El Rocio

Located in a small village near the town of Almonte, in the province of Huelva, and with the wonderful backdrop of the Doñana National Park, we find the hermitage of El Rocío where we can see a virgin of Gothic style that according to the time can take dresses of shepherdess or queen of the marsh. Naturally we refer to the Virgen del Rocío located in the village of the same name and whose virgin leaves the procession early on Pentecost Sunday and makes a pilgrimage around the village visiting all the houses of the Brotherhood.

During the previous week, numerous pilgrims from different parts of Andalusia and even Spain, make a path leading with them dragged by oxen or horses, the Simpecados, the Marian representations of the Rocío representative of each brotherhood.

But what is the origin of this pilgrimage blessed even by Pope John Paul II that pentecost of 1993? It really is not very clear, but the chronicles of Alfonso X the Wise already mentioned an invocation to the Virgin of the rocinas back in the very distant thirteenth century.

It is thought that the original image may be a virgin Romanesque style that suffered in the fifteenth century and a restoration with more Gothic forms, from which this form has come today.

The first pilgrimages are made in successive centuries XVI and XVII, time of great dedication and Marian dogmas, however they were more local pilgrimages from the surrounding villages.

The advocation presents us a virgin shepherdess and queen of the marshes of which without her medium, could not be considered as such.

From the eighteenth century and only with the parenthesis of the Napoleonic invasions, worship and pilgrimage began to arrive not only from the province of Huelva but from Seville, Cádiz and other places in Andalusia, founding new brotherhoods that in addition to the main ones, they became subsidiaries.

From the nineteenth century, pilgrimages began to become multitudinous, being not only religious but also festive and anthropological.

The pilgrimage begins days before Pentecost from the place of origin, with a mass before the image of the simpecado (representation of the virgin according to filial brotherhood in a silver car with ornaments).

The same day of the departure, after the mass the road begins in a festive atmosphere with singing and dancing (sevillanas) dedicated to the Virgen del Rocío, commonly coincides as the White Dove.

During the days of pilgrimage, religious fervor is shared with an experience of staying in a wild nature dominated by Doñana, where you can contemplate the stars and breathe the rosemary that accompanies with its smells almost all the way (the pilgrim will be called rosemary but the fact that the pilgrimage is called pilgrimage).

A usual rosemary is accompanied by his clothes on the way, well-shod boots, a hat to fight against the suffocating sun and to cool the road a bottle of fine cold wine.

Music and dance always accompany this path where the instruments are the hype, the reed, and the flute to liven up with that dance son of flamenco (sevillanas) a pilgrimage that is getting closer and closer to its destiny.

Do not forget that each rosemary always carries a medal with the silver image of the White Dove. The women only differ in the use of the flamenco dress or gypsy according to the area, traditional dress in Andalusia for dancing and singing, but not forgetting the handmade boots or boots, some of them from the town of Valverde del Camino.

The pilgrims can arrive crossing the river Guadalquivir by boat coming from Sanlúcar de Barrameda but not forgetting to cross the river Quema, river tributary of the Rio Grande, which allows us to see or even attend a rociero-type baptism.

Fate is getting closer, and not even the mud or the sand of Doñana prevents the carts or the horses from continuing.

Such is the popular and religious fervor that the enthusiasm begins to take shape when the white bell towers of the hermitage are seen with the unmistakable background of the Guadalquivir marshes. The expectation of the night of Pentecost is such that even the party continues in the village, reaching thousands of pilgrims in a village inhabited by few the rest of the year.
When you access the hermitage, it is such a sensation that you can hardly forget it. The image of a virgin with a temperate gaze but that denotes the feeling of almighty at the same time. An image of just over a meter tall adorned like a golden queen and looking at all the parishioners and with a certain resemblance to the virgin de la Hiniesta, one of the patrons of Seville.
As we have indicated, we can not separate the union between the White Dove and the marshes as queen and shepherdess and anthropologically united for centuries to her. The Middle Ages is the beginning of this invocation very possibly related to an apparition and it is venerated since then.
It is located on a roof covered with silver waiting for the pilgrims around 3 in the morning to jump to the gate that separates them and are the first to take it out in a procession on their shoulders after praying the salve rociera.
The procession takes her through the different houses of sisterhood that live around the Sanctuary, are hours of faith and sometimes of confusion, but it is worth seeing those parishioners wanting to approach only to touch her.
For a few hours the procession takes place until its recollection on the morning of Pentecost after a mass and the pilgrimage ends as such.
However, the procession of the Virgen del Rocío is not limited to Pentecost, there are the so-called “Expectations”, or trips to Almonte in short periods of time as thanks to the year of goods or precisely to ask for them. It is a relatively recent custom and is carried through the pine forests to reach the town.
Then there is the Rocío Chico, another procession of the virgin in mid-August for two centuries related to the Napoleonic invasion where the Almonteños united in their fight against the Napoleonic invader and resisted against a garrison however when the French army in an operation of punishment was to annihilate them, they entrusted themselves to the virgin and the repression never happened except the monetary one.

This gratitude is realized with this summer procession that neither the torrid sun of August prevents and that also becomes an incentive more for the summer visitors that appear for the sanctuary to see these exceptional processions.

El Rocío Chico begins with a triduum, followed by the recitation of a rosary near the Hermitage on the night of August 18 as well as a mass on the morning of the 19th as prior to an extraordinary procession around the sanctuary.