El Rocio Pilgrimage in Spain – La Virgen del Rocio

Hermandad Matriz Nuestra Señora del Rocío, Almonte, Španija

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El Rocío Pilgrimage – La Virgen del Rocio

Perhaps the most spectacular romeria is the one devoted to the Virgen del Rocío, popularly called “El Rocio” for short. Nearly a million and a half 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 Virgen del Rocio 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. See more Catholic shrines and Basilicas in Spain.

El Rocio Pilgrimage in Spain - La Virgen del Rocio

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The El Rocío pilgrimage is the most famous in the region, attracting nearly a million people from across Andalucia and the entire country, and beyond. Every Andalucian city, town and village has its own pilgrimages, for its patron saint, virgin or other much-loved local figure. But the El Rocio has cult status, and is the most important and most colourful. It follows on from Semana Santa (March/April), and the various spring ferias, of which Seville’s Feria de Abril (April) is the biggest.

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What, Where and When is El Rocío Pilgrimage – La Virgen del Rocio

The object of the pilgrimage is a 13th-century statue of the Virgen Del Rocio (Virgin of the Dew), in the town of the same name. El Rocio is in Huelva province, in the heart of the Doñana park, between Almonte and the coast. Most pilgrims, known asrocieros, approach the town through the park itself.

El Rocio Pilgrimage in Spain - La Virgen del Rocio

The town of El Rocío is a sprawling, pretty Wild-West-style place (you tie your horse to a wooden rail with a sign saying “Reservado Caballos” – reserved for horses – while you have a drink or a meal), with sandy, unpaved roads (easier on the hooves).

For a few days in late May or early June, Catholic hermandades (brotherhoods) and countless others flock from all over Andalucia, Spain, and beyond, to the town, to pay tribute to the Virgin del Roció, housed in her own church in the town.

Until the 1950s the town had only a few houses, and everyone camped in their wagons. Now, each of the 90 or so brotherhoods has its own house with stables, as well as its own chapel, with its name displayed at the front. Its members and their friends and families, and their horses, eat and sleep here during the pilgrimage weekend.

People bring mattresses and bed down anywhere they can. There are impromptu parties, open-air masses, horse races and competitions between the hermandades. And lots of singing and dancing, at all hours of the day and night.

These brotherhoods also stay at their houses at weekends throughout the year, with their families in tow, making each visit into a big fiesta.

The pilgrimage takes place over the weekend before Pentecost Monday, the seventh weekend after Easter Sunday, that is to  say 50 days after Easter Sunday (See box at top of this page). People start arriving on the Friday before, and leave again on Tuesday.

Beware of heavy traffic going to El Rocio (on the Seville-Huelva motorway, and the minor roads in the area) the week before, and leaving again the week after. The actual pilgrims don’t travel on the motorway itself, but follow a route which sometimes goes alongside it – the queue of horses and wagons, surrounded by clouds of dust snakes back for miles.

El Rocio Pilgrimage in Spain - La Virgen del Rocio

History of el Rocio Pilgrimage in Spain

This cult dates back to the 13th century, when a hunter from the village of Villamanrique (or Almonte, depending on which version of the story you follow) discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk in the Doñana park.

A chapel was built where the tree stood, and it became a place of pilgrimage. Devotion to this particular version of the Virgin was initially a local affair. Then, by the 17th century, hermandades (brotherhoods) were making the trip from nearby towns at Pentecost; by the 19th century, they came from all over Huelva, Cadiz and Seville, on a journey taking up to four days.

Over the next century, the cult of the Virgin del Rocio became more and more widespread, and these days participants come from as far away as Barcelona and the Canary Islands – not to mention tourists who travel from abroad, around Europe and even further afield.

Current Sanctuary

In 1969 the present temple was inaugurated, being blessed on 12 April by the then Bishop of Huelva José María García Lahiguera.

The Sanctuary was designed by architects Delgado Roig and D. Antonio Balbontín Orta.

The new chapel of the Virgin, which construction began in 1981, was officially opened at a ceremony held on May 28, 1999, consisting of a presentation to the town of Almonte, who was appearing for the first time its patron in the new dressing room.

El Rocio Pilgrimage in Spain - La Virgen del Rocio

Shortly thereafter, on June 14 the same year, the sixth anniversary of the visit of His Holiness the Pope, the new chapel of the Virgin was solemnly blessed by the Sr.obispo of Huelva, Monsignor Ignacio Noguer Carmona.

The new altarpiece as a whole was completely finished in 2006, namely on 3 May at 19.45 h. in the afternoon, at which time all the bells tolled Sanctuary. On June 29 of that same year 2006, the altarpiece of the Virgin was solemnly blessed and inaugurated during a solemn Mass celebrated by the parish priest of Almonte, D. Diego Quintana Capado.

Among the other works of the sanctuary, completed in recent years in the Pilgrimage of 2001, it was inaugurated the new House of the First Brotherhood in the Dew, who blesses the Bishop of Huelva, Ignacio Noguer Carmona.

And on May 11, 2002, the new premises of the Shrine, which comprise the new Puerta del Real, sacristy, chapel for the passage of the Virgin, secretariat units press offices for the Chaplain and President of the Brotherhood were opened, Boardroom and two apartments.

