Pilgrimages and Romerias
Andalucia is famous for its pilgrimages or "romerías" - so called because pilgrims traditionally walked to Rome, and therefore became known as "romeros" - to popular shrines, around which fiestas are held.
Many towns celebrate their romeria on their saint's day at a local shrine a few miles away - it is a day in the countryside visiting a chapel or a sanctuary. Interestingly it is one of the few fiestas that is celebrated outside the nucleus of the town. The sanctuary is a physical and a spiritual point of reference.
The departure from the town for the sanctuary is a proud public ceremony with all the necessary elements in a certain order. Flags and standards carried are by horsemen, decorated carts, men or women who are serving a penance, then tractors, lorries and all sorts of agricultural vehicles. The municipal band usually provides the music. Firework rockets advise those afar that the romeria has begun.
In the evening the return journey is more low key. Aside from the procession there will be stalls selling local produce and bars and restaurants will open tents in the street. There may well be local traditional bands playing on a small outdoor stage and dancing in the street. Visitor are always welcome especially when seen to be enjoying the festival. An agenda of events may be published on the town hall website. The route is rarely published as it is well know to all villagers. Follow the crowds and the rockets.
EL ROCÍO PILGRIMAGE
Perhaps the most spectacular romeria is the one devoted to the Virgen del Rocío, popularly called "El Rocio" for short. Nearly a million people from all over Spain and Andalucia make the long journey to gather in the town of El Rocio in the marshlands of the Guadalquivir River delta (south of Almonte), close to Doñana National Park, where the statue of the "Madonna of the Dew" has been worshipped since 1280. The pilgrims come on horseback and in gaily-decorated covered wagons from all over the region, transforming the area into a colourful and noisy party.
The climax of the festival is the weekend before Pentecost Monday. (see dates)In the early hours of the Monday the Virgin is brought out of the church. This remarkable event, where all the hermandades (brotherhoods from different towns and citires) compete to carry the statue, is always shown live on television. More about Rocio
La Virgen de la Cabeza
The Madonna known as La Virgen de la Cabeza is enshrined in a forbidding sanctuary on a cliff overlooking the wild hills of the Sierra Morena, north of the city of Andújar in Jaen Province. The pilgrimage is celebrated on the last Sunday of April. This celebration has its origins in the 13th century, and some half a million people gather to see the Virgin paraded among the forests for over 30 kilometres. The Virgen de la Cabeza in Ronda is also a very popular and picturesque pilgrimage.
Cabra Gypsy Festival
The Cabra Gypsy Festival in the province of Córdoba is a procession to the hermitage of Santa María.
San Isidro takes place on 15 May - as the patron saint of the farmers, this is a very important celebration in Andalucia. Many villages celebrate his day with a procession through the fields and a fiesta, as well as agricultural trade shows. A fine place to see this charming festival is the rural town of Montefrio, in Granada province or Estepona. In Pozoblanco (Cordoba), as bells are rung and drums placed, the faithful pray for departed brothers; at night, figures made by the women of the town are burnt in honour of San Isidro Labrador.
This saint is also honoured with a romeria in Santa Eufemia (Cordoba), with a cart competition and the destination of El Ventorro. Other towns which celebrate San Isidro include Santa Elena in Jaen, and Alameda in Malaga; also, see Villafranca de Cordoba, above. In Cuevas del Campo, in Granada, the fair lasts from 14-17 May, with a Mass and procession on 15 May, the romeria on 16 May, and the blessing of the fields on 17 May. In Jodar, Jaen, it is combined with the Fiestas de Primavera; the romeria takes place on 15 May, to the Ermita de la Fuente Garciez.
The following towns also celebrate San Isidro: Alfarnate, Alfarnatejo, Algatocín, Almogía, Archidona, Ardales, Benamocarra, Cártama, Cuevas Bajas, Cuevas del Becerro, Guaro, Jubrique, Nerja, Periana, Sierra de Yeguas Teba and last, but not least the small village of San Isidro.
|The Festival on San Isidro, in the village of San Isidro © Michelle Chaplow|
El Cristo del Paño
The pilgrimage to the shrine of El Cristo del Paño takes place in the castle town of Moclin, in northern Granada Province, not far from Montefrio. This painting of Christ bearing the cross is believed to heal elderly people of their cataracts (el paño, or the cloth, is the popular name for this condition, which "veils" one´s sight). Touching the painting is also supposed to make childless women fertile, and the miracle is mentioned in Lorca´s tragic play Barren.