Wednesday, January 27

The Coronation Festival

Canonical coronation of the Virgin of Elche on December 29, 1970.

Canonical coronation of the Virgin of Elche on December 29, 1970.

On December 29, 1970 – fifty years ago now – Elche celebrated the 6th Centenary of the Coming of the Virgin with an extensive program of cultural and religious events. It was the second time that a centenary of the discovery of the image of the Patron Saint of the city was commemorated after the fifth, in 1870, also of great solemnity.

The festivities began on December 26 with a proclamation by General Antonio Maciá Serrano from Elche. He delivered it from the top of the corpse, surrounded by the heralds of the Coming and in the presence of the bishop of the diocese and the local clergy who, after the act, officiated a solemn mass. The Capella del Misteri d’Elx participated in it, directed by Master Joaquín Oncina. At night, a “Great Dawn of the Coming” with the firing of a hundred palm trees of fireworks recalled the Nit de l’Albà.

In the early morning of the 28th the discovery of the ark by the coast guard Cantó was staged on the beach of Tamarit, with the presence of numerous people from Elche. This act, which currently takes place every year, has not been performed since 1940 when it was held to receive the new image of the Patron. After a welcome mass in the hermitage of Tamarit, in whose façade an allusive tombstone was discovered, the return to Elche began, although without the pilgrimage that we know today, incorporated in the eighties. Received the image in the vicinity of the Turret, it was moved to the so-called hermitage of the VI Centennial, whose works had begun the previous April at the initiative of the Society of the Venida. It was located in front of the Municipal Slaughterhouse and was demolished without completion, due to lack of financial resources, in 1989, within the urban redevelopment of the area.

At three in the afternoon the representation of the discovery began through the streets of Elche with Cantó’s career, reading of the side and pilgrimage of heralds, sailors, old town hall, Junta de la Venida, authorities, Municipal Band of Music and people in general carrying white palms. The rejoneador Álvaro Domecq also participated in the retinue, named for the occasion He sang of honor. After the entrance of the Patroness in Santa María the traditional “Welcome” was addressed to her and the hymn of the festivity was sung.

Given that local tradition links the discovery of the image of the Virgin of the Assumption with the celebration of her Festa, the Patronato del Misteri joined the event and organized two extraordinary representations of the sacred drama. In this way, for the first and only time, the Festa was staged in a month of December. On the 27th, at 4 in the afternoon, a dress rehearsal took place. And on the 29th, both celebrations, Mystery and Venida, were united.

In the morning, at 10, the staging of Vespra took place. At its end, the procession of the Venida with its traditional elements, with the Elche Cantó and the one of honor and with the image of the Virgin carried in her hand litters, since the restoration of the throne could not be completed in time «dels angelets ». The Patron was dressed in the mantle of the Shells, designed by Pere Ibarra in 1917, which had been restored for the occasion by the Adorers of Valencia. This procession, according to the published program, went through the central streets of the city in the same direction as that of August 15 and not the other way around as is usual on this festival. Upon his return to Santa María, a commemorative tombstone was discovered on its main façade and a solemn mass was celebrated by a good number of bishops and priests.

In the afternoon, at five, the second part of the Festa took place. The chronicles of the time indicate that the singers were provided with socks and other warm undergarments and a kind of tunnel with metal plates was built on the terrace of the temple between the hut that serves as a dressing room and the platform of heaven, with so that their voices were not affected by the winter cold. After the crowning of the Festa, the image of the Virgin was lowered again to the cadafal and placed standing on its processional litters. And there, on the stage of the Mystery, surrounded by some of its characters and by the authorities, she was canonically crowned by the bishop of the diocese Pablo Barrachina, with the mayor of the city Vicente Quiles and his wife acting as godparents. The 18th century crown was used for this, donated by Bishop Tormo.

A mass for the deceased members and a large fireworks put an end to the celebrations on December 30. These also had an outstanding civic celebration with events held in different cultural centers, such as concerts, exhibitions – such as the one dedicated to the Elche painter José Gonzálvez “Paraes” -, theatrical performances, a session of the Order of the Knights of the Lady of Elche, etc.

Fifty years later, the pandemic we are suffering from has prevented us from commemorating such events and the 650th anniversary of the Coming with the splendor they deserve. Everything has been concentrated in a solemn mass, which will be presided over by the image of the Patroness enthroned on the main altar of the Basilica. With this we will also remember her canonical coronation, a liturgical rite destined to officially highlight the special devotion of a Marian dedication, as is the evident case of our venerated Patron, the Virgin of the Assumption.

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