Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Assumption fiesta Vinaròs

At last this morning, the second bike I acquired came into good use. Fr. Hywel and I cycled around Vinaròs,  for a couple of hours to get him started on finding his way around. We ended up at the Archiprestal church just after midday, where we found a couple of hundred people worshipping in the Mass for the Assumption of our Lady. The day was marked by the fact that on the right at the front near the sanctuary, a glass coffin was placed on a high bier, containing an effigy of our Lady at rest. As this church is dedicated in honour of the Assumption, the image on the east wall above and behind the altar is of the soul of Mary being received into heaven and crowned by angels, so the temporary image of the day is linked with the other permanent one. During the service 'Nearer my God to thee' was sung in Spanish. Fr. Hywel and I hummed along, bass and tenor.

I picked up from the announcements at the end of the service that there'd be a procession after the evening Mass. We resolved to return and join in, and so we did.

We walked back into town arriving punctually to a cacophany of bells being rung from the tall fortress like church tower. The place was full, about 500 people in all, and more outside, where a band of drummers and shawm players played traditional folk tunes. There were four 12 foot tall mannequins, and eight life sized ones each playing large castanets as they did a stately dance in front of the large figures.

The sung Mass with a homily and several hundred communicants was over in 55 minutes - impressive - and then the congregation filed out and the procession formed in the plaza outside. It started with the folk performers, followed by a dozen young girls in black lace bedecked with high mantilla head dress and sashes, bearing flowers - symbolic mourners. They'd been sitting next to the glass coffin during the Mass. Then came our Lady's glass coffin, (the beir was on wheels, pushed by just four men), then the clergy, accompanied by a group of women women d'un certain age, as the French say, and then among the throng of parishioners, the smartly attired members of the town council, each wearing a discreet lapel badge with the town's coat of arms. At the end, a fine town marching band with reed and brass instruments. Over half of the musicians were under 20 - not surprising when Vinaròs has its own music school on the promenade.

The procession did a circuit of streets in the main pedestrian shopping area adjacent to the church before returning for the final devotions. It was very much a local community event - not done for the tourist market, but because of a particular relationship between the faith community and the traditional culture of wider civil society, in which there's a special role for everyone at different stages in their lives. The priest who had presided at the two masses of the day, with the backing of older clergy, looked so young that he might only have been ordained within the last couple of years. Important for him to have that experience of holding together a major event of great value and meaning here, as in many other Spanish towns.

You can see all the photos I took of the procession here

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