The Hermandad Matriz de Almonte is today the heir of the devotional history of Our Lady of El Rocío, it is responsible for the administration and organization of worship and pilgrimage. As a Public Association of the Church, it is probably the one with the greatest convening power in the entire Catholic orb. In addition to the Pentecost Pilgrimage, it organizes, presides and coordinates the Extraordinary Pilgrimages of the Brotherhoods to El Rocío, the celebration of El Rocío Chico, the Feast of the Light (Candelaria), etc. In addition to these outstanding events, we should also mention its daily and substantial work in social and welfare projects, as well as its educational program, with special attention to young people.
At the end of the 16th century, the authorities of Almonte agreed to entrust the care of the cult in the Hermitage to the Friars Minims.
Almonte, epicenter of the rociera devotion...
With the data that we have, we can affirm the existence of the Matriz Brotherhood, from the end of the XVI Century The existence of the Hermandad Matriz, as a logical consequence of the importance that the place was gaining and the devotion to the Virgin Mary. Ntra. Mrs. de las RocinasIt was located in such a privileged place, as it was the crossroads that linked the ports of Huelva, Cadiz and Seville, where the Ermita del Rocio was located. Infante Galán affirms in “Rocío, la devoción mariana de Andalucía” (1971), that already in the 15th century the Virgin was worshipped and that, to attend to them, the Brotherhood arose, which was established in the parish of Almonte. Precisely to attend the cult was agreed by the authorities of Almonte, at the end of the XVI century To attend to the cult in the Hermitage, it was agreed by the authorities of Almonte, to entrust the attention to the cult in the Hermitage, to the Minim Friars, established in Almonte.
Shortly thereafter, in 1653, it was proclaimed the Virgen del Rocío, Patron Saint of AlmonteThe brotherhood’s participation in this important milestone in the history of El Rocío was recorded: “With all humility we ask the Eldest Brother and brothers of the Confraternity of this great Lady, to those of us who were not, to be seated and written as such in her. “ As for the functions that the Brotherhood would perform in its first years of existence, very few could be, basically the care of the Hermitage and the celebration of the liturgical Offices, in the Feast of the Virgin.
The Carrera de Indias prompted the need to set up a structure that could meet the needs that were manifesting...
Emergence of a solid organizational structure in the process of institutionalization of the rociera devotion.
The most direct origin of what we know today as Hermandad Matriz
One of the consequences of the race of the Indies was the foundation of the Chaplaincy of the Virgen del RocíoIn 1587, the Sevillian Baltasar Tercero, an emigrant in Peru, created an important organizational structure in charge of regulating the devotion to the Virgin of El Rocío, which seems to overlap the functions of the Brotherhood.
The foundation of Baltasar Tercero will create a double need for its patrons, the ecclesiastical and secular councils of the town of Almonte. On the one hand, the religious aspect will have to be taken care of, for which the board of trustees of the foundation will appoint a Chaplain, in charge of duly organizing, in accordance with the founder’s wishes, the regular worship of the Virgin of El Rocío. On the other hand, along with these religious functions, other economic functions will arise, derived from the due attention that will have to be given to the goods with which the foundation has been endowed, and those that will be generated in the future (alms, donations, income, etc.).
For the administration and custody of such assets, it will become necessary to appoint a new figure, the Asset Manager . Therefore, the foundation of Baltasar Tercero provokes the appearance of a solid organizational structure in the process of institutionalization of the rociera devotion. This structure would receive, already in the 18th century, the legal-ecclesiastical denomination of “Obra Pía de Nuestra Señora de Rocío”. “Obra Pía de Nuestra Señora del Rocío” (Pious Work of Our Lady of El Rocío). Its specific purpose was the care of worship at the Hermitage, as well as the custody and administration of the foundation’s assets.
The only position that had the call “Obra Pía de Nuestra Señora del Rocío” (Pious Work of Our Lady of El Rocío). was that of the Administrator, and his appointment corresponded to the City Council, the secular Chapter, as patron, together with the ecclesiastical Chapter, (although soon a predominant role of the first against the second is observed). The administrator had defined rights and competencies and was accountable to the appointing body. Among its competencies were the collection of taxes or rents from the estates, the administration of its goods, the pursuit of lawsuits, etc.
