Every seven years, Almonte transforms
The Return of La Virgen is an event that transforms the life and appearance of the municipality of Almonte every seven years. The centre of Almonte hosts the Image of its Patron La Virgen of Rocío from August 20, 2019, until two weeks before the Pilgrimage of the Rocío, in May 2020, while in the Rocío Village there is a surprising emptiness that unexpectedly invades the hermitage.
Although it is probable that moving the Virgen del Rocío to Almonte had been carried out for a long time, the first documentary evidence dates back to the year 1607. Since then, the Image has been taken to the town on more than fifty occasions and for different reasons. Amongst these reasons it is worth pointing out that some were a result of public misfortune such as an epidemic, drought, hunger, war, thanksgiving for some happy event or the need to carry out important reforms in his hermitage. . The comings and goings of Our Lady of Rocío, previously produced in irregular periods of time, were regularized in the 20th century, starting in 1949 when the Image was moved to the town of which She is the Patron with a time period of seven years between visits.
Get to know more about the Return of La Virgen
Stay in the Almonte
La Virgen is carried on the shoulders by the locals of Almonte from the village of El Rocío to the town of Almonte, which is 15 km away along the Camino de Los Llanos, between pine forests and sandbanks To go on this journey, La Virgen is changed from Her usual clothing as a Queen into that of a Shepherdess, imitating the travel attire used by ladies in the 17th century. The transit to Almonte takes place during the afternoon of August 19, starting at sunset directly after the Image is covered with a travelling cloak and the face with what is popularly known as the “cloth”, to protect it from the dust and elements from the journey. At dawn, after the Virgen arrives in Almonte, in the place known as El Chaparral Park, the travelling cloak is taken off and Her face is revealed with the first rays of the sun amid the thunder of shotgun salutes and numerous cheers. It is the culminating moment of the journey. From the Chaparral Park, the citizens of Almonte then continue to carry their Patron to the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, where an impressive structure which has been traditionally made of wood in the past surrounds La Virgen on her arrival at the Church, it is known as the Ephemeral Cathedral. The streets through which the route passes are decorated with the great excitement by the locals in the form of arches adorned with white tissue paper flowers, garlands and golden ornaments. In the same way rows of wooden posts along the streets are also decorated with these handmade white flowers and moreover covered with rosemary whose aromas are embodied in the reflection of the joy the men and women of Almonte awaiting the arrival of the Queen of the Marshes.
La Virgen will remain nine months in Almonte. During Her stay, more than 100 affiliated brotherhoods will make a pilgrimage during the weekends, different religious and cultural events are organized to commemorate this event. The residents of Almonte take turns in “guarding” the image inside of the church. In addition, three open door watches are established, where any devotee of the Virgin can remain in the parish to pray to Our Lady, with the last open watch being held on the 29th of February 2020.
On the Sunday before the pilgrimage, La Vírgen del Rocío, dressed as a Queen, is taken out in a procession through the streets of Almonte, again decked out for the occasion, and the following Sunday before the Wednesday that marks the start of the pilgrimage, La Vírgen will return to the Sanctuary and in this time the journey back to the Rocío Village is done during the day where again the Image is covered with the travelling cloak at dawn this time in the town and uncovered at sunset in the same village in order to reach the sanctuary at night.
This year, due to the consequences of the global pandemic caused by COVID 19, Our Lady of Rocío remains in Almonte until such time as conditions allow her to return to the village of El Rocío.
Centenary of the Canonical Coronation and Jubilee Year
On the 8th of September 1918, the canonical coronation of La Vírgen del Rocío was approved in Rome by Pope Benedict XV. During the pilgrimage of the following year, on June 8, 1919, La Vírgen was crowned by Cardinal Almaraz the Archbishop of Seville, in the Real del Rocío, where today a monument is placed which marks that important event.
the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Rocío by the different Brotherhoods and Associations that have collaborated for this project, joining efforts, collecting gold and financial donations among members and devotees. This act of dedication, love and faith will go down in history as the Centenary of the Canonical Coronation of La Virgen del Rocío. Likewise, and with the intention of making this act even bigger, an interesting project called “Corona de Amor” has been created. It is a philanthropic project where the efforts of more than 170 affiliated brotherhoods, non-affiliated brotherhoods and associations of Rocío, almong with the Governing Brotherhood Of Almonte are merged to make the recreational room and the room for parents of the Zero Floor that the Association of Parents with Children with Cancer of Andalusia (Andex) so that adolescents with cancer have their own place to enjoy and continue their fight, which will be built at the Virgen del Rocío University Hospital. Each brotherhood collaborates with as many solidarity initiatives as possible: bike rides, theatre performances, equestrian championships, musical galas, endless activities to try to make this project contribute effectively for the benefit of these patients.
The Apostolic Penitentiary has granted a new Rocío Jubilee Year, which began on June 8, 2019, coinciding with the Centenary of the Coronation of La Vírgen, and which will last until the 7th of June 2020. This jubilee can be enjoyed in the place where the image of Our Lady of Rocío is, or in the Sanctuary or in the Parish of Our Lady of the Assumption of Almonte during the dates of the concession.
All of this, is planned just as it was done during the previous jubilee, between 2012 and 2013, according to the usual conditions:
The plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who are truly repentant. They devoutly attend this sanctuary and participate in a Sacred Function, or at least recite the Sunday prayer or the symbol of the Faith, under the usual conditions, which are the following:
The faithful who, due to their age, illness or any other serious cause, cannot go to the sanctuary or parish to benefit from the jubilee, may benefit from the indulgence provided they join in prayer before an image of the Virgen del Rocío and in accordance with the norms established by the Church, uniting spiritually within the jubilee functions.
Among the places in the world that have celebrated a jubilee at some time, there are only six to which the Catholic Church has granted authorization to celebrate it regularly, which is known as “Jubilee in perpetuum”, as aspiration that is desired for the Patron Saint of Almonte. The Jubilee Year will mean the national and international positioning of Almonte, its traditions and of course the veneration of the Virgen del Rocío. This event will mean that all eyes will be focused on Almonte and its Patron Saint and that with the launch of a complete program of actions it will become a benchmark and destination for millions of tourists and pilgrims
The Ephemeral Cathedral. Tradition and modernity
The Ephemeral Cathedral is assembled every seven years in the Plaza Virgen del Rocío, in Almonte. This impressive Gothic-style adornment designed for the 2019-20 arrival of the Queen of the Marshes for the first time in history, will remain built during the nine months of the Virgin’s stay in the town of Almonte.
This artistic building has been remodeled and its dimensions and luminosity stand out. One One of the main changes introduced with respect to the designs of previous years is the replacement of the wooden structure with a metal one. The arch reaches 20 meters in height at its highest point and 60 meters in length, following the design of the municipal architect Natividad López and has stained glass windows and night lighting. The construction is made of aluminium alloy and white titanium, which makes it possible for the main structure to remain standing and intact during the nine months that La Virgen is in Almonte. It is enough to dismantle those ornamental elements that constitute the base of the paper lining and that are susceptible to deterioration over time. It is enough to dismantle those ornamental elements that constitute the base of the paper lining and that are susceptible to deterioration over time. Thus, this artistic lighting will enhance its religious and monumental character while promoting its tourist attraction and favoring the enhancement of the cultural, ethnographic and religious heritage of the town.