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La Paloma Blanca

In the early hours of Pentecost Monday, the Virgin is brought out of her church by the Almonte hermandad, who claim her as their own. A tussle ensues between the various other brotherhoods for the honour of carrying her to the next chapel, and so she journeys around the town, visiting all the hermandades’ chapels, for the rest of the day. Popularly known as La Paloma Blanca (the White Dove), she is an object of massive veneration in Andalucia, and huge crowds push and shove just to get the chance to touch the glass case in which the Virgin sits, as she sways dangerously from side to side. People even lift small babies up to touch her. This remarkable, chaotic event is always televised by Canal Sur, the Andalucian regional TV station.

What, Where and When is it?

The object of the pilgrimage is a 13th-century statue of the Virgen Del Rocio (Virgin of the Dew), in the town of the same name. El Rocio is in Huelva province, in the heart of the Doñana park, between Almonte and the coast. Most pilgrims, known asrocieros, approach the town through the park itself.

The town of El Rocío is a sprawling, pretty Wild-West-style place (you tie your horse to a wooden rail with a sign saying “Reservado Caballos” – reserved for horses – while you have a drink or a meal), with sandy, unpaved roads (easier on the hooves). For a few days in late May or early June, Catholic hermandades (brotherhoods) and countless others flock from all over Andalucia, Spain, and beyond, to the town, to pay tribute to the Virgin del Roció, housed in her own church in the town.

Until the 1950s the town had only a few houses, and everyone camped in their wagons. Now, each of the 90 or so brotherhoods has its own house with stables, as well as its own chapel, with its name displayed at the front. Its members and their friends and families, and their horses, eat and sleep here during the pilgrimage weekend. People bring mattresses and bed down anywhere they can. There are impromptu parties, open-air masses, horse races and competitions between thehermandades. And lots of singing and dancing, at all hours of the day and night. These brotherhoods also stay at their houses at weekends throughout the year, with their families in tow, making each visit into a big fiesta.

The pilgrimage takes place over the weekend before Pentecost Monday, the seventh weekend after Easter Sunday, that is to  say 50 days after Easter Sunday (See box at top of this page). People start arriving on the Friday before, and leave again on Tuesday. Beware of heavy traffic going to El Rocio (on the Seville-Huelva motorway, and the minor roads in the area) the week before, and leaving again the week after. The actual pilgrims don’t travel on the motorway itself, but follow a route which sometimes goes alongside it – the queue of horses and wagons, surrounded by clouds of dust snakes back for miles.

Winter time

  • Thursday: 18:00
  • Saturday and before holidays: 19:00
  • Sundays and holidays: 10:00 and 12:00

Fall and Spring

  • Thursday: 19:00
  • Saturday and before holidays: 19:00
  • Sundays and holidays: 10:00 and 12:00

Summer schedule

  • Daily: 21:00
  • Sundays and holidays: 09:30 and 11:00 hours

History of el Rocio Pilgrimage

This cult dates back to the 13th century, when a hunter from the village of Villamanrique (or Almonte, depending on which version of the story you follow) discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk in the Doñana park. A chapel was built where the tree stood, and it became a place of pilgrimage. Devotion to this particular version of the Virgin was initially a local affair. Then, by the 17th century, hermandades (brotherhoods) were making the trip from nearby towns at Pentecost; by the 19th century, they came from all over Huelva, Cadiz and Seville, on a journey taking up to four days. Over the next century, the cult of the Virgin del Rocio became more and more widespread, and these days participants come from as far away as Barcelona and the Canary Islands – not to mention tourists who travel from abroad, around Europe and even further afield.

Current Sanctuary

In 1969 the present temple was inaugurated, being blessed on 12 April by the then Bishop of Huelva José María García Lahiguera.

The Sanctuary was designed by architects Delgado Roig and D. Antonio Balbontín Orta.

The new chapel of the Virgin, which construction began in 1981, was officially opened at a ceremony held on May 28, 1999, consisting of a presentation to the town of Almonte, who was appearing for the first time its patron in the new dressing room. Shortly thereafter, on June 14 the same year, the sixth anniversary of the visit of His Holiness the Pope, the new chapel of the Virgin was solemnly blessed by the Sr.obispo of Huelva, Monsignor Ignacio Noguer Carmona.
The new altarpiece as a whole was completely finished in 2006, namely on 3 May at 19.45 h. in the afternoon, at which time all the bells tolled Sanctuary. On June 29 of that same year 2006, the altarpiece of the Virgin was solemnly blessed and inaugurated during a solemn Mass celebrated by the parish priest of Almonte, D. Diego Quintana Capado.

Among the other works of the sanctuary, completed in recent years in the Pilgrimage of 2001, it was inaugurated the new House of the First Brotherhood in the Dew, who blesses the Bishop of Huelva, Ignacio Noguer Carmona. And on May 11, 2002, the new premises of the Shrine, which comprise the new Puerta del Real, sacristy, chapel for the passage of the Virgin, secretariat units press offices for the Chaplain and President of the Brotherhood were opened, Boardroom and two apartments.

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