"It all started one morning..."
It all began one morning... with the miraculous discovery of an image and the construction of a small hermitage, at the edge of the Marismas during the Middle Ages...
The origin of all this history is the miraculous discovery of an image and the construction of a small hermitage, on the edge of the marshes during the Middle Ages, within a large area dedicated to the breeding and watering of mares called the Rocinas. In other ancient texts it is also cited as Rocinas de la Madre (logically from the mother water that flowed through the pipe that seeks the Guadalquivir). There was no more complete food for the anatomical robustness of the beasts than the armajos and all kinds of wild herbs of that lacustrine and salty soil.
The etymological meaning of Rocinas is related to the space destined to the care of the rocky cattle, in clear reference to the Castilian word “Rocín” -remember the Rocinante of Don Quixote-. The Dictionary of Medieval Commerce by the historian Miguel Gual Camarena (1976) refers that, in medieval documentation, there were many references to the traffic of merchandise on the backs of these animals as beasts of burden. In those years there existed in our Spanish geography, apart from this marismeño, other well-known rocinales such as Baños de Ebro; Mañueta de Álava; Rocinal de Venturada (Madrid); Llanos de Somerón (Asturias) and some others.
King Alfonso X “the Wise”. conquered between 1262 and 1264 all the territorial environment on which the town of Almonte would settle, after snatching it from the Spanish-Muslim dominators until then, so the Christian reconquest of the Rocinas is associated with the famous Toledo monarch, now commemorating the 800th anniversary of his birth (1221-2021). Since he installed his Court in the Royal Alcazar of Seville in 1248, he also found a patrimonial extension in the marismeño palace built in the Lomo del Grullo (today term of Hinojos), as a hunting reserve of the crown as a Royal preserve.
After the Christian reconquest and the Mudejar revolt (1264-1265), King Alfonso X of Castile transferred the marshlands of Las Rocinas to the royal jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Seville. From 1269 onwards, the pastures of their lands began to be shared among breeders from different towns, based on the agreement of the Hermandad de Pasto. Around 1330, the same monarch had donated to Don Alvar Pérez de Guzmán (bastard brother of the Lord of Sanlúcar), Sheriff of Seville, the place of Almonte, whose municipal district was formed with extensive land segregated from that of Niebla. Thanks to this gentleman, he was able to obtain the Rocinas pastureland as a land of his own property – on which there was great demand from breeders of mares, cows and pigs – although its ownership was not sufficiently legitimized, it corresponded to Seville as communal land and they had the right to graze livestock from the towns of the region. Brotherhood.
1248 - 1262
Christian conquest of the Hispano-Muslims of the kingdoms of Seville (1248) and Niebla (1262), which include the territories of Marisma.
Alfonso X of Castile reconquers Niebla and all its land, where Las Rocinas is located. After the Mudejar revolt (1264-1265), these marshlands were incorporated into the royal territory of the Kingdom of Seville.
The following are beginning to be shared Marisma land among breeders of different populations, based on the Pasto Brotherhood Agreement.
Reference is made for the first time to to the hermitage in the Libro de la Montería, finished writing under the reign of of Alfonso XI of Castile.
The town of Almonte after being awarded the Crown his property to Don Alvar Pérez de Guzmán, Mayor Bailiff of Seville, who was the one who lobbied to manage the Rocinas as land of their own, despite its communal membership to Seville.
That year was the first time in documents the hermitage of Santa María de las Rocinas.
The County of Niebla is created without the inclusion of Almonte, which had been segregated from its term years before, King Alfonso XI of Castile.
King Juan II granted royal authorization for Almonte to expand the limits of its municipal area and the hermitage of the Rocinas remained within it.
The Catholic Monarchs donate the land from Caño Madre de las Rocinas to its Secretary of Economy, Mr. Esteban Perez Cabitos, surface in which the hermitage was located.
The lands of Caño de las Rocinas are sold by Perez Cabitos Juan Martínez Botejón, in 1480. It was subsequently passed on to other private individuals until it was acquired by the almonteño don Juan de Gracia, on 23rd December 1582. Finally, the Almonte City Council was able to to take ownership of the Caño, by its ownership has been clarified. and could be avoided in the future more conflicts and confrontations.
The Ducal House of Medina Sidonia ends up taking over the jurisdiction complete manor house of the villa of Almonte, after resolving inheritance and land acquisitions for just over a century of attempts to purchase from heirs of don Alvar Pérez de Guzmán, with the purpose of uniting their extensive territories (Huelva and Cádiz).
