Lourdes Gabriela Madrigal is entering her senior year at Florida International University as a Biology Major with a Minor in Chemistry. She forms part of the school’s Honors College and QBIC program, an enrichment program for Biology students. Her professional goal is to become a physician specializing in Sports Medicine, an interest that stemmed from her experience as a competitive figure skater for nearly 13 years. Lourdes is also a travel enthusiast whose curiosity about the world around her never ceases. She has always been passionate about storytelling and inspired by the positive influence it can have on people and their perspective on life. She firmly believes that every person has a purpose to fulfill in this world. They just need to have the courage to see it for themselves.
Madrid As Text
“We Meet For A Reason” by Lourdes Gabriela Madrigal of FIU at La Catedral de la Almudena
La Catedral de la Almudena in Madrid, Spain
On June 9th, 2019, at 17:00 hours, I was seated inside La Catedral de la Almudena, a Gothic Catholic Cathedral located in Madrid, Spain. It was a 34-minute walk from where I stayed in Atocha, but the experience was certainly worth every minute of the commute. As I entered the holy vicinity, a wave of emotions overwhelmed my being. This day marked one year since my father passed away and what better way to reflect on his life than to pray in a cathedral that is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid? Beauty poured out from every inch of this sacred place, and a feeling of absolute peace flooded my soul.
When mass ended, I packed my rosary inside my satchel and was beginning to descend the cascade of steps outside the church when I unexpectedly encountered a Galician woman. She explained to me that Almudena comes from almudaina, an Arabic word referring to the walls encircling the city. Today, the walls surround both the cathedral and the Royal Palace. Legend says that in 1085, King Alfonso VI of León discovered the image of Santa María de la Real de la Almudena in one of the city’s walls. However, Archbishop Raimundo de Toledo commanded that the icon be hidden for nearly three centuries before “discovering” it, which is why the figure’s original discovery date is unknown. Our Lady of Almudena is the patron saint of Madrid, and her feast day is celebrated on November 9th.
In the late 15th century, sculptor Diego Copín built the current statue of Madrid’s Patroness, which was housed in Madrid’s former congregation, Santa María la Mayor until the church’s destruction in 1868. Many efforts were made to construct a cathedral and Episcopal See (a jurisdiction over which a bishop rules) since the 16th century, but it was not until 1883 that King Alfonso XII initiated the project. After more than a hundred years of construction, the cathedral was sanctified by Pope John Paul II in 1993. Many services have taken place here, including the funeral for the victims of the 2004 Atocha terrorist attack and on a lighter note, the royal wedding of the current King and Queen of Spain, Felipe VI and Leticia, respectively.
A former high school teacher of mine once said that we never meet people by accident. Instead, every individual we encounter in our lives serves a purpose, either for a reason, season, or a lifetime. The Galician woman and I easily conversed for about 20 minutes outside the cathedral, and I could not stop asking her questions. Bursts of knowledge enthralled me, with every word she spoke, making me intrigued to learn more. I would have never known the story of La Catedral de la Almudena had I not encountered her. She was my reason.
“Historia De La Catedral y De La Virgen.” Catedral De La Almudena, 10 Apr. 2018, www.catedraldelaalmudena.es/historia-de-la-catedral-y-de-la-virgen-dossier/.
Segovia As Text
“Roman Architecture in a Spanish City” by Lourdes Gabriela Madrigal of FIU at Segovia Aqueduct
Roman Aqueduct overlooking Azoguejo square in Segovia, Spain
God may have created Madrid, but he certainly lived in Segovia. Located in the Leon and Castile region of Spain, Segovia’s blend of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures throughout time has helped conserve its primitive medieval style. A perfect example is the Roman Aqueduct, which functioned to transport water from the Frío River to Segovia from the end of the 1st century until the mid-19th century. 166 stone arches are lined throughout the two-story aqueduct, spanning 14 kilometers of the city’s landscape. Neither mortar or cement was used to build the structure, but instead, wood was utilized as the skeleton for the project. The 29-metered-tall edifice pulls itself in place because of the resulting weight distribution from the columns, with keystones being placed between each arch to hold the structure together. This brilliant balancing technique is why the aqueduct has stood over time.
Interestingly, the aqueduct is also referred to as the “Devil’s Bridge.” Legend says that Lucifer once promised a woman to build her a bridge in exchange for her soul. However, when the woman became frightened with her promise to the devil, she began to pray to the Virgin Mary. A miracle later occurred, which inhibited Lucifer from placing the final stone before dawn approached. If one looks closely at the aqueduct, they will notice various holes on the stone arches. Such marks are believed to have been the devil’s fingers. However, our tour guide assured us that the marks were made instead by the equipment (a claw-shaped apparatus) used to build the stone arches. Today, the aqueduct towers over the streets, monuments, rivers, and hills of Segovia, reminding us of the ingenious Roman engineering that has stood for nearly 2,000 years and continues to attract individuals to this aesthetically pleasing city.