Monday 25th April 2022 – Mike Smith
Source: original article – Alvaro Monfort (Xàbia AL DÍA)
2046 (or maybe sooner). That will be the year in which the image of Mare de Déu de Loreto will return to the historic centre of Xàbia. Unless some special act occurs, some event is commemorated or some great moment is celebrated that requires the presence of the patron saint within the old walls of the town, it will not be until then when the Virgin del Loreto returns to visit the streets of the old town on the occasion of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the fiestas held in her honour in the late summer of the each year.
Xàbia has experienced an intense weekend of fervor and devotion around the Mare de Déu de Loreto and Jesús Nazareno. If the ascent of the images on Saturday morning was emotional and symbolic, her journey through the narrow streets of the historic centre the following day was even more special. The two images have not only attracted glances, but have also collected pleas, requests, prayers and wishes from the hundreds of residents who accompanied them on their journey or who watched them as they passed their homes, wide open to the occasion and with balconies and windows adorned with the traditional covers.
At 6.00pm on Sunday evening, a solemn Eucharist was held inside the fortress-church of San Bartolomé, concelebrated by the priests of Xàbia and sung by the choir of the church of Loreto in the port. The mass was attended by the municipal authorities, representatives of local fiestas and associations, and numerous faithful who have not only filled the church, but also the Plaça de l’Església, where chairs, loudspeakers and TV screens had been placed outside.
After the Eucharist, the transfer and farewell pilgrimage took place, a route harmonized with music, applause and gunpowder that has passed through the streets of Ronda Norte, Príncipe de Asturias, Placeta del Convent, Doctor Borrull, Virgen de la Soledad and Jesús Nazareno. This section has been very exciting. In front of the Convent church, Saint Francis of Paula was waiting and both images have turned towards him as a sign of respect. Further on, in the street dedicated to the Nazarene, another very special gesture has taken place: La Mare de Déu de Loreto turned to stand face to face with the niche that houses the venerated image of Jesús Nazareno. Behind her, Jesús Nazareno also complied with the tradition and repeated the greeting, bowing deeply to the niche.
The pilgrimage continued along Calle Mayor, Primicias, San Buenaventura, Plaça de l’Església, Plaza Celestino Pons, Carrer Roques, L’Escola (to pass in front of Calle Loreto and the old Jardín de Loreto where a hermitage dedicated to the Loreto was located back in the 16th century). In front of the street dedicated to her, the Virgin turned around again, since the history of her local devotion has a historical passage written right at this same point. Afterwards, the entourage continued down Avenida Juan Carlos I and, again, as happened on Saturday’s climb; La Soledad and the sculptor’s Nazareno waited in front of the Santeret, a presence that the two images have honoured by turning to them.
In the same way that the reunion between mother and son took place, their farewell took place in front of the Asilo Hermanos Cholbi. A battery of fireworks lit up the emotional goodbye followed by cheers and applause from the crowd. The Virgin turned 180° to say goodbye to Jesús Nazareno and the parishioners of San Bartolomé. Both images bowed face to face, carrying out quite a feat since the bearers of the Nazarene have been carrying the image for two days and the litter of the Mare de Déu de Loreto is anchored to a robust and heavy iron structure with wheels.
The goodbye marked the end point of this historic event. The crowd split in two to surround both images and escort them back to their respective parishes. In the next few days, Jesús Nazareno takes centre stage with the celebration of his festivities. La Mare de Déu de Loreto will have to wait until the end of August to finally celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Photos by Mike Smith. Click on the image to view a larger version.