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javeamigos.com | FIESTAS IN JAVEA - LA PLANA

javeamigos.com | JAVEA - VIRGEN DE LOS ÁNGELES

The fiestas in honor of the Virgen de los Ángeles are modest celebrations that are also known as the 'fiestas of La Plana' since they are centred around the sanctuary of Mare de Déu dels Àngels located just along the main road towards the lighthouse at the tip of the headland of San Antonio. The fiestas honour the treasured painting of the Virgin Mary which is hung inside the chapel of the sancuary but on August 2nd, the feast day of the Virgen de los Ángeles, it is carried around the plateau of La Plana. The fiestas include traditional music and dancing, community dinners and dancing to a band or disco until the early hours. They not only promote fellowship amongst the neighbours of La Plana but they are open to everyone who wants to come along and become involved and maybe even learn a bit more about Xàbia than its beaches and bars.

The current building was constructed in 1962 but there has been a religious centre on this site for almost 650 years. In the mid-14th century, the city of Valencia suffered from terrible plague that killed some 15,000 people from a population of around 40,000. Some people, disillusioned with a world in which debauchery seemed to an acceptable cause of the plague,  sought solace next to the sea, encouraged by Jaime Juan Ibáñez, a priest of noble birth, who met with his followers in caves – known as the cuevas santas (holy caves) – close to the bay of Jávea. There, above the murmur of the sea, they listened to the sermons of their priest and a spiritual peace returned to them and their faith in human kindness was restored. At first there were few but, within a quarter of a century, the community had grown to such a size that a project to build a monastery on the Cabo de San Antonio given the green light by Pope Gregory XI after Brother Jaime and four disciples had travelled to Avignon to seek the appropriate license in the name of San Jerónimo. The land was donated by Alfonso of Aragon y Roix, Royal Duke of Gandía, in 1374. Work was completed in 1375 and the chapel was adorned with a beautiful canvas showing the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, surrounded by angels with the baby Christ in her arms and the Holy Spirit next to them. Brother Jaime Juan Ibáñez became the Abbot of the community, fair and flexible, joyful and mystical, and much beloved by members of the Order for choosing such a beautiful spot on the coast of Alicante to become closer to God.

One dark night in 1388 Barbary pirates attacked the monastery and, during the bloody chaos that ensued, one of the monks Brother Dimas took their treasured painting of the Virgin Mary and hid it in his habit. As he was led with other surviving monks to ships waiting on the coast, he managed to slide the painting into the hollow trunk of a nearby tree. The monks, now fearful for the safety on the exposed plain of La Plana, sought a safer place to worship and the Duke of Gandía gave them a new site close to Gandía; the new monastery – el Monasterio de Sant Jeroni de Cotalba – was established in 1388.

The painting remained hidden for some 300 years until some hunters who were chasing a rabbit through the ruins of the monastery discovered a canvas carefully curled inside a fallen tree and intact despite the passage of time and weather. To commemorate the discovery, a chapel was built dedicated to the Virgen Mary which survived until the 1930s before being abandoned and then replaced by the current structure in the early 1960s. The fiesta of La Plana testifies to the great devotion that the people have for the land around them, the same land that inspired the original monks of the monastery.

The fiestas are modest in nature. They begin with the NOVENA, an act of religious pious devotion dedicated to the Virgen de los Ángeles which takes place inside the chapel which is normally closed to the public but on these special days one can take a peek inside. This is sometimes followed by the DANSES DE LA PLANA hosted by the fabulous 'Grup de Danses Portitxol' during which traditional dancing takes place on the stretch of main road in front of the sanctuary; be aware that if it happens, the road is closed by the local police for about 20 minutes in order that this act can take place. Afterwards, everyone gathers inside the ground of the sanctuary where several lines of tables and chairs will have been set up for the CENA DE HERMANDAD. Everyone is welcome to come along and join in this communal evening picnic; bring along some food and drink, although you'll soon find sharing with neighbours on your table. There is a bar which may appear to be free but there are some tins in which donations should be dropped. Volunteers will also pass around the table with the TOMBOLA which also helps raise necessary funds. You're not expected to buy any tickets but your contributions are always appreciated. Later in the evening there is live music from a local band or a disco to which to dance the night away with friends, old and new.

The following day there is usually a BRUNCH in the open air and quite often a BRISCA tournament, a traditional card game played with a Spanish deck of cards. In the early evening there are games, inflatables and snacks for the kids and then, as the sun drips behind the mountain, another CENA DE HERMANDAD followed by music and dancing. The final day there is a special MASS which is normally presided over by a dignitary from Valencia after which there is a procession with the treasured image around the local area followed by wine for everyone.

javeamigos.com | JAVEA - VIRGEN DE LOS ÁNGELES

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