In Praise of a Virgin Saint: The Largest Pilgrimage in Spain

Published June 11th, 2019 - 06:28 GMT

El Rocio pilgrimage, the largest in Spain, gathers hundreds of thousands of devotees in traditional outfits converging in a burst of colour as they make their way on horseback and on board decorated carriages across the Andalusian countryside.

The pilgrimage dates from 1653, when the Virgin of Las Rocinas was appointed patron saint of Almonte.

The El Rocío pilgrimage is the most famous in the region, attracting nearly a million people from across Andalucia and the entire country, and beyond. Every Andalucian city, town and village has its own pilgrimages, for its patron saint, virgin or other much-loved local figure, but the El Rocio has cult status, and is the most important and most colourful.

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A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio on June 10, 2019. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio on June 10, 2019. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim wearing a mask awaits the effigy of the Rocio Virgin during a procession at the village of El Rocio  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim wearing a mask awaits the effigy of the Rocio Virgin during a procession at the village of El Rocio CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

El Rocio pilgrimage, the largest in Spain, gathers hundreds of thousands of devotees in traditional outfits converging in a burst of colour as they make their way on horseback and on board decorated carriages across the Andalusian countryside. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

El Rocio pilgrimage, the largest in Spain, gathers hundreds of thousands of devotees in traditional outfits converging in a burst of colour as they make their way on horseback and on board decorated carriages across the Andalusian countryside. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim lights a candle at the church of the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim lights a candle at the church of the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio on June 10, 2019. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim wearing a mask awaits the effigy of the Rocio Virgin during a procession at the village of El Rocio  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
El Rocio pilgrimage, the largest in Spain, gathers hundreds of thousands of devotees in traditional outfits converging in a burst of colour as they make their way on horseback and on board decorated carriages across the Andalusian countryside. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim lights a candle at the church of the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio on June 10, 2019. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio on June 10, 2019. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim touches the effigy of the Rocio Virgin at the church of the village of El Rocio CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim wearing a mask awaits the effigy of the Rocio Virgin during a procession at the village of El Rocio  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim wearing a mask awaits the effigy of the Rocio Virgin during a procession at the village of El Rocio CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
El Rocio pilgrimage, the largest in Spain, gathers hundreds of thousands of devotees in traditional outfits converging in a burst of colour as they make their way on horseback and on board decorated carriages across the Andalusian countryside. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
El Rocio pilgrimage, the largest in Spain, gathers hundreds of thousands of devotees in traditional outfits converging in a burst of colour as they make their way on horseback and on board decorated carriages across the Andalusian countryside. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
Pilgrims cross the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage on their way to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim walks by an effigy of a Virgin near the Quema river in Villamanrique, during a pilgrimage to the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim lights a candle at the church of the village of El Rocio.  CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
A pilgrim lights a candle at the church of the village of El Rocio. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP