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The Virgin of Núria

An image venerated as a symbol of fertility

An image venerated as a symbol of fertility

Legend has it that whoever visits the shrine and follows the ritual of the cross, the pot and the bell will produce offspring.

The Virgin of Núria, the patron saint of the Pyrenees and of the dioceses of Urgell, is a Romanesque statue from the 12th century that is venerated at the shrine of Núria. Its history, like that of many other religious images, is lost in legend.

The origins of its veneration date back to the 8th century, when Saint Giles sculpted an image of the Virgin while living as a hermit in the valley. The area’s shepherds were summoned by a bell to meet around the cross and Saint Giles gave them food from a pot. This is why the cross, the bell and the pot are the symbols of Núria.

When Christians started to be persecuted during the Muslim rule of Spain, Saint Giles hid the image in a cave and fled the valley. It was not until 1072 that a shepherd called Amadeu, who was looking for Marian relics, erected a small shrine, where years later the image was found. According to the legend, the image could not be carried in processions to Queralbs because it wanted to stay in Núria, which is why its worship was established there

Maria is represented as a Virgin in Majesty and Throne of Wisdom. More specifically, her hair and ears are uncovered, she is wearing a shepherdess’s cloak and she is holding the Christ Child with both hands. The similarly-dressed Infant Jesus is giving a blessing with his right hand and is holding a book in his left hand.

It is said that this Virgin has the gift of fertility and for this reason many couples who are unable to have children make the journey up to Núria and follow the symbolic ritual: praying in front of the cross and putting their heads in the pot while ringing the bell. The origin of this tradition is unknown, but it has apparently worked for many couples. However it came to be, it is one of the reasons why this Mother of God and, by extension, the shrine and the valley are so popular.