Traditions abound in the province of Malaga, constituting a large chunk of our culture. Virgen del Carmen processions are a case in point, a long-standing tradition that speaks of our fishing and religious heritage. On the 16 July every year, the processions bring coastal municipalities in the province to a standstill. If you’ve never seen a Virgen del Carmen procession before, this year is the year to experience one during your family getaway to Malaga province.
A yearly homage to the patron saint of seafarers
Honouring the patron saint of seafarers, Virgen del Carmen processions in Malaga province are a sight to be seen. Many people traditionally made a living from the sea in the area and today fishermen and locals come together to carry the sculpture of the Virgen to the shores of the Mediterranean where she is warmly received by a fleet of boats.
El Carmen Day, the 16 July, is an important moment in the Costa del Sol calendar as destinations throughout the province prepare events to pay homage to the patron saint. The people tasked with carrying the image wear a traditional dark-grey suit with black trousers, a white shirt, a red sash and espadrilles. The Virgen is first carried to the sea and then along the coast with boats following the procession from the water, painting a pretty picture that will get your emotions going.
Fuente: Diputación Málaga
From the 12th century to the present day
Virgen del Carmen processions date back to the 12th century. It is said that the festival originates from Mount Carmel in Israel where Elijah the Prophet promised there would be no more drought. Believers subsequently came to this site to worship, which resulted in the creation of the Carmelites, a Order who believe that Virgen del Carmen appeared to San Simón Stock, a superior in the Order, in Cambridge. From this moment on, Virgen del Carmen processions have taken place. The event is widespread in the Costa del Sol where the 16 July is a bank holiday in many destinations.
Over thirty processions in the Costa del Sol
So where can you see a Virgen del Carmen procession? The answer is in more places than you might perhaps imagine. Over thirty processions take place in coastal and inland destinations across the province usually between the 16 and 26 July. Some of the best known are:
- Malaga’s Virgen del Carmen procession, which is held in El Palo district, is one of the most emblematic of the province. The district is decorated for the festivities with the image leaving Ntra. Sra. de las Angustias church at 5.30pm on the 16 July 2022 to be carried along El Chanquete beach.
- Marbella’s Virgen del Carmen procession starts at 6pm on the 16 July. Commencing at Casa Hermandad and finishing at the fishing port, the procession passes through Puerto Banús and the marina, and features floral offerings.
- The Virgen del Carmen procession in Colonia Santa Inés starts at Colonia de Santa Inés church at 8.30pm on the 16 July.
- Olías’ Virgen del Carmen procession sets off from the 16th century chapel at 8pm on the 16 July.
- Fuengirola’s Procesión Triunfal de la Virgen del Carmen, which is organised by Ntra. Sra. del Carmen, starts at 7.30pm on the 16 July.
- At 6pm on the 16 July, the streets and waters of Pedregalejo host the Virgen del Carmen procession. The image sets off from Corpus Christi parish church and is then placed aboard a fishing boat at Pilones river.
- Huelin’s Virgen del Carmen procession starts at 5pm on the 17 July at San Patricio church.
- El Perchel’s boat procession and blessing of the waters, with a commemoration for the people who have perished at sea, is another unmissable event. Virgen del Carmen Coronada del Perchel starts at 10am on the 17 July at Malaga port.
- The Virgen del Carmen procession in Torre del Mar, in Vélez-Málaga, leaves San Andrés church at 7.30pm on Sunday 26 July.
Also worth mentioning are the Virgen del Carmen processions taking place in other destinations along the Malaga coast, namely Nerja, Los Boliches, Benalmádena, Rincón de la Victoria, Estepona, Manilva and La Carihuela.
Festivities surrounding the processions
The processions listed above and the many others taking place throughout the province are often combined with other activities, making the event a must-attend for visitors from around the world. Passion, worship, tradition, religion and colour are just some of the words that sum up this one-of-a-kind event.
Almost all of the districts and municipalities in Malaga host fairs and other events alongside the traditional procession. Feria Virgen del Carmen in Rincón de la Victoria is a case in point where the boat procession (which has two starting points: one from La Cala del Moral at 7.30pm and the other from Rincón de la Victoria at 8.30pm) on the 16 July is complemented with live music, parades and many other events and activities.
If you’re thinking about making the Costa del Sol the destination for your next getaway, see if you can coincide your trip with the Virgen del Carmen processions in July. Witnessing this unique event is an experience you’ll never forget.