The Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Peña Sacra

  • Physical accessibility
  • Suitable for children
  • Historical heritage

Where religion and pagan worship merge

There it is, at the foot of La Pedriza, perched on the large rock after which it is named, watching over our nature and our village from the heights.

The Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Peña Sacra

In a particularly magical location in Manzanares El Real, between the purest nature and the life of its neighbours, the Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Peña Sacra survives the vicissitudes of time and history.

Dating back to the end of the 15th century, the golden age of our town, the origin of the sacred worship travels back to the time of the Celts and Druids, when our Carpetan ancestors inhabited these lands.

Centuries have passed since then, but its religious tradition is still thriving for the inhabitants of Manzanares, who celebrate, all together, the day of their patron saint with food and dances in the meadows of the Virgin, next to the Canto Redondo.

The hermitage that survives

Lots of history and experiences for our hermitage… If only its walls could talk!

Nestled at the foot of La Pedriza and facing east, out of the seven hermitages built over the centuries in the municipality, it is the only one still standing. Its location is no coincidence, as there is evidence of an older settlement nearby and the chapel may have maintained its dedication as a sacred place.

Its construction must have begun at the end of the 15th century, coinciding with the Village’s golden age, when the Mendoza family built its castle and the new parish church. The original building, with a square ground plan, was intended to serve as a chapel and the sacristy and the hermit’s dwelling were attached to it during the 17th century, giving it its current appearance. The construction makes use of the local raw material in the granite masonry, and has ashlar reinforcements at the corners, doors and windows. The roof rests on a cornice decorated with the typical Isabelline balls, also present in the church and in the New Castle. Despite its apparent humility, the Gothic-style ribbed vault is particularly beautiful, using stone ribs that form a flower composed of courses of headers offset by half a brick. The pointed arch that separates the chancel from the rest of the building is also very remarkable.

Thanks to historical documentation, we know that, since the 16th century, the hermitage had an important congregation that acquired greater importance from 1707 onwards, when nobles from Madrid created the Brotherhood of the Virgin de la Peña Sacra and took over the rites in honour of the Virgin. On her feast day, the population had the tradition to ascend in procession from the village to the chapel, but from this date onwards the ceremonies were extended to include bringing down the image to the parish church on the Saturday of Pentecost until its return the following Monday. As large numbers of the faithful came from the Court and the surrounding villages, the celebrations incorporated dancing, fireworks and stage performances in the town square, recounting the legend of the apparition of the Virgin to seven bishops on the Peña Sagrada (Sacred Rock).

Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Peña Sacra - acordeón 1

The hermit, an especially important person for these places of worship, was chosen by the parish priest and could be a man or a woman. One of his or her occupations was to go around to the nearby villages asking for alms for the chapel, as well as guarding the temple. Bernaldo de Quirós tells us about the bravery of these hermits in his book, ‘La Pedriza del Real de Manzanares’, in which he recounts an anecdote about a female guard who defended the chapel against an attack of bandits, so common at the time.

Another serious event took place during the festivities of 1769, when a fire broke out in the parish church caused by the candles that surrounded the altar of the Virgin of Peña Sacra. The church suffered serious damage, resulting in the roof and coffered ceiling, the tower and the statues, including that of the Virgin, being burnt. The people of Manzanares blamed the Brotherhood of Madrid for this misfortune and, after the restoration of the church and the commissioning of a new image, the residents of Manzanares El Real regained control over the rites in honour of their Virgin.

As it happened in many places in Spain, the chapel also suffered serious damage during the Civil War, when the new 18th century image was destroyed, although the statue of the child was spared.

Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Peña Sacra - acordeón 2

After this period of conflict, the hermitage underwent its first restoration in 1952, when a replica of the image of the Virgin was made and paid for by the residents of Manzanares El Real and by the Brotherhood, which was then composed only of women in charge of carrying her on their shoulders in the processions, taking care of her and adorning the image. The wigs of the Virgin were made from natural hair donated by the villagers.

Nowadays, every Monday of Pentecost, almost the entire village gathers together and goes up to the hermitage in procession with the Virgin, and celebrates its pilgrimage in the nearby meadow, presided over by the Canto Redondo, in honour of the Virgin of the Peña Sacra. Bernaldo de Quirós himself wrote about the Canto Redondo: ‘Near La Sacra, El Canto Redondo stands isolated on a meadow. One of the many in La Pedriza, around which the inhabitants of Manzanares still dance on the day of Pentecost, perhaps obeying a prehistoric rite linked to the worship of the Peña Sacra’.

Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Peña Sacra - acordeón 3

In pictures

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