Though small in size, the strategically located country of Gibraltar has played a key role as guardian of the Mediterrean. Gibraltar has, over the centuries, been ruled by the Moors, the Spaniards and finally the English. Today it is an independent British Overseas Territory, which means its citizens have dual citizenship: Gibraltar and Great Britain.
The territory, with a population of about 33,000 people, is primarily Roman Catholic (around 81% according to the 2009 census).
The statue of Our Lady of Europe:
The statue has a tumultuous history due to the many conquests and re-conquests of Gibraltar. Gibraltar came under Moslem rule in 700 AD. Due to its strategic location near Africa, it gave the invaders a way in to the continent of Europe and was therefore important to both sides.
In 1309 Spain re-took Gabraltar under the leadership of King Ferdinand IV. Following this victory, the King dedicated the continent of Europe to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Our Lady of Europe. He converted what had been a mosque into a Christian shrine and placed a limestone statue of the Blessed Mother within it.
The Moslems recaptured Gibraltar in 1333, causing the Christian population to flee. Among the items they took with them was the limestone statue of Our Lady of Europe.
The Moors again turned the Church into a mosque but were again driven out in 1462 by King Henry IV, grandson of Ferdinand IV. The original stone statue had been lost by this time, so Henry IV commissioned a new one, this one made of wood. It was itself damaged by Turkish pirates in 1540, but was later restored.
Then in 1704, Anglo-Dutch troops captured Gibraltar during the War of Spanish Succession and the statue was mutilated. Once again the population fled, taking the statue with them. It was later found and restored and was returned to Gibraltar in 1864 where it remains to this day.
The statue of Our Lady of Europe was brought to Rome in 2002 crowned by Pope John Paul II during the Bishop of Malta's Ad Limina visit as shown in the photo above..
The Shrine was also recipient of the Golden Rose by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 to mark the 700th anniversary of the Shrine, again shown in the photo above.
The Mass schedule is Saturdays at noon, Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m.
Gibraltar has an airport, mainly served by flights from the U.K. You can drive from Spain to Gibraltar, although customs may take some time, so if you are just spending the day here then it might be easier to park on the Spanish side and just walk across to Gibraltar. There is also overnight ferry service from Tangier. It is a popular stop on many Western Mediterranean cruises, so if you are cruising to Gibraltar you can no doubt visit the Shrine.
Address: Euoropa Point, Gibraltar
GPS coordinates: 36° 6' 38.0016'' N, 5° 20' 44.9988'' W
Tel: +350 2007 1230 Fax: +350 2007 3962
Click here for the official website of the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe in Gibraltar.
You may also wish to attend Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned. They have several Masses on weekdays as well as quite a few on Sundays. Click here for the official website of Saint Mary the Crowned in Gibraltar.
Photos and information courtesy the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe.