The second week in September, the town of Aranda de Duero celebrates Our Lady of Las Viñas.
According to tradition, a farmhand (or possibly a shepherd) went to the authorities claiming that the Virgin Mary had appeared to him and revealed the location where an image of Our Lady of Lara or Our Lady of Las Viñas (derived from the name of the town Quintanilla de las Viñas) had been hidden during the Moorish invasion. He also said that the Virgin had relayed instructions for where to build a shrine to protect the image. As proof that he was telling the truth, the farmhand presented some bunches of grapes—grapes were not in season at that time of year.
Many years later, in 1385, two kings named John—John I of Portugal and John I of Castile—went head to head in the Battle of Aljubarrota. To commemorate and give thanks for his victory, the Portuguese king ordered the construction of the Monastery of Santa María da Vitória (also known as Batalha Monastery, after the city where it is located). As for the Castilian king, he passed through Aranda de Duero and to give thanks to Our Lady of Las Viñas for putting an end to the battle against the Portuguese he commissioned a more dignified church. Two centuries later, the art patron Don Pedro Álvarez de Acosta financed the construction of the shrine’s main chapel.
In 1932, the Confraternity of Our Lady of Las Viñas was formed to maintain and protect the shrine as well as keep the cult to Our Lady of Las Viñas alive. Today, the 5,000 members of the confraternity look after the shrine and participate in the annual celebration honoring the Virgin.
The festival takes place in the streets of downtown Aranda de Duero, especially in Plaza Mayor, where several ceremonies are held. Our Lady of Las Viñas, the town’s patron saint, is at the center of the festivities, and her image is kept in a shrine on a small hill to the north of the city.
The festival begins with the traditional cañonazo (cannon shot) that energizes the crowd gathered in Plaza Mayor and the surrounding area, announcing the start of the celebration. Then a solemn mass is held at the Shrine of Our Lady of Las Viñas, followed by a procession in honor of the Virgin which is accompanied by the music of the Town of Aranda Band.
During the nine days of festivities, most of the main events center around bulls, as in other Spanish cities. In 2004, a tradition was revived that is carried out by the “ramaleros,” a group of Aranda’s young people who drag the dead cattle to the center of the plaza where a crowd is waiting.
Customarily, a group of young people starting from Plaza Mayor crack whips to make a loud noise. The Running of the Keys is another of Aranda’s traditions. The sheriff, riding on horseback in the bullring, hands the keys to the corrals to the person responsible for them and gallops around the bull ring at a high speed. The festival includes a number of other events, such as the parade of cabezudos, several activities for children, and an International Street Performance Competition.
The Our Lady of Las Viñas Festival is a perfect opportunity for visitors from all over to learn about Aranda’s traditions from the town’s inhabitants themselves. We recommend booking a hotel in advance. The local government puts out a detailed program of the festival to help you plan and prepare for your visit.
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