This year there was a far greater reason than usual to attend

Over 300,000 believers set out from the San Nicolas Cathedral in Alicante at about 8am this Thursday morning, May day, to walk the 7.5kms to the Santa Faz monastery (which translates as the monastery of the holy face) on the Santa Faz pilgrimage with many of the pilgrims having queued all night to be at the front of the march.

This year there was a far greater reason than usual to attend as the event was celebrating it’s 525th anniversary and together with the sunny weather and the National Holiday officials said that the numbers were increased by as much as 50%.

One of the most famous pilgrimages in the country the Santa Faz pilgrimage tends to be much more popular than it’s Santiago de Compostelo counterpart where travelers have to walk 100km in order to receive the coveted certificate of accomplishment, so at just 7.5 kms, the Alicante event is much easier on the legs.

It is also a very communal affair as everyone sets off together with plenty of food and wine which is enjoyed by participants along the way. The route always includes the traditional stop -the paraeta- for a breakfast of anise rolls with mistela wine.

This year over 1,800 kilos of donuts and 1,500 liters of mistela was paid for by the city of Alicante

The president of the Generalitat, Alberto Fabra, whao also attended the walk, said after participating, that the act is a sign of "unity and strength and there is nothing that can stop the will of an entire people" .

Other local officials attending the event included the acting mayor Andrés Llorens, as the mayor, Sonia Castedo, is currently on maternity leave, the PP vice presidente in Alicante, José Císcar and councilors Isabel Bonig, Maximum Buch and Asunción Sánchez Zaplana.

The socialist delegation was led by its general secretary, Xim Puig, who said that the day serves to "emphasise that the value in a city is in its people not the extent or the value of its buildings” and that “despite the difficult economic situation the people of the city are still able to pull together.”

On reaching the Santa Faz monastery pilgrims were met by Cardinal Monteiro de Castro, apostolic exnuncio of the Holy See in Spain, who presided at a Mass with the Bishop of Alicante, Jesus Murgui, and Bishop Emeritus, Rafael Palmero.

The significance of the Monastery is that it contains a relic, according to tradition a veil with which Veronica wiped the bleeding face of Jesus.

The relic has been devoutly venerated by the people of Alicante Province from the time that the first pilgrimage was made to the Monastery in 1489.

After the religious celebrations in which the pilgrims beg for mercy from the relic, the tradition is for visitors to spend time wandering around the many different stands selling all kinds of objects (the most typical purchase is an earthenware bell) and then to have a picnic.

There were a number of injuries however, mostly of a minor nature, blisters and ankle sprains, about 40 people requiring the attention of first aid attendants and one person who rather bizarrely was found to be suffering from alcohol poisoning. Must have been the wine!

Along the way, there were just two protests, the foremost being a group of RTVV workers who had hung a banner from one of the overpasses on Avda Denia and were shouting " Fabra resign" as the President walked below.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/43503/

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