgin appeared, holding her child, and pulled the man to safety with her free hand. Some time later, the same man was working a field in the river valley, when the plow hit an object. He dug and found an alabaster statue resembling the woman who had saved him. He brought the image to his employer, who gave it a place of honor in his home. But in the morning it was gone. The owner checked with the plowman, who knew nothing, and together they went to the field, where the statue was resting in a tree. They took this as a sign that the Virgin wanted to stay in the valley, and built a chapel, or ermita, there. In times of need, the statue would be carried to town in procession, as on June 8, 1635, during a severe drought, which ended in a downpour as soon as the group reached the main street. The Virgin of the Vale holds the titles of City Patron, Perpetual Mayor, and Doctor of the University, having made supernatural appearances twice at St. Ildephonsus College (1791) and once at the main city church (La Magistral, 1808). The present image is a replica, the original having been destroyed in a fire. On the Saturday night before the third Sunday, it processes from the rural ermita to the Magistral Church in town (photo from the Brotherhood's website, tertulia-la-corriente.blogspot.com/). On Sunday there's a solemn mass in the church, and on Monday, a great procession led by the city council returns the Virgin to her beloved valley. (Information largely from Turismo y Hosteleria, www.portal-local.com/tuho_his_leye_virge.asp.)

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