Three anniversaries come together this year in the valley of Covadonga: the centenary of the canonical coronation of the Santina, the centenary of the creation of the National Park of Picos de Europa and the 1300th anniversary of the battle of Covadonga.
Text - Fernando Serrano
On September 8, 1918, the images of the Virgin of Covadonga and the Child Jesus that she carries in her arms were canonically crowned. The then Bishop of Oviedo, Bishop Javier Baztán y Urniza, asked Pope Benedict XV for this grace. In the same way he asked for permission to celebrate an extraordinary jubilee in that year that was also the twelfth centenary of the battle of Covadonga.
On the occasion of the centenary, Palabra has interviewed the abbot of Covadonga, Adolfo Mariño. "From the Archdiocese of Oviedo we have asked the Holy Father Francis for the grace to make this anniversary a Marian Jubilee Year and he has granted it to us.".
Queen of our mountain
"It was the coronation as our queen and mother, although here we call her Queen of our mountain, as in the hymn of Covadonga. The Blessed Virgin was crowned on September 8, 1918," recalls the abbot of Covadonga. "Present on that day were King Alfonso XIII, his wife, the entire government of Spain and logically all the bishops presided over by Bishop Guisasola, an Asturian who was at that time Cardinal of Toledo.". In this ceremony Mary was recognized as queen of all Asturians and pilgrims who come to visit her in the Holy Cave.
"In Covadonga, three realities come together that are not found elsewhere in Asturias, and without these realities the region cannot be understood."Mariño specifies. "The first is the spiritual reality. Mary has been here for 1300 years and we Asturians have venerated her here. Secondly, nature. Pope John XXIII said that Covadonga is a miracle of nature, and it is true. And finally, here is the birth of a kingdom, that of Asturias. Therefore, there are three realities that are not separated.".
"We are celebrating, deeply felt and joyfully awaited. Nothing less than a birthday is what moves us to so much grateful joy."This is how the Archbishop of Oviedo, Fr. Jesús Sanz, begins his letter on the occasion of the Marian Jubilee Year. It has been a century since the Virgin of Covadonga reigned in Asturias.
"It is already having a notable impact. With the centenary more people are coming, but every year in Covadonga, without being a Marian Jubilee year, approximately 1,200,000 people come as pilgrims to Covadonga.Adolfo Mariño when asked about the influx of pilgrims to this sanctuary in the heart of the Picos de Europa. He continues: "Covadonga has always been a place of much pilgrimage, and it is increasing. It is true that last year there was an increase in the number of pilgrims, as it was the Holy Year of Liébana. As one place is very close to the other, people made pilgrimages to Santo Toribio de Liébana and then came to Covadonga, or vice versa.". Even so, regardless of the Lebaniego year, ".Covadonga has been a place of pilgrimage since time immemorial and is on the rise.".
Pilgrimages are being organized from all over the archdiocese of Oviedo. The Abbot of Covadonga highlights two pilgrimages among those that will be organized during this year. These are the youth and school pilgrimages. "The youth meeting will be attended by more than 1,000 people during the weekend of April 14 and 15. And then, we will have another pilgrimage of private, charter and public schools, a meeting in which more than 2,500 young people are already registered. To have so many young people is going to be a grace from God and a great grace in the diocese.".
The abbot emphasizes that Covadonga is not only visited by believers, but also by ".one comes to this home as to one's own home. In this home you know that there is always someone waiting for you and embracing you, which is Mary.". In the conversation with the abbot of Covadonga some striking data come out. "We have a very interesting statistic, of those who visit the sanctuary every year: 10 % are atheists and 12 or 14 % are agnostics. A very curious thing happens in Asturias: there are many people who are not believers, as in many parts of the world, but nevertheless they have an obligatory appointment at Covadonga.". As the quintessential Asturian phrase goes: "I don't believe in anything, but don't touch the Santina". In relation to these data, Mariño tells us that "is what Covadonga is and what we intend Covadonga to continue to be: a welcoming home where we have to live these events and celebrate them with all the joy in the world.".
In addition, the Marian Jubilee Year has several main activities. There are four outstanding events: the pilgrimages, the Conversations of Covadonga, a course of Mariology and the Novena of the Blessed Mother.
n terms of pilgrimages, "all 934 parishes in Asturias will make a pilgrimage to Covadonga at some point in time.", emphasizes the abbot of the Sanctuary with some emotion. "They will be welcomed to earn the jubilee". The holy door of the Jubilee is the Cave where the image of the Santina is located. "This is what Pope Francis told us in the letter he sent us. The only holy door in Asturias, in our diocese, is the visit to the Virgin in the Holy Cave. That is where we receive the pilgrims.". The structure of each pilgrimage is similar. First there is a penitential act, ".because Covadonga is also a place of penance, a place of conversion, of change of life."and ends with the Eucharist.
In the month of June, the Covadonga Conversations will take place. A series of conferences on different areas related to nature, faith and civil life. "They are coordinated by the Archbishop of the diocese, Fr. Jesús Sanz. These are conversations that will have a very high intellectual depth and scientific rigor."Mariño emphasizes.
The third milestone of the Marian year is the Mariology course scheduled for the month of August. "It is divided into two parts. In the morning, for experts in Mariology; and in the afternoon, for people who also want to participate in it," explains the abbot of Covadonga. And will close the year the Novena of the Santina. "This year it will be presided over by Asturian bishops or by prelates who have passed through the diocese of Oviedo.".
Another two anniversaries
Two other centenaries are celebrated in the same valley. The first is that of the declaration of the natural reserve of the Picos de Europa as a National Park on July 22, 1918 by King Alfonso XII. Its original name was Parque Nacional de la montaña de Covadonga, although it was later changed to Picos de Europa. Most of the activities carried out on this anniversary are aimed at extolling the figure of Pedro Pidal Bernaldo de Quirós, Marquis of Villaviciosa, the driving force behind the creation of this natural area.
Another of the anniversaries to be commemorated is the thirteenth centenary of the birth of the Kingdom of Asturias. The battle of Covadonga took place in 718 and on the occasion of this anniversary a special exhibition of the paintings of the Asturian monarchy will be on display at the Museum of Covadonga. It is a collection loaned to the Sanctuary by the Prado Museum.
The Minister of the Presidency of the Asturian government, Guillermo Martínez, highlights ".the joint work carried out by the Government of Asturias, the Archbishopric of Oviedo and the City Council of Cangas de Onís to provide society with an exemplary and varied program of activities as a result of institutional collaboration.".