Monday, May 14, 2007

The Day of the Virgin

Plaza de la Virgen
The Mural of Flowers
You could have been forgiven for thinking that the entire population of Valencia was in, or trying to get in, to the Plaza de la Virgen, in the historic centre of the city this weekend.
Yesterday saw the celebration of the Day of the Virgin, a particularly holy day in the Catholic Church's calendar in Spain.
Preparations began on thursday of last week when two stages were erected by the Basilica and the Plaza was once again decked out in flowers, the centrepiece of which was a large and beautifully made mural depicting the Virgin, made completely of flower parts.
By Saturday afternoon the square began to fill with people to watch performances and to reserve their places for the main day. This carried on through the night and by 8.00am the square was almost completely full for the Missa (mass) delivered from the stage in front of the Mural with orchestra and choirs. Priests shaded by yellow umbrellas passed among the crowds to offer communion.
Then it was a mad rush to clear the square of most of the seating and to prepare for the even bigger crowds that streamed in ready for the passage of the Virgin from the basilica through the square to the Gothic Door of the Cathedral (under 100 metres away)
The effigy is carried on the shoulders of some strong men and the crowds surge to touch her, small children are lifted over the heads of the crowds to touch her and some brave adults body surf over the crowds to touch or kiss her. It is an amazing sight and the sounds of the shouting are at times quite deafening. As they pass below the flats around the square petals are thrown from the balconies.
Once she has made it through the doors of the cathedral, there is a short lull in the proceedings whilst the plaza is once again cleaned and cleared for the final event of the day, a solemn procession of bands, people and the Virgin through the surrounding streets when more petals are thrown and the streets are covered in them. The procession leaves from the Plaza de la Virgen once again and is so long it takes around 2 hours to exit.

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