As for the destination that should be given to their goods, the works of repair and conservation of the Hermitage, and the attention to the cult of the Virgin are mainly pointed out. It is logical to suppose that the Foundation of Baltasar Tercero, very well endowed economically, by appointing as patrons the secular and ecclesiastical Councils of the Villa, eclipsed that incipient Brotherhood, leaving it subordinated to the Council itself, which appointed the Elder Brother, as it did with the Chaplain and the Administrator of the Foundation’s goods, and limiting its functions to the organization of some worship services and to ensure proper care of the Hermitage. In fact, it was the Town Council, as patron of the foundation, who held the functions, both economic, which it exercised through the Administrator of goods, and devotional, for which a Chaplain was appointed.
The destruction of the Hermitage, as a consequence of the Lisbon earthquake (1755) and the delay in the reconstruction, provokes the reaction of the Brotherhood.
First reorganization of the Matrix Brotherhood
The first glimpse of independence of the Brotherhood, with respect to the Patrons of the Chaplaincy founded by Baltasar Tercero (Town Council and Parish), occurs on the occasion of the destruction of the Hermitage, as a result of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. In fact, the delay in the reconstruction of the Hermitage, which was the responsibility of the Council, provokes the reaction of the Brotherhood, which initiates its reorganization, seeking a certain independence from the Council, for which it is elaborated and approved by the Archbishopric of Seville, the oldest Rule in possession offrom the year 1758.
With its Rules approved, in which charges, income and functions are already defined, in December of that same year, 1758, the Elder Brother addresses the City Council in request of help, to accelerate the completion of the works. With these Rules, the Brotherhood, while remaining dependent in many aspects of the Council, gets the recognition of some functionsThe Brotherhood, whose Rules are already endorsed by the powerful Archbishopric of Seville, is more than a mere appendix of the Council.
Economically, however, except for the quotas of its brothers and the product of some sale made during the Pilgrimage, the Brotherhood had little to administer, being reserved the administration of the goods and revenues of the Obra Pía, to the Town Council .
The Brotherhood is gaining entity and independence.
The beginning of the end of the Chaplaincy
The exposed situation will be substantially altered by the disentailment of 1798 when Charles IV, harassed by the debts of the State, decided to dispose of the assets belonging to the Obras Pías, and by the subsequent ecclesiastical confiscation in Mendizábal in 1836 . With these measures, the foundation, created two centuries ago, was deprived of most of its assets and income.
Thus began a period of lethargy for the Foundation (Obra Pía), from which it would never recover, although the Council would still maintain, until the end of the 19th century, its prerogatives over some of the most important aspects of the Rocío devotion. Consequence of the disentailment of Charles IV, leaving the Chaplaincy without much of its assets, was that the worship in the Hermitage was somewhat neglected, with which, the Brotherhood, acquires, thereafter, a greater protagonism The Hermandad, as the patrons of the Chaplaincy lost it.
On the occasion of the events that gave rise, in 1813, to the vote known as the “del Rocío Chico the three institutions appear on an equal footing, which indicates that the Brotherhood already enjoyed a certain entity and independence. Another reflection of the loss of the chaplaincy’s assets is that the figure of the Administrator of its assets, who at the end of the XVIII century only rendered an account to the Council of the Masses celebrated, was confused by then, either with the Chaplain or with the Elder Brother of the Brotherhood, since both positions were held by the same person.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the only administration that remains is that carried out by the Brotherhood, through its Eldest Brother, who, however, is still accountable to the Council, who appointed him.
Faced with the threat of suppression under the regency of General Espartero, the Brotherhood became stronger.
This difficult situation led to a revitalization of the Brotherhood, which, overcoming this difficult moment, grew in the appreciation of its people, who became aware of the importance of its functions.
