From an ancient hermitage a black madonna with a mysterious smile. A sanctuary promoted by Saint Josémaría Escrivá de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei who received a healing grace from Our Lady of Torreciudad at the age of 2.
THE HISTORY OF THE SANCTUARY
The Torreciudad sanctuary is located in northern Spain, in the area of the Aragonese Pyrenees. In ancient times it was a hermitage located in a place lost in the mountains, while nowadays it is an easy to reach sanctuary, characterized by silence and peace and the scenic beauty that surrounds it. Popular devotion for this Marian sanctuary began in the 11th century. The spiritual care of the place is entrusted to the Prelature of Opus Dei. It was in fact promoted by St. Josémaría Escrivá de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei.
Escrivá himself recounts that when in 1904, at the age of 2, he became so seriously ill that doctors almost gave him up. His mother then prayed intensely to the Virgin, and a few days later, once healed surprisingly, took him on a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the hermitage of Our Lady of Torreciudad.
Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer: “When it comes to shrines dedicated to the Virgin, it is said that there are too many images of Mary. I find, on the contrary, that there are few. And now with everyone’s help, with everyone’s prayer and sacrifice, we managed to rebuild another sanctuary that already existed in the 11th century. “
Before it was transferred to the sanctuary, the original statue of the Virgin was kept in the hermitage. It is a black Virgin, very similar to that of Our Lady of Montserrat, in Spain. According to a legend, the Virgin appeared to some woodcutters from Bolturina, a small village near Torreciudad, telling them that she wanted to be venerated in that place. In the crypt there are four chapels dedicated to the Holy Family and to the Marian invocations of Loreto (France), del Pilar (Zaragoza-Spain) and Guadalupe (Mexico). Three galleries enclose the ceramic stations of the mysteries of the rosary by José Alzuet.
One of the characteristics of this sanctuary is that of being a place of reconciliation with God through the sacraments. St. Josemaría asked the Virgin for “abundant spiritual fruits” and for this he built numerous confessionals.
Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer: “We ask the Virgin Mary to give us those abundant spiritual graces that only Heaven knows. Those who turn to the Virgin to show her their love, will clearly have to make vows, and she will spread the grace of her Son through the sacraments and penance “.
The families in this sanctuary are the protagonists, so much so that the main meeting of the year is dedicated to them. Around 15,000 a year come here to ask the Mother of God for help in the difficulties and blessings of marriage. The sanctuary is also part of the so-called “Via Mariana”, which connects Montserrat, El Pilar, Torreciudad and Lourdes.
Another peculiarity is that it houses a gallery of Marian invocations from other places. The gallery was created in 1984, when, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of Torreciudad, the most famous Marian shrines were invited to go here on pilgrimage to enthrone their patrons, leaving a replica in memory. For this reason it is possible to see almost two hundred statues of the Virgin.
However, the gallery is not a museum because it reflects the many spontaneous testimonies of love for the Virgin left in Torreciudad. In many cases, moreover, it has become a tradition to many to return here every year to venerate the statue, relive the past customs and sing the local hymns. So much so that from this woodcutter sanctuary burst out a flame of international Marian devotion.
THE MYSTERIOUS SMILE
When the prestigious photographer José Antonio Duce presented the photographs of the Virgin in Torreciudad that would have formed the book “Our Lady in the Kingdom of Aragon. Medieval images and faces ”, he affirmed that in those images he had tried to discover the smile of Our Lady, and that he thought he had succeeded. Certainly in the case of Our Lady of Torreciudad his attempt was crowned with success. But, unfortunately, this smile is not noticed from the nave of the church.
A few years ago a group of students from a Barcelona school visited the sanctuary. A few days later a phone call from the parents of a blind girl who had not come with her companions, but to whom they had talked for so long about the beauty of the sanctuary that she wanted to know, and her parents asked if Laia could touch some things to “see” them by touch. The answer was affirmative and when he came with his grandparents he was able to touch the plastic of the altarpiece found in the gallery of statues of the Madonna, identifying all the scenes without help.
Then they presented her with a statue that was in that same gallery and she immediately discovered, with great joy, that it was the “Mare de Deu when she was xiqueta” (the Mother of God when she was a child). Finally, they brought it in front of the statue of Our Lady of Torreciudad, an identical copy of the original which is located in the altarpiece. Laia stood on tiptoe, put her hands on the face of the Madonna and with cheerful surprise exclaimed: “Our Lady is smiling!”. It was really exciting that a blind girl had “seen” what almost nobody realized.
PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF TORRECIUDAD
“Holy Mary,, Mother of God, Our Lady of Torreciudad, for over nine centuries you have been watching over these mountains upon which shines the old hermitage and the new Tower , a unity of yesterday’s faith with that of today. We come here in search of your shadow to receive the body and forgiveness of your Son; to pray in silence and so to proclaim to the world your purity and all those things which, through your love, you offer to your children “.
Sito ufficiale del santuario: http://www.torreciudad.org/.