On 15th October 1767 the town was presented
with a new image of Jesús Nazareno by the Duchess of Medinaceli as thanks for
the town's tribute on the birth of her son. However there is a local legend
which suggests that
the image was actually intended for the Duchess in Dénia but, after several attempts, it
couldn't be carried across or around the Cabo de San Antonio headland and thus this was
interpreted as a sign that the destiny of the image was in Jávea. The image was
carried on the shoulders of young sailors to the church of San Bartolomé where
it remained until the small Calvario shrine was completed to house the new
statue three years later.
In 1834 cholera swept through the area and the
population prayed to the image for salvation from the plague. There were no more
deaths from cholera that year and ever since. In gratitude, the locals made
improvements to the chapel of Calvario in 1847 to its present form, complete
with the Arabic-style blue tiled dome and dedicated special celebrations in its
honour. These celebrations gradually usurped those of San Sebastian who remains
the town's patron saint.
The original image was destroyed by the
during the Spanish Civil War but a replacement was created from a
surviving photograph; this is the image we see today. In October 1967, to mark
the bicentennial of the supposed gesture of the Duchess of Medinaceli, the mayor
of Jávea, Don José Llidó Vicente, proposed that the image of Jesús Nazareno be
named perpetual mayor and be given the baton of office "for eternity" which
meant that for all religious activities involving it, no mayor would ever lead
with the baton. The proposal was unanimously agreed and, to this day, the image
carries the baton of office at his feet. The appointment was welcomed with great
joy by the people of Jávea. After all, who better to keep them from harm than
Him? There were great celebrations as the streets was decorated with flowers,
flags and lanterns. There were bulls, musical performances, dancing in the
streets and parades, essentially similar festivities that take place today, the
largest religious celebrations in Jávea.
Click here for the 2017 programme of events.
The celebrations begin on the third Sunday of Lent
when the image
of Jesús Nazareno is brought down from the chapel
of Calvario in solemn procession to the church of San
Bartolomé, where it will stay until the end of the festivities.
On Good Friday - el viernes santos - the image is carried
through the streets of Jávea in another emotional cavalcade to
mark this significant event in the Christian calendar.
And then, at the end of April, the festivities begin.
taunting of animals may not be to everyone's liking
and thus those individuals tend stay away from the opening
event of the fiesta - the controversial demonstration of
bravery in front of heifers and bulls in a special arena
of metal cages and wooden barriers. Yet
it remains widely popular with a population that is
still essentially rural in nature and these events
are well attended. The cages are mostly privately owned by family and friends and
it is only those who may use the platforms on top, although
anyone is welcome to stand in the cage below. However
watch out for those runners escaping the charging animals as
they may drive themselves forcibly between the bars
to avoid a bloody goring and many more accidents are
as a result of a clash of heads than from those horns.
Sometimes there is traditional music playing from
the top of the cages and there is plenty of drinking
nights offer the spectacle of the 'toro embolado' -
the "flaming bull" - in which special clamps
are attached to the horns on which flammable material
is wrapped and then set alight to add a certain edge
to the event. The practice probably oversteps the mark
for many people and several animal rights campaigners
have been pressing to have the event banned by the EU.
Yet, for many others, it remains part of the heritage
of Spain and something that they would protect dearly.
The tradition appears to stem from the days when animals
wandered freely through the streets of many villages
and towns. Whilst they could be avoided during the day,
a series of mishaps with horns during the darkness of
night resulted in many villages requiring these animals
to have torches strapped to their horns as a early warning
system. And thus the 'toro emboloado' serves as a reminder
of the past, albeit a little inappropriately for
However there is much more to the festivities
that honour Jesús Nazareno than charging bulls.
A full programme is normally made available from the
Tourist Office in the Plaça de l'Església from mid-April,
about two weeks before the start of the fiesta,
and a special colour pamphlet can also be picked up
from many businesses around town. There are open-air musical performances
and traditional dancing in the Plaça de l'Església.
