“THE “ROMERÍA DEL ROSARIO” (PILGRIMAGE OF THE ROSARY) ONCE RIVALLED THE FESTIVITIES OF THE EIGHTH OF SEPTEMBER.
Until a few decades ago, the date par excellence for the people of Alboja to go on pilgrimage to the Diocesan Sanctuary of El Saliente was around the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. A family tradition which, due to the anniversary of the Christian victory against the Ottoman troops at Lepanto, has returned with force to the Roel to honour the Little Madonna. Pedro Manuel López Navarro, the Sanctuary’s clovary, points out: “The “Romería del Rosario” formerly came to rival the festivities of the eighth of September. The older pilgrims brought back the memory of it with nostalgia and, over the years, we have thought of bringing it back. This year, in which we seem to have emerged from the pandemic, we felt that we should not postpone it as it is the 450th anniversary of Lepanto”.
Moreover, in this special year for the commemoration of the Rosary, the Sanctuary wanted to extend its small collection of paintings with a canvas of the Holy Rosary which was blessed during the Pilgrimage. This is how Juan Navarrete Ortega, secretary of the Sanctuary, describes it: “The canvas was painted in Cádiz at the beginning of the 19th century. It shows Saint Domingo de Guzmán, with his characteristic dog biting a lit candle, receiving the Holy Rosary from the hands of Our Lady and the Child Jesus”. Restored by the conservator of the sacred image of the Pequeñica, Joaquín Gilabert López, it presided over the acts from an ephemeral altar.
A PILGRIMAGE ON HORSEBACK FROM LAS POCICAS TO EL ROEL
At nine o’clock in the morning, from the fountain of Santa Bárbara near the village of Las Pocicas, the pilgrims set off in the direction of El Roel.
In addition to those who walked on foot, supported by their canes crowned with rosemary, there were about twenty riders on shiny steeds. In less than three hours they reached the Dientes de la Vieja, a peculiar rock formation that serves as a portico to the Diocesan Sanctuary and is linked to its pious tradition. The Cuadrillas de Ánimas de la Hoya de Lorca and Vélez Rubio were waiting there, filling the cool morning with songs and music.
The pilgrims came from Albox, Oria, Arboleas, Lorca, Vélez Rubio and the city of Almería. They all contemplated the banner of the Pequeñica, which was raised on a simple dais at the foot of the rocks. Then, at the request of the Asociación de Amigos del Caballo Valle del Almanzora, the horses were blessed in the only sunny moment of the whole day. Called by their names, the spirited animals came forward to receive their corresponding dose of holy water and their accreditation parchment. This procedure required the skill of the riders, as the horses demonstrated their indomitable energy.
SOLEMN MASS PRESIDED OVER BY THE EPISCOPAL DELEGATE FOR BROTHERHOODS AND CONFRATERNITIES
In the artistic temple of the Sanctuary, magnificently decorated with yellow flowers by the prioste Manuel Jesús Sánchez Reche, the solemn votive Holy Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary was celebrated. It was presided over by the Episcopal Delegate of Brotherhoods and Confraternities, the canon and prefect of pastoral care of the S. and A. I. Cathedral of the Incarnation of Almería: Don Juan José Martín Campos. During his homily, he said: “The Blessed Virgin, who defines herself as the handmaid of the Lord, teaches us that to be great we must be humble. Humility before God, to serve our fellow men”.
A very touching moment was experienced at the end of the Eucharistic celebration, when Don Juan José shared his long memories of the Shrine and his participation in the pontifical crowning of the sacred image more than thirty years ago. The elderly presbyter Don Juan Romero Guirao, Rector of the Shrine between 1997 and 2003, also received the affection of the pilgrims, who wanted to go on pilgrimage once again to the altar of the Pequeñica.
As could not be otherwise, there was no lack of the resounding cheers and popular songs that accompany any of the celebrations that take place in the Sanctuary before the blessed image of Our Lady of the Forsaken of Buen Retiro del Saliente Coronada.
CUADRILLAS AND DANCES TO CONCLUDE THE PILGRIMAGE DAY
After regaining strength at the unavoidable meal, shared in the Sanctuary’s restaurant, the activities resumed in the conference hall. Moderated by the volunteer Natalia Carrillo Reche, a get-together took place to share memories of the old pilgrimages of the Rosary.
First of all, the Rector, Antonio Jesús María Saldaña Martínez, wanted to contextualise the meaning of the anniversary: “To remember the victory of Lepanto is, for us, to experience the power of prayer and trust in Our Lady in the face of any adversity. This is how our fathers lived it, who, stimulated by what happened in Lepanto, were able to create their lives in this land; after the Moorish rebellion of 1568”. Antonio Pardo Díaz, displaying his journalistic skills, spoke at length about the devotion to the Holy Rosary in Albox.
The Cuadrillas de Ánimas de Vélez Rubio and de la Hoya de Lorca received, for their fervent participation, the honour of the Patronage Medal from the hands of the Rector. Natalia, as moderator of the gathering, concluded by saying: “Let us hope that, having opened the memory of the Rosary, we will never lose it again. They are our roots and their values are our best treasure”.
The Cloister was then filled with the songs of the “cuadrilleros” and the parrandas dances of the pilgrims. Neither the clouds nor the years were an obstacle to enjoy, while the traditional aniseed and dried figs were tasted. These rejoicings were joined by a concert offered by the Town Hall of Albox, together with fireworks, on the esplanade of the Roel.