The novena of the Virgen de la Montaña will be celebrated again next April at the Co-Cathedral of Santa María after the suspension of the last two editions due to the pandemic. During all this time, the collection of cloaks of the patron saint of Cáceres has taken a great spurt, going from the 141 counted during the spring of 2019 – the last in which the acts took place normally – to the current 165.
But if the increase in donations is striking, another fact is even more so: most have the same origin. Marisa Antequera Congregado (Cáceres, 1945) has made 22 of the 24 new cloaks that have been incorporated into the wardrobe of the patron saint. On many occasions she has donated them in her name and on others she has made the pieces that members of her family have given as gifts.
Neither Pilar Murillo, main waitress of the Virgen de la Montaña, nor Julita Herrera, auxiliary waitress, had seen something similar during the years that they have been dressing the Virgen de la Montaña. And they are many.
Based in Asturias, Marisa Antequera has sucked the world of clothing from the cradle. She is more than familiar with the needle. She is the daughter of Dioni Congregado, owner of the famous establishment ‘Modas Dioni’, the first women’s clothing boutique in Cáceres, now defunct. «I was in my mother’s shop for many years, until I got married and left Cáceres». From that moment, she indicates, four decades have passed.
Marisa Antequera, together with the patron saint, in a file image. /
But Marisa does not forget her roots or her patron saint. «The pandemic caught me with many tissues at home. And making cloaks for the Virgin was a great distraction for me », she says. Stitch by stitch, the confinement became more bearable. “The cloaks have a lot of work. But I make them very quickly », she affirms while she indicates that she also makes pieces for the Virgin of Covadonga, the patron saint of her adoptive land.
The last two cloaks donated by Antequera have just arrived at Pilar Murillo’s home and are still uncatalogued. They are number 164 and 165. Her author would like the Virgin of the Mountain to wear one of them during the novena. It must be remembered that the patron saint wears a different cloak each day during her stay in the Co-Cathedral of Santa María. And during the rest of the year it changes once a week. “I have given her a fuchsia color, very cheerful, to color this hard time that she has had to live and to turn the page,” Antequera ditches.
During the last novena at the Santa María Co-Cathedral, that of 2019, the Virgin of the Mountain premiered one of her creations – piece number 140 – for the besamantos. It was emerald green.
Red and blue are the shades of the two other donations that have arrived in times of pandemic to the Shrine. One has been a gift from a group, the Rotary Club of Cáceres. And the other, which has just been blessed, is a personal gift from Juan Carlos Fernández Rincón, steward of the Mountain brotherhood, in thanksgiving.
It is now one year since the surgical intervention to which Fernández Rincón was successfully subjected. And he has wanted to present the patron saint with a red mantle, embroidered with silver thread, which has been made by the nuns of the Santa Clara convent.
Rotarians from Cáceres also resorted here to order the cloak that they gave to the patron saint, number 157, with the organization’s corporate colors: blue and yellow. The delivery took place in June 2020.
The Poor Clares have made the cloak donated by Fernández Rincón, mayordomo of the brotherhood. /
In the collection of the Virgin’s cloaks, which is kept in a room of the Sanctuary, there are ancient pieces, even coming from queens’ wardrobes, and other more contemporary ones. There are mantles made with gold and silver threads and others made with more humble fabrics. Behind each of these pieces there is a story. Manila shawls, bedspreads, wedding dresses and even bullfighting capes have been used to make them. Gestures of thanks, promises or memories in memory of a deceased relative support the donations.
Mantle number 1 is the oldest in the collection. It was donated by Queen Elizabeth II. With this piece she was canonically crowned the patron saint in 1924. It is made of white satin and is completely covered in lace with a mesh background and gold and silver thread, with flower appliqués embroidered in colored silk.
The brotherhood has been planning for several years to create a museum where the cloaks are permanently exhibited. Meanwhile, during the novenas, he selects a sample and exhibits them in the Painters 10 room during the days when the patron saint is in the city.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.