8th September is one of the most important dates for the town of Guadalupe. This is the day on which the religious festival of the Virgen de Guadalupe, the patron of Extremadura who in 1928 was awarded the title of Queen of all Spain or La Hispanidad, coincides with the official date of Extremadura Day. This event in the calendar has become a true symbol of regional identity. The religious ritual dates back to 1389 when the church was transformed into a monastery; the date of 8th September was chosen as it was considered the feast day of the Nativity of Mary. As a curious fact it can be mentioned that the perpendicular transept and axis of the Monasterio de Guadalupe face the exact point where the sun rises on 8th September.
The epicentre of the whole celebration is the Romanesque image which according to legend appeared near the River Guadalupe in the 14th century. Tradition also has it that the image was sculpted by St Luke with the very Virgin Mary as his model.
To reach the valleys of Las Villuercas it travelled through Asia Minor, Byzantium, Rome, and then to Seville. From there, given the fear of its desecration during the Islamic invasion, it was transferred and hidden. A collection of major pictorial works in the Mudejar cloister depict this epic.
As the feast day began to acquire importance and fame the monastery became a leading spiritual centre, owing to which some travellers have written: “After those of Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrimages to Guadalupe deserve to rank among the most important of Christendom”.