La Romeria del Rocio – one of the most extraordinary spectacles in Europe
North of Matalasconas, in the province of Huelva is located the extraordinary village of El Rocio, in the marshlands of the Guadalquivir River.
The Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora del Rocio (The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Dew), this statue is believed to have been found on this spot by a shepherd in 1280 – conveniently after the eviction of the Moors.
Soon after the sanctuary was built, reports of miraculous healings put El Rocio on the map. By the 17th century Hermandadas (brotherhoods) were formed in nearby villages to make pilgrimages to the holy site. This event occurs on the seventh week after Easter.
This Romeria is one of the most extraordinary spectacles in Europe. Whole villages and approximately 80 brotherhoods from all over Andalucia converge on the village. This translates to several hundreds of thousands of pilgrims making the journey to commemorate the miracle-legend of her discovery.
In the early hours of Pentecost Sunday, with many of the pilgrims gripped by a religious frenzy or drink induced stupor, the image of the Virgin is paraded before the faithful as she visits each of the Hermandades (Brotherhoods).
The brotherhoods wrestle each other for the honour of carrying the statue of the virgin before she is returned to the shrine for another year, and the weary homeward journey begins.
Solemn is the last word you would use to describe this spectacular event, in an atmosphere of singing, dancing, firework displays, eating and drinking. Everyone, regardless of nationality is entitled to be a pilgrim and accompanying one of the brotherhoods on their pilgrim is a truly worthwhile and memorable occasion.
The walking is easy, to cater for the elderly and the very young with plenty of stops for dancing accompanied by Vino (wine). The whole event is friendly and humorous and the nightly encampments, when Spanish songs are sung around the camp fires are truly magical.