Almonte, Spain: Monastery of El Rocio
About Almonte and El Rocio:
Located not far from Seville, Almonte is a town lost in time, which makes it a great place to visit. No paved streets here, just sand; the town looks a little like a stage set for a western movie. Hitching posts are located in front of each building to tie your horse while you visit.
Within the municipality of Almonte is the smaller area of El Rocio and the Monastery of Rocio, one of Spain’s most popular pilgrimage sites. It is perhaps less well known outside the country, but it draws over a million pilgrims each year (many on the same day!).
The Virgen Del Rocio has been the patron saint of Almonte since the 15th century, when a hunter found a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk near the marshes. Many invoke her intercession to help cure disease, infertility and mental disorders.
About the Monastery:
The first chapel here was built under Alfonso X, also called “Alfonso the Wise”, between 1270-1300. The current chapel dates from 1969.
On the day after Pentecost Sunday (sometimes called Whitmonday), the town comes alive during the annual feast, when hundreds of “brotherhoods” from the surrounding villages and towns process to Almonte. Pilgrims come from all over Andalucia on foot, on horseback or by cart. No motorized vehicles are allowed, which is just as well, since they would only get bogged down in the sand. Most of the pilgrims wear traditional clothes, women in bright gypsy-inspired flamenco dresses and men in the unique wide-brimmed “bolero” hats and short-cropped jackets associated with Andalusia.
All the groups arrive in Almonte just before dawn, and then the festivities last throughout the day and in to the night. Almonte’s elite “Hermandad Matriz” brotherhood carries along a large silver shrine that contains the statue of the Virgin. Crowds line the procession shouting “Long live the Queen of the Marshes”. The day ends with Mass celebrated at the Shrine.
After a day or so, the town returns to its sleepy self, although pilgrims do visit here throughout the year.
Traveling to the Monsastery of El Rocio:
There is train service to Huelva from Seville (1 hour, 30 minutes), Madrid (about 4 hours) and other cities. Get air, train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here.
Address: Calle La Ermita, 1, 21730 Almonte, Huelva, Spain
GPS coordinates: 37° 7′ 49.2960” N, 6° 29′ 5.4780” W
Tel: +34 (959) 44 24 25
email: [email protected]