The popular culture of Maestrazgo is closely linked to the economy and society that developed in these highlands, where nature and climate impose their presence constantly.
In spring the pilgrimages depart for the multitude of hermitages scattered throughout the territory. They are acts of relationship with the powerful nature that characterizes the Maestrazgo in the moments that awaken after the winter, as a way to promote the harmony that will bring a good harvest. The one that the neighbors of Castellote make to the Virgen del Llovedor (May 1) and the one from Villarluengo to the hermitage of San Pedro in Montoro (Saturday closest to April 25) stand out.
As Javier Saenz states, the military orders also left evidence of their presence in Maestrazgo, recognizable in the number of hermitages dedicated to San Juan Bautista and the festivals held in his honor in towns like Fortanete, Molinos or Villarluengo (June) with the participation of the “quintos”, who plant “mayos” in the square or hang their “aleluyas”.
During the summer, the bull becomes the protagonist of the festivities that take place in Maestrazgo, both in recreational celebrations, bulls run in bull runs or as bulls on a stake, as religious. Of particular interest is the pilgrimage to the Virgen del Cid in La Iglesuela.
Among the winter festivals are very important those that a livestock economy celebrates in honor of San Antonio Abad, invocation linked to the protection of the animals that man has at his service. Fire is the main protagonist, animals are blessed and the appearance of devils is frequent. It is worth mentioning the celebration in Mirambel of the Sanantonada during which the life of the saint is dramatized.
The important number of inhabitants that from the Middle Ages lived in the farmhouses distributed throughout the Maestrazgo region generated a culture typical of this type of dispersed population in the midst of such a rugged terrain. The bureos are the type of party that traditionally served the inhabitants of the farmhouses to maintain contact between the different families through recreational gatherings in which music and food abounded.
The pilgrimage of San Marcos in Villarluengo
Villarluengo on pilgrimage to San Pedro de la Roqueta
Faithful to tradition, the residents of Villarluengo attend the pilgrimage to San Pedro de la Roqueta every April. This pilgrimage was formerly celebrated on April 25, the feast of St. Mark, the name by which it is popularly known, but it has long since been moved to the nearest Saturday. The events begin the day before, when the brothers gather to auction the flag, the cross and the staffs. Although there were years when high prices were paid to wear these symbols, now the bids are more restrained. The flag is the most quoted and in 2016 was paid for it 150 €.
On the day of the pilgrimage, the neighbors gather in the square and, at 9 a.m., the bells announce the beginning of the pilgrimage. The brothers come out first, wearing black cloaks, and with a marked order, the flag, the incoming brothers, the oldest, the cross, the first staff and the rest of the brothers, among which is the second staff. The group is closed by the one carrying the women’s staff, separating the women from the men.
The route is demanding, with constant and accentuated slopes both downhill and uphill. For this reason, the brothers carry wineskins, to make the journey more bearable. The last stop is in the area known as “El Barranquico”, where the arrival to the hermitage is prepared, one of the most exciting moments of the day. The brothers are greeted by many neighbors who have come to the chapel by car.
This is followed by mass in honor of St. Peter and the traditional meal, with the brotherhood providing beans and rice for all those attending. The beans are cooked in two large copper pots and distributed to the pilgrims in ceramic tales. This year there were about 100 people who participated in the pilgrimage, although there were more than 300 for the meal. In the hermitage there is a room available for eating if the weather prevents eating outdoors in the surroundings.
At four o’clock in the afternoon, the pilgrimage returns to Villarluengo. On the way back, the most awaited moment by the pilgrims is the snack, which takes place just past the Hostal de la Trucha. At that time it is customary to drink plenty of wine, which creates a very festive atmosphere. Before entering the village, the hermitage of San Cristobal is visited and from there, once night falls, all the pilgrims carry lighted candles to the village, where they first go to the cemetery and pray for the deceased members of the brotherhood. It is one of the most colorful moments of the day, because the church is also decorated with hundreds of candles and there ends the exciting and awaited pilgrimage. It is, undoubtedly, the most important day in the annual calendar of the municipality because it is the most beloved celebration by the neighbors.
The new members
In the past, those who wanted to join the brotherhood had to go barefoot to the hermitage all the way there. Today it is only obligatory from the village to the Siscar fountain and from the Barranquico to the Ermita, and on the way back, from the Ermita to the Barranquico and from the Tosco to the Church.
The Prior and the majors
The prior is the one who organizes the feast with the help of two majors. In 2016, the position fell to Fernando Castel. As he commented “On Good Friday we go to the farms of the municipality and to Montoro de Mezquita to ask for help for the feast, where we collect some money and products, which the prior auctions on Holy Saturday. In addition, prior to the pilgrimage, we are in charge of shopping for the pilgrimage food, looking for the cook, cleaning the road, the chapel and its dependencies and having everything ready. The mayorales during the pilgrimage are more involved, since they bring the wine and the bun for the snack to the fixed points, accompany the priest at the entrance and exit, etc.”.
The pilgrimage of the Llovedor de Castellote
It is celebrated every year on May 1
Every May 1st, the men of Castellote faithfully attend the Romería del Llovedor. It is one of the most awaited moments of the festive calendar of Castello, a party very felt by all the neighbors who prepare it with great enthusiasm. It is a moment of encounter of those who live in the village and those who are outside and do not miss the event.
The day begins at 7 a.m., when the bell starts ringing through the streets to warn the neighbors of the celebration of the mass, which takes place at 8 a.m. in the Church of the Virgen del Agua. At 9:45 a.m., summoned by the ringing of bells, the procession departs with the processional cross and the banner to the Plaza del Caballón, where several prayers are said in Latin and the pilgrimage departs to the Llovedor. Along the way they sing and give thanks or ask for water as appropriate.
The hermitage can be reached quickly because it is close to the town, in the ravine at the exit of the tunnel that leads to the village. It is known as “El Llovedor” because next to it, water practically always flows and collects in a kind of pond. Upon arrival, a good lunch of ham and wine is served. Afterwards, a mass is celebrated in honor of the Virgin, followed by the Confraternity Assembly, where the income and expenses of the Confraternity, the works and activities carried out, etc., are reported.
Afterwards, distributed in groups of between 25 and 50 people, the men eat in the vicinity of the hermitage, for which tables and benches covered with awnings are prepared in advance. The traditional meal on this day is always the same: beans first and snails with rabbit. Afterwards, around 4:30 p.m., the procession departs to the Pocico de San Juan, where meat and charcoal-grilled sausages are served for a snack, and the procession continues to the village. In the vicinity, the rituals begin again.
In the cemetery, a funeral dirge is held for the deceased and, at nightfall, in addition to a glass of cazalla, torches are distributed to all the attendees. With them they ascend the Calvario creating a magnificent image, similar to a snake of light, until they reach the hermitage of San Macario, where they pray again before reaching the Caballón. There the women wait for them carrying candles and the greeting between the banners takes place, this being one of the most emotional moments of the day.
As a culmination, they all go together to the church, where they are informed of the agreements made in the Assembly so that the women can also be informed. The new members of the Confraternity are announced, the new members are named, and the Virgin’s mantle is kissed, thus putting an end to the day.
The origins of the Romería
The origins of this tradition date back to 1405, a year in which Castellote was suffering a severe drought, so eleven young men from the village decided to go on a pilgrimage to the Ermita de la Balma in Zorita (Castellón) to ask this miraculous Virgin for her intercession so that it would rain. The grace requested to the Virgin of the Balma was granted, and the young people of Castellote took this annual pilgrimage as a tradition. This was the case until one of their pilgrimages when the bishop of Tortosa denied them access to the temple. Faced with this situation, the people of Castello decided to erect a hermitage near their village where, it is said, the Virgin had appeared in the past.