There are very few discoveries of late medieval images that left a written trace contemporaneous to the moment in which they were produced. Almost all of them wrote their respective legends of invention, once their owners acquired some celebrity during the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries. It represents an example linked to a legend that recreates the discovery of its carving, the origin of the Virgen del Rocío, although this was first written in the mid-eighteenth century.
In fact, the mythologized history of Nuestra Señora de las Rocinas is an ingenious legend that tells the story of the physical discovery of the carving, and presents it as if the Virgin Mary herself had made an appearance in the peripheral landscape where her chapel would later be erected, attributing the feat of the discovery to a hunter or rancher and trying to justify the presence of the image in that border area of the municipality, thus turning Santa María de las Rocinas into an important symbol of community identity.
We reproduce below the contents of the two oldest known versions of the image encounter.
The first one was published in the introduction of the printed Rules in 1758, and gathers the basic content of the oral tradition handed down from generation to generation, which always explained the apparition of this Virgin. However, the writing of that account, written in the middle of the 18th century, tries to answer different questions in addition to transmitting the way in which the appearance of the image took place.
...and in the midst of the Thorns he found the Image of that sacred Lily untouched by the thorns of sin...
“In the fifteenth century of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, a man who was grazing cattle, or had gone out to hunt, being in the term of the town of Almonte in the place called the Rock (whose uncultivated weeds made it impracticable to human plants, and only accessible to birds and wild beasts) noticed in the vehemence of the barking of dogs; that something was hidden in that forest, which moved them to those expressions of their natural instinct. He penetrated, although at the cost of no little labor, and in the midst of the Thorns he found the Image of that sacred Lily intact from the thorns of sin, he saw among the Brambles the simulacrum of that Myristic Bramble unharmed in the midst of the ardors of the Original crime, he saw an image of the Queen of Angels of natural stature placed on the dry trunk of a Tree. She was of stature, and her beauty was pilgrim. She was dressed in a linen tunic between white and green, and her portentous beauty was attractive even to the most libertine imagination.
In another, more concise version written some twenty years after the first, in 1779, the nature of the discoverer of the image is specified, who is indicated as a neighbor of the town of Almonte. The text was included in the report of the Pastoral Visit made to the town of Almonte by the ecclesiastical visitor, Don Miguel María de León, at the time priest of the parish of Santa María de Arcos de la Frontera. The manuscript, which was unpublished until a few years ago, is included in the report of the aforementioned visit, whose book is kept in the General Archive of the Archbishopric of Seville.
...to a former hunter or stockbreeder, a native of this village...
“To an old hunter or cattleman, natural of this town, in entangled, and confused in the wait, and dark heath of its term, that they call the Rocina, was due, in the 15th century the prodigious Discovery of the Holy and Pilgrim Image of Mary SSma, placed at the foot of a trunk of that impassable place of any person, from where it took or they told him its first title that later they have changed it in the one of the Rossio: and it is venerated in a spacious and well carved hermitage, in the proximity of the place of such an important finding, and at a distance of three leagues from this town where the natives and neighbors of this town make their pilgrimages to fulfill their vows and promises, as well as those of many other neighboring towns, experiencing all the healthiest relief and consolation in their narrow needs.”
The discovery of America and its conquest after 1492 is a major milestone in the history of Andalusia and Spain. The small enclave of El Rocío is located in a strategic place of passage for the crews that go by land to the Ports of Cádiz by the right margin of the Guadalquivir. Many, before embarking, entrust their adventure to the Blessed Virgin of the Rocinas. The Chaplaincy of Baltasar Tercero founded in Lima at the end of the 16th century, which provides a permanent budget to the primitive hermitage for the cult of the Sacred Image, is a consequence of this. The religious orders established in this territory to attend to this human mobilization, particularly that of the Minims, will favor this growth.
In this context of growth, the Vow of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was made by the authorities of Almonte.June 29, 1653which includes the appointment of Santa María de las Rocinas as Patron Saint of the town of Almonte. (Patronage Act), confirming its devotional prevalence over the rest of the Marian devotional universe of the town, challenging the Duke of Medinasidonia himself, who tried to impose in his estates the devotion to the patron saint of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the Virgin of Charity. By then, the Virgin was, in fact, the Patron Saint of the cattle breeders of this region, whose lands were mainly dedicated since time immemorial to the extensive breeding of horses and cattle.
Soon after, the first brotherhoods of El Rocío will emerge in imitation of the one in Almonte, in the towns and cities of the surrounding area. The 1758 Rules of the Hermandad Matriz, where they are listed, order them by towns: Villamanrique, Pilas, Moguer, La Palma; and cities: Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Rota and El Gran Puerto de Santa María. Recent studies by historian Julio Mayo Rodríguez have revealed the existence of a lawsuit in 1766-1767, in which the city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda claims to be the oldest, although due to historical circumstances it lost its order of seniority, as has been the tradition in the history of rociera devotion, for the brotherhoods that have ceased to attend the pilgrimage.
“The example of the Brotherhood founded by the town of Almonte moved those of Villamanrique, Pilas, La Palma, and Rota, and the cities of San Lucar de Barrameda, Moguer and Puerto de Santa Maria to also institute Brotherhoods, which annually concur to the function that in honor of Our Lady of El Rocío is made in the aforementioned Church …”.
Rules of the Hermandad Matriz de Almonte of 1758, page 11.
It is evident that the socioeconomic and family interrelationships in this territory serve as a means of promotion and growth of the Feast of the Virgin. It is worth mentioning the disseminating role of the canon of Almonte, José Carlos Tello de Eslava in Seville of the devotion to the Virgin of El RocíoHe is an exponent of other canons that promote and favor from time ago and onwards, his devotion from the capital of Seville, where they promote the most illustrious sons of all Western Andalusia.
Later, at the beginning of the 19th centuryAlmonte lives, as does the rest of the country the French Invasionin August 1810, which in August 1810 experienced an episode of defiance in its streets, which gave birth to the Vow of Thanksgiving of the Rocío Chico (1813) . The Blessed Virgin, once again, came to the aid of her people who forever and ever promised to celebrate a Votive Function every August 19. As a result, brotherhoods were founded in Triana (1813), Umbrete (1829); and later, in Coria del Río (1849) and Huelva (1880). The brotherhoods of Puerto de Santa María and Rota also disappeared, in the midst of the decline of trade with America, and in the midst of the ecclesiastical confiscations that left religious institutions without patrimony.
... The example of the Brotherhood founded by the town of Almonte...
With the arrival of the Montpensier family, the Pilgrimage of El Rocío reached an enormous impact and national fame.
The disembarkation of the Montpensier family (Don Antonio de Orleans and Dª María Luisa Fernanda de Borbón, sister of Queen Isabel II), established in the city of Seville in 1853, and with them the new Andalusian agricultural bourgeoisie that acquired land in the area, in the midst of the decline of the Jurisdictional Lordships, and the advances in transportation and communications, through the press, turned the Pilgrimage of El Rocío into a Pilgrimage of growing impact and national fame.
First Half of the 20th Century
The twentieth century began with important works in the old hermitage of El Rocío, in 1914-1915 and 1918-1919 and with a Rocío in growth of its brotherhoods and its radius of influence, with a great impact on the Fine Arts of the time. In 1914, for example, Juan Ramón Jimenez published “Platero y yo” and dedicated chapter XLVII to “El Rocío”. Joaquín Turina, José María Izquierdo, the Alvarez Quintero Brothers, Manuel Siurot, Santiago Martínez, Manuel Machado, Alejandro Pérez Lugin, Manuel Ruiz Vidriet, Manuel and Andrés Martínez de León … are other artists who land and promote El Rocío.
In a few years three brotherhoods were founded, in San Juan del Puerto (1913) Benacazón (1916) and Rociana del Condado, coinciding with the Canonical Coronation of the Virgin in 1919, promoted by the canon hinojero, Juan Francisco Muñoz y Pabón. An event of great significance for the history of El Rocío that took place in the midst of the fever of the Canonical Crownings in Spain and Latin America, and in a climate of great social and political instability in Spain and Europe, when communism had triumphed in Russia and coinciding with the end of the First World War. Our Lady is proclaimed Queen of Peace and Justice. The Coronation left behind a period of growth of the Rocío in all aspects that accelerated during the Republic, as a reaction to its anti-religious policies. In 1935 alone, during the course of the year, six new fraternities were founded: Bonares, Puebla del Río, Bollullos Par del Condado, Valverde del Camino, Gibraleón and the city of Córdoba. It is the year in which the President of the Republic, Alejandro Lerroux García , attends the Pilgrimage. A year after the Virgin premiered her new processional platform, donated by the Cepeda-Soldán family, in 1934.
After the war and in the post-war periodThe growth of the Dew is frozen, in spite of the support of the Regime, whose maximum leader, General Francisco FrancoOn April 18, 1953, he visited the village of El Rocío, in the middle of the development of the projects for the implementation of the autarkic economy in the lands of Almonte.
