One of the most beloved figures of Madrid’s history is Saint Isidore. He was a farm labourer that lived in Madrid from 1070 to 1130. He spent his life as a hired hand in the service of the wealthy Madrilenian landowner, Juan de Vargas, on a farm in the city’s vicinity. Isidore was a devout catholic and he would usually attend Mass at one of the churches in Madrid, before going to work. One day, his fellow farm workers complained to their master that Isidore was always late for work in the morning. Upon investigation, so runs the legend, the master found Isidore at prayer whilst an angel was doing the ploughing for him.
On another occasion, his master saw an angel ploughing on either side of him, so that Isidore’s work was equal to that of three of his fellow field workers. Isidore is also said to have brought back to life his master’s deceased daughter, and to have caused a fountain of fresh water to burst from the dry earth to quench his master’s thirst.
Isidore’s wife, Maria, always kept a pot of stew on the fireplace in their humble home, as Isidore would often bring home anyone who was hungry. One day he brought home more hungry people than usual. After she served many of them, Maria told him that there simply was no more stew in the pot. He insisted that she check the pot again, and she was able to spoon out enough stew to feed them all.
Isidore was canonized in 1622 and is honored as the patron Saint of farmers, agriculture and the city of Madrid. His feast day is celebrated the 15th of May.
The feast of Saint Isidore
The traditional festival and feast are held in an open-air area known as the Pradera del Santo. In the afternoon, the image of San Isidro and his wife, Santa Maria de la Cabeza, are paraded through the streets, from Calle del Sacramento to the Plaza de la Villa, via Calle del Cordon. It’s is customary for people to dress up as chulapos and chulapas which is the traditional dress of the city and walk through the Pradera del Santo up to the hermitage dedicated to the Saint. There lies a water fountain from where the devotees drink and then they seat in the prairie for a late afternoon meal. It’s a very lively feast and nowadays there are concerts and celebrations all over Madrid.