Mijas - Virgen de la peña chapel
Address: Paseo "El Compás"
Opening hours: Everyhour, every day.
Price: Free entry.
In the village of Mijas in the year 1,536 lived Pedro Bernal Manrique and his wife Asunción Alcántara y Torreras, both born in the area of Trujillo. The couple had a son called Pedro who married Catalina Linaire Sánchez in 1,573; she being the daughter of Juan Linaire Herrero and Pilar Sánchez Estévez; iron merchants from Torrijos of Toledo, family of the parents of Saint Teresa of Jesus. The couple had two children Juan and Asunción, both working age (he was 12 and she was 10). Their father bought them a few lambs for them to look after.
One Sunday, the 30th of May, (being the day of holy Trinity) at midday the two children were playing, when all of a sudden the most beautiful dove flew between them. The children ran to catch the dove. They caught it while it was perched on the old tower where the heavenly queen appeared. They stroked and kissed the dove with tenderness and were lost for words. They awoke thinking it had all been a dream, as the dove was no longer there.
When they returned home, they told their parents what had happened, but they took no notice of their child talk.
The next day, Monday the 31st of May they returned to the same place, having forgotten everything that had happen to them the revious day. Once again at the same time and at the same place the same happened to them. Again they told their parents what had happened. Their parents told them that they should not return to the site, as something could happen to them.
They did not return until Wednesday, 2nd of June. They had once again forgotten everything that had happened to them. It was midday and the children were looking after their lambs when they heard a voice: “look at me Juan”; they turned their heads to see who was calling them, there they saw the dove perched on the window of the tower. All of a sudden a beautiful light of colours shone around the dove, and amongst the light appeared a lady with a child in arms.
The dove flew down and settled on the breast of the heavenly lady. The children knelt to see so much beauty. The little girl exclaimed “what a beautiful lady”. “Who are you?” asked the little boy innocently “I’m the Mother of God” said the Lady. “What do you want from me and my sister?” said the little boy”. “I want to talk to you”, answered the Lady. The little girl warned the Lady, “Careful you are going to fall off the tower”. “No, my girl, I won’t fall!” answered the lady.
“Now go home, tell your parents what has happened and also tell the authorities of the village and the priest. Tell them that I have been hidden here for over 500 years”. Having said this, she disappeared.
The children told their father of the vision, he then informed the authorities and priest and them went with the children to the castle. The father, who was a builder, climbed the tower to the place the children had seen the Dove. He knocked on the area the children had said and it sounded hollow. He began to break away the wall. He then exclaimed in a shocked voice “Jesus, it’s here”, and then fainted.
Later the priest of the village presented the Holy Virgin to the villagers. The whole village knelt to pay their respects.
Inside the cavity where they found the virgin, the also found a strange shaped pair of candle sticks, two guardians relics, a ciborium, and pieces of jewellery and the history of the virgin. The Virgin was known from then on as the Virgin of the Tower. They gave Juan the image of the Virgin for him to carry it to the Parish Church.
The next day was Corpus Christi. The celebration was more serious than ever due to the fact of the discovery of the Virgin; which happened the 2-6-1,586 at midday, in the reign of Philip II. This is the history of the Holy Virgin, she was once called Santa Maria de la Encarnación, she appeared to the children, Juan & Asunción Bernal Linaire.
The return of the Virgin brought joy to Mijas. But even though testimony of the two children had been presented at the Town Hall, the workers there did not hurry the paperwork to build the new chapel. The project was paralysed for 70 years. It probably wouldn’t have been built if it hadn’t been for the dedication and love of the virgin of Brother Diego de Jesus, Maria and San Pablo. One day of the year 1,656, after many attempts of trying to get the Local and religious authorities interested in the project; brother Diego picked up his pickaxe and began to attack the rock. At first he was the laughing stock of the villagers, later they began to feel sorry for him. They would bring him water, bread and cheese to help him in his job. He never gave up. Day after day he worked at the rock for 26 years. His faith won him the respect and admiration of the whole village. When he finished the Sanctuary of the Virgin in 1,682 he was invited by the council to be honoured. Brother Diego took the opportunity to propose that the castle of the rock, after 100 years of peace was a ruin, be repaired by the village and converted into a convent – hospice of the Barefooted Carmelites. The little Brother, now considered a living saint, asked for this in such a moving way that the authorities voted unanimously in favour of the proposal. Due to the high cost this project was presented at the Municipal plenary session, to which the whole village attended. The next afternoon the 8-9-1,682, day of the festivity of the Virgin, the bells rang to announce that all the village should meet at the square. The old documents describe the historic day like this: The tow soldieries of Mijas, were splendid in their gala uniforms, with their flags and standards flying in the wind, in line of one side of the square, “plaza de Los Alamos”. They were accompanied by the Judges, local and religious authorities, all dressed in their best garments. Along the opposite side of the square were all the villagers of Mijas also dressed for the occasion. In the middle of the square stood the councillors and brother Diego with his brown soutane, the Carmelite habit.
The Secretary read out loud the proposal of brother Diego, once all the villagers showed their approval, the proposal was approved unanimously, that the Barefooted Carmelite Order was to admit Brother Diego for life, and at the time of his death he be buried with the rituals of the Order of the monks of the convent hospice to be built in the rock that he had carved out. He asked that his grave have no sing on it, and that his bones be buried close to what had been his work and the love of his live: The Virgin of the Rock.
The hermit Diego de Jesus, Maria y San Juan died the 6-7-1,731 according to the death certificate in the book of the Parish Church – book 5, page III. There was also a bell with the name of the Virgin of the Rock and the brother Diego de Jesus; it weighed a 170 Kilos. His remains were buried under the chapel of the Virgin of the Rock according to the agreement signed the 8-9-1,682.
The hospice of Brother Diego prospered until 1,831, when Mendizábal ordered all the religious orders to be secularised and took away all their wealthy belongings; the hospice was closed and the Barefooted Carmelite monks bandoned Mijas. The hospice was knocked down and stripped by vandals. Many used its building material to build their housed; everything was stripped of stolen except for the tower and the wall where the chapel of the Virgin had been and where it is thought the remains of brother Diego lie, other documents say that his remains were taken to the Parish Church.
Today only a few rocks show the dream of little brother Diego, but the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock that he carved with his own hand, still stands as a monument of his faith, and is visited by the natives and foreigners during its fair. Not only do people visit the Virgin on public holidays, festivities and weddings, there is also a great devotion to her in times of grief, illness and difficult moments as she is known to be kind and merciful to those that seek her help.
Rafael Medina Marín – History of the Virgin of the Rock