San Lorenzo de El Escorial — Romería of Our Lady of Grace

On the second Sunday in September, the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial celebrates the Day of Our Lady of Grace.

The cult to Our Lady of Grace goes back many centuries. When the construction of El Escorial Monastery began in 1563, a shrine already existed in La Herrería Forest housing an image of the Virgin Mary that some shepherds had found in a cave, possibly having been hidden during the Moorish invasion.

The cult to Our Lady of Grace goes back many centuries. When the construction of El Escorial Monastery began in 1563, a shrine already existed in La Herrería Forest housing an image of the Virgin Mary that some shepherds had found in a cave, possibly having been hidden during the Moorish invasion.

Unfortunately, the original image was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. The present-day version was sculpted in 1941 by Mariano Benlliure, who drew inspiration from a drawing of Mary done by a Hieronymite monk in 1690.

The shrine was rebuilt in 1945 thanks to the group that preceded the Brotherhood of Pilgrims of Our Lady of Grace, thus reviving the tradition of the romería. The new shrine was built using stone from La Herrería Forest. Next to the shrine is the Pilgrims’ Cross, made of white stone, which features an image of the Virgin holding the Christ Child in her arms, a work by San Lorenzo Carlos and Daniel Esteban.

The Friday before the romería, the pilgrims make an offering of flowers in front of the sanctuary. Afterwards, they dance the rondón dressed in their traditional costumes.

Romería de la Virgen de Gracia
Serranitas en la Romería de la Virgen de Gracia

At 5:00 on Sunday morning, the romería of Our Lady of Grace is announced with the firing of flares to gather the participants in front of the sanctuary on Calle Floridablanca. At 6:00, the Sisterhood of Our Lady of Grace hands the image over to the Brotherhood of Pilgrims who enthrone the Virgin on a carriage. Some 3,000 pilgrims accompany the Virgin while saying the Rosary of the Dawn. Four guards escort the carriage once it enters La Herrería Forest. The procession stops in front of the Pilgrims’ Cross to say the Angelus, and after that the Virgin is delivered to the shrine where the Mass of the Dawn is held in honor of the pilgrims who have died in the past year.

Next, with the 47 bells of El Escorial’s bell tower tolling in the background, the groups of pilgrims start setting up their carriages on Paseo de D. Juan de Borbón, Calle de la Floridablanca, and in Plaza de la Virgen de Gracia. At 10:00, the procession starts in front of the monastery and sets out on their walk to the shrine. The entourage is led by horseback riders bearing the banner of the Brotherhood of Pilgrims, followed by a dulzaina group and the board members of the participating organizations, officials, and invited guests.

Once everyone has arrived, the Pilgrimage Mass is held in the shrine and then the pilgrims go their separate ways.

Afterwards, people eat, relax, and enjoy folk music and dances to the accompaniment of the dulzaina players and rondallas.

Romería de la Virgen de Gracia
Bailes tradicionales de la zona durante la festividad

There is a contest to choose a winner among the carriages, which have been specially decorated and some of which are still pulled by oxen. Then, the moment to return to the sanctuary arrives. The procession of pilgrims makes a stop at the University Arch to sing the Hail Holy Queen.

The singing of the Salve Regina at the sanctuary marks the end of the romería.

People who have attended the romería share that the event is full of emotional and exciting moments.

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