El Rocio Pilgrimage, Sevilla

Andalucians are very Catholic and love a good party. This means that many Saint's Days and religious festivals are marked throughout the region with processions and street parties. One of the most spectacular, outside of Easter week, is the El Rocio Pilgrimage which is held on the Thursday before Whit Sunday and starts in the Triana quarter of Sevilla.

 All the local's dress in traditional costumes, and Triana being the home of Flamenco this means the ladies sport fabulous flamenco dresses. Two oxen pull a small cart which carries the Simpecado, in the centre of which is an effigy of the Virgen del Rocio (Our Lady of the Dew). With cries of "Viva la Reina de la Marisma" (Hurrah for the Marshes Queen) the procession sets off.

Flamenco dancers at the Rocio pilgrimage in Sevilla  Rocio Festival

Following this porcession are hundreds of people - some on foot and some on horse back. They will trek for 3 days to reach the village of Rocio, living off what they are carrying and taking in carts. There are platforms on wheels covered with awnings. At the lower level is a large mattress for the men above, another one for the women. In the front part, a galley with an icebox and barrel with a machine for cool beer. Dresses and hams hand from the ceiling. Some even have a shower!

The pilgrimage has it's roots in the fifteenth century when a hunter found a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk. For hundreds of years this was a local festival for a few tiny villages. It was only in the 19th and 20th centuries that the pilgrimage became more popular and extended itself to the Triana quarter in Sevilla and then to the whole of Andalusia, to Madrid, to Barcelona, to the Canaries. Now "brotherhoods" leave towns and villages from all over Andalusia to travel to the village of El Rocio, "ver a la Virgen" (to see the Virgin) and to pray before her.

Rocio Virgin Mary Statue

On Whit Sunday in Rocio, after the pilgimes have arrived there is a huge mass, at night, for the rosary, all brotherhoods with standards and drums accompany their Simpecado in a marvellous procession by candlelight. At dawn, the statue of the Virgin is carried through the town while poeple start to collect infron of the chapel. Finally in the early afternoon the statute returns to the church where it is passed over a sea of people. Everyone wants to touch her. Thousands of firecrackers light up the sky.

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