Thursday, July 16 is the celebration of the Virgen del Carmen, the Patron Saint of fishermen and sailors.
Tradition has it that the Carmelite monks, who inhabited the slopes of Mount Carmel and worshipped the Virgin Mary who had appeared there in a vision, were forced to flee by a Saracen invasion force. During this eviction the Virgin appeared to them again and promised to be their ‘Star of the Sea’ and to guide them to safety.
Since then she has been the patron saint of mariners and, as such, the Virgen del Carmen is revered amongst the local fishing communities of southern Spain .
Virgen del Carmen is celebrated by the fishing communities in Sabinillas and Castillo. The Virgen del Carmen is Castillo de la Duquesa’s Patron Saint and on her feast day – the 16th July – her images are placed on board the local fishing boats in two separate ceremonies: the first off the beach at Sabinillas amongst much pomp and ceremony (this can be quite a ‘hairy’ operation, especially if the sea is a bit lively); and the second in the Port of Duquesa. The two boats bearing the Virgens, along with with a flotilla of fishing and pleasure craft, then parade up and down the coast from the Salt Tower to Chullera before disembarking in Sabinillas and the marina at Puerto de la Duquesa to be borne back back to her place of honour in the churches at Sabinillas and Castillo respectively.
If the sea is too rough, particularly during strong easterly winds, the Sabinillas ‘Virgen’ will be paraded along the beach rather than taken to sea and the Castillo ‘Virgen’ will remain in Duquesa Port.
5.00 pm – Ceremony to award the medals to the new members of the Brotherhood.
6.00 pm – A mass will be held at the parrish church in Castillo after which the procession will proceed to Duquesa where the Virgen will be placed on the chosen boat and then paraded up and down the coast accompanied by the rest of the ‘fleet’.
10 pm – Live music in the El Huerto Park next to the Castle until the early hours of the morning.
12 noon – A mass will be held in the ‘Fishermen’s Square’ in Sabinillas, followed by a musical performance by the “Aires de Mar” choir. There will also be a ceremony to crown the Virgen del Carmen Queen and Ladies in Waiting. Later in the afternoon at around 7 pm (ish) the statue of the Virgen will be carried to the beach in Sabinillas where it is placed on a fishing boat.
In the evening there will be entertainment with music and dancing into the early hours of the morning.