Spain’s biggest religious pilgrimage draws hundreds of thousands of festive pilgrims to the Huelva village of El Rocío every Pentecost to commemorate the story of the sacred effigy of Nuestra Señora del Rocío (Our Lady of El Rocío). Like most of Spain’s holiest images, this one – known as La Blanca Paloma (the White Dove) – has legendary origins. The pilgrimage concludes in El Rocío on Pentecost (49 days after Easter mainly in May).
Interesting Features of Romería del Rocío
- The pilgrimage dates from 1653, when the Virgin of Las Rocinas was appointed patron saint of Almonte. Originally it took place on 8 September. Since 1758, the Virgin has been known as the Virgin of El Rocío, and the pilgrimage has taken place on the second day of Pentecost.
- The romería as such begins on Sunday before Pentecost. However, pilgrims come from throughout Andalusia (and, nowadays, from throughout Spain and beyond), and typically travel an additional one to seven days beforehand, either on foot, on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages (or, nowadays, in some cases, modern modes of transport such as all terrain vehicles), generally sleeping outdoors. Many count this travel as the most important part of the pilgrimage. In recent years the Romería has brought together roughly a million pilgrims each year.
- The pilgrimage proper begins at noon on the Saturday. From then until nearly midnight, each confraternity travels from their property in the village of El Rocio to Sanctuary where they present their “Simpecado” the copy of the Virgen. The oldest confraternities proceeding first. Each bears an emblem of the Virgen del Rocio (Holy Mother). At midnight, it is the turn of the original confraternity to carry their emblem to the shrine. This is known as the Almonte Rosary ceremony.
- At 10 a.m. on Whitsun Sunday, a Pontifical High Mass is said in El Real del Rocío (next to the Sanctuary), where the Virgin was crowned in 1919. On Sunday night, everyone prays the Rosary by candlelight, as each confraternity goes up to the flat of El Eucaliptal next to El Real del Rocío.
- Finally, the Immaculate Conception Emblem of Almonte is brought to the Shrine, at which point the Almontese carry the Virgin of El Rocío out into the village streets. The timing of this event differs from one year to the next, so there is always a certain element of spon.
- The pilgrims usually wear traditional Andalusian costume. All wear boots. The men wear short jackets and suitable for riding tight pants. Women carry a good flaminca costumes or rociera bata ‘(similar, but more practical for walking or riding), or a skirt rociera’ (a frilly skirt).taneity to it.
If you are not able to go on the El Rocio pilgrimage, the town of El Rocio itself is worth a visit at any time of the year. The modern church of Nuestra Señora del Rocio, dating from the 1960s, is a stunning sight when viewed from across the water (stop off at the restaurant by the entrance to the town), where the dazzling white sanctuary stand out like a beacon against the verdant green of the marisma, inhabited by wild horses, and the deep blue of the sky.
If you are planning a Travel to Spain in the month of May then this pilgrimage festival of there is worth to join.