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Pilgrimage to Santa Faz

April 26, 2015

Last week, Thursday, I made the Santa Faz pilgrimage with my intercambio (language exchange) person, Jaime, and his wife Silvia.  We met at the Cathedral St. Nicholas in Alicante at 7:45am.

To read about the pilgrimage you can go to:  SANTA FA.  Here is a brief summary: Santa Faz,  a pilgrimage that is unique to this part of the country, one of the most important in the Alicante when over two hundred thousand people walk on the second Thursday after Easter from Alicante to San Juan. Thousands of pilgrims will visit the 15th century monastery where the holy Santa Faz relic is kept, a linen sheet on which Christ’s face is depicted, with a single tear falling from the right eye.

The relic that was brought over from The Vatican in the 15th century by a Franciscan priest, padre Villafranca , and according to popular tradition, is the fabric with which Veronica dried the bleeding face of Jesus on the Way of the Cross. The Santa Faz relic is kept in a special room behind the main altarpiece in the Santa Faz Monastery, the Monastery of the Holy Face, and 300,000 thousand residents of the Alicante region will make the Peregrina de la Santa Faz pilgrimage, the second most popular pilgrimage in Spain. Starting out at 8 o’clock in the morning from the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the route to the Monastery is walked in about two and a half hours.

We had visited the church on the previous Sunday to see where the relic was kept.

It was very pretty inside and the relic is kept in a small chapel behind the altar area. The chapel has to be entered from another door and has a replica of the relic that people can touch as they pray. The symbol of the relic is on the shawl that the priest is wearing and in other areas of the church. I found it interesting that the nuns were selling books and other religious items behind a counter.

It is not all religious by any means.  There were lots of families and lots of young people (jovenes) enjoying the usual festive atmosphere of a “fiesta” including alcoholic beverages and joking. It appears the new fad is writing on your skin with marker, we saw many girls with various sayings or names written on their body.

It is tradition to wear a black shirt and a neck scarf with Alicante’s colors. We saw this combination and also groups or families wearing the same colors and styles of clothing.

It was a long walk along one side of what is usually a busy highway. Most people carried cañas – the canes with rosemary (romero) at the top, as kind of a walking stick -a tradition. There were police stations to help those who were sick or injured and stands that offered wine and cookies. The lines were so long that we did not stop!

Once at the destination in San Juan, there were many, many outdoor stalls selling local items such as pottery, household items, clothing and all kinds of food. It was really colorful and interesting. There were little packages of stick like things are a sweet root that you chew on – eat (below next to the red licorice), lots of candy, different types of olives, sausages, dates, and cooked food.


We ate a bocadillo (like a sub-sandwich) and drank some water and then made the long trek back to Alicante.  It was a great day, but I was tired (walked 19km). Luckily we made it home just before a cloud-burst or we would have been tired and soaked.  I am so grateful that Jaime and his wife invited me to participate in a local tradition!


From → Spain

  1. Maureen Shaw permalink

    It’s so wonderful to have the opportunity to participate in local traditions. Thanks for the photos and description of your day!


  2. You better get a FitBit!
    Thanks for sharing.


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