Jávea's very own 'Bradmis', a band that has
been performing for more than 45 years, regularly appear
during the fiesta whilst the excellent dancers and musicians
of the 'Grup de Danses Portitxol' bring a
more traditional flavour to proceedings with Valencian
dancing and music. Along with choral performances and
toe-tapping open-air discos, there is enough of a mixture
to keep everyone happy!
1st - May Day - tends to be the day that is dedicated
to children with giant inflatables, rides on traditional
carts and mobile shows going on throughout the historic
centre. The arrival of May also sees several decorated
crosses appear through the old town (a map can
be picked up from the Tourist Office), many of them
made from colourful flowers. Each year, the mayorales,
who are locals who are selected annually to
represent the fiesta, are responsible for
placing crosses outside their homes. Planning takes
months; professional designers are often tasked with
creating a stunning visual image to outdo others. The
cost is phenomenal, usually more than 2,000 euros, and
the dedication to put together such beautiful creations
is admirable, although quite often neighbours muck in
to help out, spending hours sticking on flowers and
plants so that the cross is ready for its reveal.
The origin of such a tradition
seems to be another adoption of ancient festivities by
the Christian faith during the conversion of Europe.
Amongst the many rituals, the festival of Flora,
the Roman Goddess of flowers and the season of spring
was celebrated between April 28 and May 3 and symbolized
the renewal of the cycle of life after a long winter.
Such traditions were brought to the Iberian peninsula
during occupation by the Romans and quite possibly adapted
after the conversion of Emperor Constantine I in
the 4th century and the supposed discovery of the 'True
Cross' in Jerusalem by his mother Saint Helena. She
is said to have died praying for all Christians to commemorate
the day that the 'True Cross' was found whilst other
sources suggest that the tradition celebrates the rescue
of the 'Cross' from the Persians in 628AD.
the origins of the practice, the crosses bring some
spring colour to the historic centre of Jávea for a few days. And the evening of May 1st, an informal
procession led by the equally colourful 'Tuna de
Xŕbia' musical group visits each cross in turn,
playing a few melodies in acknowledgement to their creators
who, in turn, provide suitable refreshment in the form
of cakes and drink. Anyone can join in. It usually begins
at the cross which is placed outside the town hall before
walking around the town, stopping at each cross, singing
a few songs, consuming a glass of mistela - or maybe
something stronger - and munching on traditional sponge
cake. Don't stand by and watch. Everyone is invited
to join in. And it lasts long into the evening as there
can be as many as a dozen crosses placed around the
town; that's a lot of mistela and sponge cake!
image of Jesús Nazareno will have been sitting in the
church of San Bartolomé since his descent from the ermita
del Calvario a few weeks earlier. The fiesta is all
about this revered image and as the festivities draw
to a close, the people of Jávea will make their
offering of flowers to it, processing through the narrow
streets of the historic centre, some dressed in
traditional costumes, to the church in the centre of
town where their bouquets will be brought together to
create a wonderful and colourful montage.
culmination of the festivities occurs on May 3rd, known
as the 'Subida de Jesús Nazareno'. The church
bells will ring across town and valley whilst the 'despertŕ'
- the "wake up" - will shatter the silence
of morning with music and loud thundercrackers. A solemn
Mass at midday will be in complete contrast to the 'mascletŕ'
that follows it, a co-ordinated display of explosive
power that is almost uniquely Valenican. There is no
colour or specific shape to appreciate; it's all about
an accumulation of sound as a combination of ground
and air explosions grow in intensity to the signature
finale, often called the "earthquake", which
rocks the surrounding area with ear-splitting noise.
the evening of May 3rd, the people of Jávea will gather together once again to accompany the image
of Jesús Nazareno as it makes its ascent - "la
subida" - back to its blue-domed home. After another
celebratory Mass, the festivities are brought to a close
with a fantastic firework display which lights up the
night sky above the town. And then the townsfolk make
their way home - and make preparations for the next