The present hermitage dates from the 18th century, although the façade may well date from a later alteration carried out in the 19th century. After the construction of the hermitage, a pilgrimage was established on May 1, which only men made in memory of those first eleven young men.
The Women’s Pilgrimage
The women keep their appointment with the Llovedor on the Sunday before Pentecost, this year on May 24. It is a day that they also live with great emotion. They process to the hermitage praying and singing, carrying the banner and the Virgin on their shoulders. Upon arrival, mass is celebrated and lunch is served in the surroundings of the hermitage.
The Processions of Bordon
The first Saturday in May
Every first Saturday of May, Bordón celebrates one of its big days in the municipality’s annual festive calendar. Known as Processions, the town prepares to welcome the visit of the neighboring towns of Olocau del Rey (Castellón), Tronchón and Mirambel that come in procession to the municipality to ask the patron saint, the Virgen de la Carrasca, for water.
Antiquity of this pilgrimage
In order to keep a record of the attendance to the pilgrimage, each year the representatives of the municipalities that attend rigorously sign a book. If they did not go one year and did not sign, they would not be able to return. Although the old books have not been preserved, the current one, used since the 1950s, states that “.The processions or pilgrimages to Nuestra Señora de Bordón or de la Carrasca are very old, according to data from the book “…”.Aragon Kingdom of Christ and dowry of Mary Most Holy“Faci, written in 1739, there were so many and so many miracles of Our Lady. Sra. de la Carrasca that moved the Templars to build a main church which is the one that stands today and next to it a convent whose vestiges can be seen. There it is also recorded that in public instruments kept in the archives of Tronchón and Bordón it was said that already in 1390 the Processions of Tronchón, Mirambel and Olocau were considered of immemorial time”.
In the book he adds that “in the past also came from Castellote, Las Cuevas and Villarluengo, today only Tronchón, Mirambel and Olocau come on the first Monday of May every year, Morella comes on the first Saturday of May and Luco and Todolella on the last Sunday of April.“although the latter have also been lost. All this shows the faith that was held in this image of the Carrasca.
On this Saturday, the retinues from Mirambel, Tronchón and Olocau del Rey congregate at the entrance of the village. At 12 o’clock the bells ring and the neighbors go out from the Church of Bordón to welcome them. The meeting is an exciting moment as each municipality carries its processional crosses, scripts and lanterns and everyone performs the salute. The different authorities of the towns that attend the event are also greeted. After the greetings, they move to the Church of the Virgen de la Carrasca and, afterwards, a baturra mass is celebrated.
When it ends, they go out in procession through the streets of Bordón carrying the pedestal with the Virgin of the Carrasca and singing the Gozos a la Virgen. After the religious acts there is lunch for all the attendees, where they spend the afternoon until departure time, when the bells ring again and the Bordón procession leaves to bid farewell to its neighbors until next year. It is then that the obligatory signing is also carried out, at which time the representatives of Mirambel, Tronchón and Olocau make their attendance to such an important event, which gives them the right to return the following year.
Festivities in honor of the Virgen del Tremedal in Tronchón. Festivals of Tourist Interest in Aragon
The cult of the Virgen del Tremedal has its origin in Orihuela del Tremedal in the Middle Ages, around the twelfth century. The oldest references related to the festivity of the Virgen del Tremedal in Tronchón date from 1842 and the oldest reference to the hermitage is from a few years later, 1849, when it was named on the occasion of a pastoral visit.
The festival has many festive events, but undoubtedly the most striking are the “Relations”, when children dressed as angels recite the “Welcome” to the people to the Virgin, and the “Farewell”, when she leaves the village to return to the chapel.
Thus, the cult of the Virgen del Tremedal has in Tronchón a history and a rich heritage that should be recognized, valued, and promoted, since it is a tradition that, with the effort and dedication of its inhabitants, is still alive and active.
The festival is celebrated the weekend following the date of the Virgin’s birth, September 8, and the festive events last 4 days, from Friday to Monday.