Second Half of the 20th Century
A transcendental event for the history of the rociera devotion will be the foundation of the diocese of Huelva in 1953 and the arrival of its first bishop, D. Pedro Cantero Cuadrado in 1954. The man who put all his talents and influence to favor El Rocío, making it the pearl of his diocese. From his hand was activated the project to build a new Sanctuary (1963-1970), its electrification (1964), the granting of the title of Fiesta of International Tourist Interest (1965), the road to El Rocío (1966), or the landing of the radio (1955), ……… In the midst of this process, brotherhoods were founded in the two most important cities of Spain, Madrid (1960) and Barcelona (1971), hand in hand with the Andalusian emigration. This year Juan Infante Galán, publishes, “Rocío, the Marian devotion of Andalusia”. The first attempt to approach the history of the rociera devotion in a serious and rigorous way. The first pilgrimage of Rocieros to Rome was organized on the occasion of the 1975 Holy Year.
All this necessary process, of creation of the bases, explodes at the beginning of the decade of the 80’s with the explosion of the rociera devotion. On May 27, 1980, the ABC newspaper of Seville had opened its front page with this headline: “A million people in El Rocío”. Not in vain, between 1978 and 1982 brotherhoods were founded in five of the eight Andalusian capitals: Cordoba, Cadiz, Granada, Malaga and Jaen, except for the foundation of Almeria, which did so in 1986, the same year that visits the Pilgrimage. the President of the Junta de Andalucía, José Rodríguez de la Borbolla y Camoyán, the first to do so. Before, in 1982, the first President of the Government of Democracy, Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo y Bustelo, had visited the Sanctuary of El Rocío. And a year later, in 1983, the Romero Plan had taken shape.
From this point on, the process of growth of the Rocío devotion accelerated and in September 1992 the great event of the closing ceremony of the Marian and Mariological Congresses held in Huelva, officiated by the pontifical legate, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, with the participation of H.M.M.R.R. Don Juan Carlos and Dª SofíaThe latter, who had already visited the Pilgrimage in 1972, as Princess, and in 1984, as Queen, accompanied by her daughters, Elena and Cristina; and accompanied on this occasion by the mother of the former, María de las Mercedes de Borbón, among other authorities.
In the process of growth and expansion, in the year 2000, through his sister, Isabel Infante Galán, a great documentary legacy was obtained, the one gathered throughout his life by the historian from Villalba, Juan Infante Galán. This year a brotherhood of El Rocío in the capital of Europe, Brusselswhich shortly after launched the project of the European Marian Spiritual Path of El Rocío, with stations in some of the most representative Marian Shrines in Belgium, France and Spain: Beauraing, Chartrês, Rocamadour, Lourdes, El Pilar, La Almudena, La Virgen de la Cabeza, La Virgen de los Reyes and arrival point in El Rocío, between 2000 and 2003. And in 2007 a group of pilgrims from Huelva made, for the first time, the experience of walking from Brussels to El Rocío. This year, the Hermandad Matriz opens its headquarters in Almonte, on the site of the old Parish House and during these years important ornamentation works are being developed in the Sanctuary of El Rocío.
In 2012-2013 and in 2019-2022, on the occasion of the first Transfers of the Virgin to Almonte of the Third Millennium, the first two Jubilee years of its history, being celebrated with an extensive program of activities, the Bicentenary of the Rocío Chico (2011-2013) y the Centenary of the Canonical Coronation of the Virgin of El Rocío (2018-2019) In this context Jubilar is created in 2013 the Pilgrims’ Assistance Office and, shortly thereafter, the Museum-Treasure of the Sanctuary of El Rocío in 2014. During these years, important acts of rociera affirmation are celebrated in the cities of Cordoba, Madrid, Toledo or Huelvaamong others.
February 14, 2020The pilgrimage to the parish of Almonte, coinciding with the centenary year of the granting of the title of Royal to the brotherhood by H.M. the King, Alfonso XIII, has been a pilgrimage to the parish of Almonte, Their Royal Highnesses, Don Felipe and Doña LeticiaThey already did so as Prince and Princess in 2004. Shortly after, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and deprived us of the celebration of the Romerías in 2020 and 2021, celebrated liturgically in Almonte with the Virgin, in one of the longest stays in history. The rest of the annual celebrations of worship to the Blessed Virgin have also been held in Almonte. El Rocío explodes in the digital world, where it is present and celebrated for all the brotherhoods and rocieros of the world, as a solution to mobility restrictions. The brotherhoods show their spirit of solidarity, collaborating and helping in the parishes where they live with the victims of the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic.
And in 2021, in the midst of the celebration of a Xacobean Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela, the foundations have been laid to activate a new spiritual path linking El Rocío with the capital of Compostela. And at the end of this year is celebrated in the capital of Andalusia, the most important exhibition organized by the Matriz Brotherhood, involving more than sixty institutions, under the title of JUBILAR ROCÍO, at the headquarters of the CAJASOL Foundation.