Santa Faz Pilgrimage or “Romería de Santa Faz”

Hello guys! How are you all today? I hope you are all well as myself after two and a half weeks holidays! Incredible, isn’t it? The thing is that apart from Easter holidays here in Alicante have a break afterwards, and people join it and take more than two weeks that should be the correct thing.

Anyway I am going to explain this a little bit better… the students at UA have holidays from 24th of March until 4th of April for Easter… but the 7th is a local bank holiday, so the 8th that is Friday this year is holiday too! This makes what we call a “Bridge.” We take Thursday the 7th until Sunday the 10th off instead of a usual weekend. Good for us students, right?

But I’m not here to talk about our lovely holidays.I’m here to tell you all about the Santa Faz pilgrimage, or  Romería de Santa Faz. This pilgrimage is considered the second largest pilgrimage in Spain, second only to St Jacks (Santiago de Compostela). Santa Faz was celebrated is always celebrated the second Thursday after holy Thursday, which was on the 8th of April this year.

Santa Faz is a religious festivity or pilgrimage and it is one of Alicante’s most popular festivals. Around 200.000 people walk in the pilgrimage from the city center of Alicante to the Monastery of the Holy Face, or  Monasterio de la Santa Faz in San Juan village. Some people start early in the morning around 8 am. These are usually the most devout Catholics who look forward to this day all year. Those who start that early usually make a stop called “La Paraeta” where they have breakfast.

Many people start the religious pilgrimage later, around 10:00 or 11:00 am. When you start really depends on what you want to do: if you want sun along the way, or if you want to walk with many people around you, etc…

Now here is the route:

As you can see the picture on the left is the image of the Santa Faz. The second image is a photo of the pilgrimage this year. Hundreds and hundreds of people participate for all kinds of reasons, both religious and not. In the picture on the bottom we can see the route. It is only 7 km from the Co.Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Alicante to the monastery in San Juan village, but the truth is that many people do not go to the monastery. Instead people keep walking to the beach to drink and have a party, eat barbecue, listen to music in a raves and so on… It might sounds crazy, but yes, this is the truth.

Nowadays it is mostly older Catholic people who really appreciate the pilgrimage as a religious one. But the pilgrimage is also for families who also love joining this route and all the way to the monastery. The rest are all young people looking for having a good time, having fun, enjoying the sun, meeting new people, etc.

I have to say I gone on the romería around three or four times now when you include this year… but I only went to the monastery once on the very first time I went. The other times I did the pilgrimage I passed in front of the monastery but kept going to the fair and to the beach to have a good time with my friends! It sounds crazy but this is the reality!

The walk is really comfortable, not tiring, easy and safe. The main road that takes us to the Santa Faz is blocked for traffic. There are people selling stuff on the way, there are also useful toilets for people, and there are police officers around just in case.

In my opinion, there should be more information on the way to explain why we should be doing this pilgrimage that day. Because what I learned from Santa Faz was in the school in my religious class and from websites, and what friends say, not from anything provided on the actual pilgrimage.

Now I am going to explain briefly what Santa Faz is exactly, and what is in that monastery that is so important.

There is a story in the Catholic religion that takes place as Jesus Christ carried the cross to Calvary. According to this story, a woman named Veronica came up to Jesus as he bore the cross on his shoulders and wiped his face with a cloth. According to the story, what is so remarkable is that when she pulled the cloth away it bore the likeness of Jesus’s face… Santa Faz, The Holy Face.

Now, all of the Catholics today who go all the way to San Juan village go to get in the monastery, where it is said the cloth is kept which Veronica used to wipe Jesus Christ’s face. It is supposed that the actual cloth is kept in the Santa Faz monastery.

So now that you know more about one of the largest pilgrimages in Spain, I encourage you to do it if you are here next year or the next one… in 2017 the date will be Thursday the 27th of April, and in 2018 on Thursday the 12th of April. Now you know!!! You must do it!

Analysis

Well, Santa Faz pilgrimage is an intangible heritage here in Alicante. On the one hand it is a religious pilgrimage but it is also related with a festival nowadays for youngsters living and residing in this area. For many Alicantinos this pilgrimage is a part of their cultural identity, is a self-identification to say “Well, we are from Alicante and this is a tradition every year” but also we should interpret they are all Christian, or at least the ones that do the pilgrimage and go all the way to the Monastery in San Juan village. People who do Santa faz pilgrimage in a different way are altering the meaning of the cultural heritage, in other words the meaning of this intangible heritage is being deteriorated by all the people who go drinking all the way to the beach or the fair. But apart from this, we must know that even though this pilgrimage is an intangible heritage we CANNOT separate it from the tangible heritage that in this case would be the cloth with which Veronica wiped Jesus Christ’s face. So, we can say that the pilgrimage in itself is an intangible heritage and the cloth is the tangible heritage, but we must also say that the two cannot be separated. Both are cultural heritage here in Alicante, and we must take care of it, as it is our duty to look after our heritage.

 

Thanks for reading our stories again!

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