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The Immaculate Conception's Role in Spain's Victory at the Battle of Empel

In 1585, the Church in Spain already held a deep reverence for the Immaculate Conception, a devotion that played a pivotal role in a miraculous event during the Battle of Empel in Holland. Despite the formal proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception coming much later, in 1854, the Spanish troops experienced a divine intervention attributed to Our Lady.

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Highlights

During the turbulent times of the Eighty Years' War, the Spanish Netherlands, governed by Spain as part of the Holy Roman Empire's House of Habsburg, faced unrest. On the fateful night of Dec. 7-8, 1585, the Spanish troops, led by Francisco Arias de Bobadilla, found themselves in a dire situation at the Empel dike. Trapped by enemy forces, the Tercio Viejo de Zamora infantry regiment faced hunger, cold, and low morale.

In a moment of desperation, Bobadilla ordered his captains to pray fervently. A soldier, seeking shelter from the harsh weather, unearthed a wooden tablet bearing the image of the Immaculate Conception. The troops, inspired by this discovery, held a procession to a nearby church. In an extraordinary turn of events, the waters surrounding them froze, enabling the Spanish forces to walk on the ice and defeat the rebellious Dutch Protestants.

This miraculous intervention led to the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception as the patroness of the infantry of Flanders and Italy on the same day. However, it wasn't until 1892 that the Virgin's patronage of all Spanish infantry became official.

The connection between Spain and the Immaculate Conception continued through the centuries. Long before Pope Pius IX officially declared the dogma in 1854, Spain defended this Marian belief. King Wamba, at the XI Council of Toledo in 675, distinguished himself as the "defender of the Immaculate Conception of Mary." Despite King Felipe IV's unsuccessful attempt to urge Pope Gregory XV to proclaim the dogma in the 17th century, Spain's commitment endured.

In 1761, King Carlos III took a significant step by establishing the "universal patronage of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception" across all Spanish kingdoms and the Indies. The Order of Carlos III, Spain's highest civil decoration since 1771, prominently features an image of the Immaculate Virgin in its emblem.

To honor this enduring commitment, a statue in the Spanish Plaza in Rome stands as a testament to Spain's defense of the Immaculate Conception throughout history. The Battle of Empel remains a remarkable chapter, showcasing the intertwining of faith and victory in the face of adversity.

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