Reorganization of the Brotherhood
In 1842, under the regency of Gen. Espartero Espartero, the brotherhood saw its existence threatened by an order of the Civil Government of Huelva, which announced its suppression. Faced with such serious news, the city council comes to the defense of his brotherhood and pleads for its continuity, in two letters addressed to the Archbishopric of Seville and the Civil Government of Huelva. The result was positive, allowing the continuity of the Brotherhood The result was positive, and the brotherhood received authorization to celebrate the Pilgrimage that same year and the following year, after a new request from the City Council, with the providential mediation of the Almonteño, Antonio Martín Villa Secretary of the University of Seville.
This difficult situation led to a revitalization of the Brotherhood which, in overcoming this difficult moment, grew in the appreciation of its people who became aware of the importance of its functions. For this reason, he addressed a petition to the Archbishopric of Seville, requesting the full rehabilitation of the Brotherhood and the updating of its Rules, which had not been modified since their approval in 1758. 1852 .
After this new reorganization, the Brotherhood is increasingly acquiring a greater role in all matters relating to devotion rociera. protagonism in everything related to the devotion rociera, although still the city council will resist, until shortly before the end of the nineteenth century, to cede its prerogatives.
When in 1863 the last Chaplain appointed by the Council in 1857 resigned, D. Antonio Mecoleta and due to the lack of candidates, no new appointment was made, the Parish Priest of Almonte will be in charge of the worship at the Hermitage from then on. The City Council resignation Thus, in 1863, to his right as a patron, although he still resisted losing it completely and, in 1882, when the Parish Priest tried to appoint a new Santero, he vigorously defended his prerogative, one of the few that remained to him, since the Foundation -the Obra Pia-, had already disappeared with all its assets.
In this period of transition, it was the Church itself that stepped in, taking over some of the functions that had been left vacant.
Still at the end of the 19th century, in 1880The City Council maintains an important prerogative that, a few years later, will be taken over by the Hermandad Matriz as one of the most important; the admission of new Brotherhoods to participate in the Pilgrimage of El Rocío (which shortly after was called “Admission of a Brotherhood as a Subsidiary”.). It is noteworthy how the City Council gives account of its agreement of admission, both to the applicant Brotherhood, the one of Huelva, as well as to the one of Almonte.
However, it would take a few years for the Brotherhood to adapt its stagnant structure, forged several centuries ago, to the new situation that arose. In those years of transition, it is the Church itself, through the parish of Almonte who “comes to the rescue” assuming, for a time, the functions that had been left vacant.
Currently, the Brotherhood enjoys legal personality, as a Public Association of the Church, by virtue of its canonical erection, obtained in time immemorial, recognized and updated by the Bishop of Huelva and its registration in the Register of Religious Entities of the Ministry of Justice.
There are currently more than twelve thousand brothers and sisters, almost 50% of the registered inhabitants of Almonte.
Third and final reorganization of the brotherhood
The transitional situation derived from the progressive withdrawal of the Patrons of the former Obra Pia ended in 1917, when the Brotherhood faced its third and definitive reorganization, electing new Board of Directorsthe first of a new period of splendor, in which the Brotherhood will fully assume all functions that in past centuries had corresponded, as patron of the Chaplaincy, to the Council-Town Hall.
The Brotherhood is reorganized and the new Board of Directors opens the first Book of Minutes In the twentieth century, a new list of brothers was opened and new norms were drawn up, adapted to the recently renewed canonical legislation which, in the same year, 1917, appeared in the first Code of Canon Law. As a result of this adaptation, the new 1918 Regulations .
With this, the Brotherhood was in the best situation for the fundamental events of the history of the Rocío that were to come, mainly, with the Canonical Coronation of the Virgin of El Rocío on June 14, 1919. Shortly thereafter, the Brotherhood requested and obtained in 1920, the titles of Royal, granted by H.M. Alfonso XIII and Pontifical, granted by H.H. Benedict XV. These titles are in addition to and, in practice, replace the former titles held by the Brotherhood of Venerable, Principal or Primordial. The latter will be replaced, even with a similar meaning, by the Matrix Title which refers to the preeminence of the Hermandad de Almonte, as hostess, over the other Hermandades del Rocío.
This Title was sanctioned by ecclesiastical authority in the Rules of 1949 and, more recently, has been renewed and updated in its meaning by Sr. Bishop of Huelva, in the new Rules of the Brotherhood of the year 1999.