Viva la Virgen del Carmen!
There’s something that transcends the purely religious when it comes to the beachside Dawn Mass that starts a day of festivities every 16th July in Marbella Town, honouring the Virgen del Carmen, protector of fishermen and Marbella’s patron saint.
There’s absolutely none of the sense of formality you get within the confines of a church but one of a unified local community, gathering as one, barefoot around an altar in the sand.
Perhaps it’s the natural setting but you get a feeling of witnessing and participating in a more primal ritual – a ceremony of gratitude for the simple things in life, the blessings of good health, and the love of family and friends, departed and presently in our lives. A homage of respect to the force of nature in the guise of the sea. A celebration drenched with devotion for the Virgen del Carmen and her role of mother-protector but a devotion expressed as joy.
This is the feeling it transmits to me at least and the reason why out of all the festivities, I chose to join in the celebrations again this year. Here are some photos I took, as I embraced this enchanting early-morning ritual and felt equally embraced by the simplicity of spirit and the overwhelming sense of unity that pervades…
The day was blissfully overcast as I made my way towards the fishing port along the promenade in the early hours
The procession makes its way past the fishermen’s warehouses towards El Cable beach
A shrine to the Virgen del Carmen adorned with white flowers in the fishermen’s quarter
Falling on a Sunday, some local people had already “set up shop” for a family day on the the beach.
Approaching the ceremony from the beach.
There was an air of informality, as people stood or sat in the sand, gathered around the altar on the beach
A moment’s silence to reflect on how we could all be kinder and more compassionate in our daily lives.
People watch from the fishing port walls as children play in the sand
We gathered on the shoreline waiting for the throne bearers to carry the Virgen del Carmen into the sea.
The waves swell up suddenly, drenching the throne bearers
There were a few gasps from the shore as the throne-bearers struggled to steady themselves
The Virgen is held aloft to cries of “Viva la Virgen del Carmen!”
The Virgen del Carmen is returned to the altar while the people file past, touching the hem of her gown for blessings and protection
One of the members of the Hermandad (confraternity) kisses his baby while other children are raised onto the platform for blessing
Folkloric dancing in front of the altar
The congregation queues up for hot chocolate and churros provided by the Hermandad de la Virgen del Carmen
The last of the hot chocolate, as I finally got to the front of the queue!
Throne bearers in their traditional costume dry off and relax after their efforts.
The throne begins its journey to its resting place at the confraternity headquarters in town
Following the procession through the trafficless streets
It was only when I got closer that I realised a group of women had taken over the carrying of the throne
People watched from their balconies as we filed past
Arriving at the entrance of the Hermandad de la Virgen del Carmen
The male throne-bearers, gathered between the much heavier silver throne that will carry the Virgen del Carmen on a boat in the sea procession that evening, look on (with trepidation?) while the women lower the throne at its resting place.
“The Queen of the Seas” safely “berthed” and ready for her sea voyage.