July 2010

La Almedaña Hermitage, Manjarrés, near Logroño, La Rioja

Friday July 16th, 2010 05:08 PM

Virgen la AlmedanaFor 27 years the population of Manjarrés, between Logroño and Nájera in La Rioja, have been saving up to build a hermitage in honour of the Virgin Almedaña. Their efforts came to an end last weekend with the official opening of the little stone building by Bishop Juan José Omella, and Pedro Sanz, the president of La Rioja’s government.

I was asked to take photos of the open air inauguration mass by a friend, Bernado Lopez Montiel, a highly-respected carver from Ezcaray, who spent a month last year making the beautiful virgin and son lime-wood carving which now sits in the hermitage.

The legend of Almedaña dates back to the ninth century when the Christian king, Ramiro I, refused to pay an annual tax of 100 virgins to his Moorish counterpart. During the resulting battle of Clavijo, the Christian forces successfully called upon the apostle James and the Virgin Mary to come to their aid.

Every May there continues to be a pilgrimage of 100 local girls in bridal dress to the old hermitage Hermedaña (an alternative name for Almedaña) located not far away.

Virgen la Almedana

Virgen la Almedana

Virgen la Almedana

Virgen la Almedana

The Duquesa de Alba visits Ezcaray, La Rioja

Friday July 2nd, 2010 10:18 PM

Duquesa de Alba en EzcarayFive times a duchess, 18 times a marchioness, 20 times a countess, twice widowed and aged 84, she might seem an improbable candidate to draw half the town out to the streets of Ezcaray. But the Duquesa de Alba nevertheless attracted a pop star-style reception when she visited La Rioja yesterday.

I’ve just uploaded a photo gallery showing the crowds and how there was barely standing room left in the church during her visit.

Of course, any Spaniard will tell you that the duquesa, perhaps the original darling of the “prensa rosa”, is legendary not only for her wealth and forceful character, but also for her generosity of spirit and general warmth.

She came to Ezcaray for the premier of the eponymous “pasodoble” (literally double-step dance), Cayetana, written in her honour by the local composer Luis María Monge. Luis María told me his initial idea for the piece came from her passion for bullfighting. After the performance the duquesa told the audience how touched she was. Though physically frail, she managed a short dance with Luis María in the garden of the Echaurren hotel opposite the church.

 

Duquesa de Alba en Ezcaray

Duquesa de Alba en Ezcaray

Duquesa de Alba en Ezcaray

Duquesa de Alba en Ezcaray

Duquesa de Alba en Ezcaray

Duquesa de Alba en Ezcaray