This true story happened some time in the last century. However, it did not take place in Grado del Pico. But the villagers know about it and talk about it in hushed voices. Even though those who whisper about it do not live in either village concerned, they do know the names of the men concerned. Not only can they point out the families, but they can tell yarns about them too. So read on and enjoy the account of the fight for the Little Virgin.
Though this Little Virgin was, as her name suggests, small, she was very much loved by the people of both Santibañez and Ayllón, neighbouring villages of Grado del Pico. The tiny figure stood in the church of San Juan Baptista – St John the Baptist, in Santibañez. The villagers prayed to the Little Virgin daily and it seemed that their prayers were answered. One family, who was known to have bad luck with their apple harvests, after praying to her for nine full months, had so much fruit that they ended up giving it away, and that, as you probably know, was not common in the ordinary folk in those days.
Yet another neighbour, ailing from a gasping cough, was cured overnight after spending one full day in front of the Little Virgin muttering her prayers. Little as the Virgin was, her miracles were big and the list of them grew longer and longer over the years.
From times of yore, the people in Ayllón had always laid claim to this mystic Virgin. As the years passed they watched and observed how life in Santibáñez prospered thanks to the miracles that their Virgin had bestowed on the villagers. Gradually, envy crept in and spread throughout Ayllón and over time the men and women contrived a plan to bring the Little Virgin back and restore her to her rightful owners.
So, the pluckiest young men were rounded up as were the two strongest oxen and the sturdiest cart to transport the plunderers to Santibañez and retrieve the Little Virgin. It is rumoured by the villagers in Santibañez and Grado that some drinking went on – Dutch courage as it is called – as the chosen ones, did not seem to have sufficient courage. Each and everyone of them held a secret fear of what evil their plot could bring about.
In the dark of the night the men departed from their homes and slowly and silently made their way to the neighbouring village. They entered sleeping Santibañez and stole their way along the dirt tracks that led to the church. Their first feat was to force the locked door, which they did with the help of some rude tools. Stealthily, they entered the still temple and approaching the Virgin, each and everyone crossed themselves. Then, the appointed man reached out his hand and lifted the Little Virgin from her niche where she had stood for many long years.
He carried her in awe up the aisle and out of the church and gently and reverently placed her in a secure place on the cart. Then, all four retraced their steps through the village out onto the main road which would take them back to Ayllón where they would triumphantly place the Little Virgin for all to see and adore.
The plan seemed to be going well, until a kilometer or so outside the village, as the men rounded a bend, the oxen came to a stop and refused to budge. Whipping the beasts was futile, pulling them by their horns was fruitless. In one last bid to get the oxen moving, the men pushed the cart from behind, and that was when the tragedy occured. Two fell to the ground never to rise again while the remaining two felt the power drain from their arms. It seemed that the Little Virgin had other ideas in mind and had made the decision of where she wanted to remain for eternity – in that very spot, half way between the two villages.
So, if you are ever travelling along the road that leads from Ayllón to Santibañez, you will see the Little Virgin standing in silence adorned with flowers to this very day. Tiny as she may be don’t be tempted to move her, else you might be struck by her tremendous wrath!