Declared a Festivity of National Tourist Interest in 1980, the Pilgrimage of the Virgen de la Cabeza is one of the oldest in Spain, having arisen when, according to tradition, the image of the Virgin appeared to a shepherd from Granada.

The celebration consists of an annual pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Cabeza, located in the heart of Sierra Morena mountain range on a 686-metre-high hill, some thirty-two kilometres north to the city of Andújar (Jaén). This sanctuary is located in the place where, according to tradition, on the night of 12 August 1227, the Virgin appeared to Juan Alonso de Rivas, a shepherd from Colomera, in Granada. The shepherd, an one-armed man, went down to Andújar with his arm healed. The image was taken to a hermitage near Andújar, San Amancio, on the present-day Camino Viejo. According to legend, the image escaped through the window and appeared again on the Cerro del Cabezo hill, where a temple was finally erected in her honour.

The pilgrimage involves a series of prior events, such as the reception by the original brotherhood and the civil and religious authorities of the participating brotherhoods, its presentation and a mass offering of flowers in the town of Andújar. On the last Saturday in April, the pilgrims begin their pilgrimage on foot, on horseback, in carriages pulled by tractors and in vehicles along a route with various stops to rest and dedicate Salves (hail Mary), songs and dances, or to have lunch together in the spot called Lugar Nuevo.

Once on Cerro del Cabezo hill, the liturgical acts and expressions of devotion and joy continue until the procession on Sunday, when “La Morenita” (as the image of the Virgin is popularly known), is carried on the faithfuls’ shoulders around her sanctuary while the crowd gathers around to touch her.

A whole series of elements, such as the harnesses of the horses and mules on which maily women sit, the costumes worn by the pilgrims, the modes of expression, etc. contribute, together with the high level of participation beyond the Andalusian sphere, to guarantee the continuity of this popular festivity.

Historical notes

There is evidence that the pilgrimage has been celebrated since at least 1485, making it the oldest in Spain, and, according to the archives, the statutes of the Andújar brotherhood were confirmed in 1505. Since then, confraternities have been created which are currently spread throughout Andalusia, Castile-La Mancha, Castile y León, Madrid, Valencia, Catalonia and even Latin America.

The origin of the statue of the Virgin is defined by two popularly expressed -although not proven- lines. On the one hand, the arrival of the image in the area is attributed to the arrival of Eufrasio de Iliturgi (also called San Eufrasio), a saint of great renown in the town of Andújar, later bishop of Jaén, who hid it to prevent it from being destroyed by the Muslim troops. Another theory relates it to the Templar Orders, as it is said that the carving hung from the back of the horse of one of the Templars as a form of protection for the group, which would explain the small dimensions of the sculpture and the fact that it originally lacked a body.

Period / Occurrence:

Month of April. The events leading up to the celebration of the pilgrimage begin several days beforehand in the town of Andújar. Among the different activities within the scope of the ritual, it is the Convite de Banderas, held on the Sunday before the pilgrimage, which traditionally symbolises the start of the festive season. The pilgrimage takes place on the last weekend of April, extending to Monday.


Romería. Photo: Manuel José Gómez Martínez

Tremolando la bandera. Photo: Marc Ballester i Torrents. © Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico

IAPH image under the conditions established under license cc-by 3.0 de Creative Common.

Romería. Photo: Manuel José Gómez Martínez

Romería. Photo: Manuel José Gómez Martínez

Virgen de la Cabeza 2023. Domingo de Romería. VIDEO

Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico. Marc BALLESTER I TORRENTS, Atlas del Patrimonio Inmaterial de Andalucía. Fase 2. Zona 3. Romería de la Virgen de la Cabeza, 2010.