Pilgrimage bringing Spain to Aiken County
A Springfield couple are putting the finishing touches on a new chapel on their farm, which will bring a taste of one of the biggest celebrations in Spain to the countryside of Aiken County this weekend.
“Romeria del Rocio” is a pilgrimage on the second day of the Pentecost to the countryside of Huelva, Spain, to honor the Virgin of El Rocio.
The famous procession attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Miguel Coves and his wife, Dorothea Darden, have been building a chapel on their farm, Coves Darden P.R.E., to resemble the Ermita del Rocio, the hermitage that is home to the Virgin of El Rocio.
The chapel, which has been under construction since January, features a 13-foot tall, 300-pound metal steeple. Inside is an altar made out of sandstone that weighs five tons.
“My husband wanted to build a chapel. He, at first, wanted to put it next to the house and have it be a very private thing just for him,” Darden said. “After a while, it started developing into something that was a little more public. There’s a much bigger Spanish community here – Spanish in the sense from Spain – who would appreciate something like this. So, we decided to make it a place where other people could enjoy it also and where they could practice their faith.”
The chapel will be complete in time for the festivities of El Rocio this weekend.
“Even for a non-Spaniard, there’s a lot of singing and dance,” Darden said. “There’s a lot of tension in the atmosphere. It’s a really amazing tradition, and that’s the idea – to bring it here.”
The weekend festivities will begin with Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday at the chapel, with what Darden called the “inauguration” of the chapel, followed by a processional around the property.
Saturday evening, there will be a flamenco festival, which will feature authentic flamenco artists, dancing and traditional Spanish cuisine.
“It’s open for all who want to come,” Coves said.
Following the Mass on Sunday will be another processional, this time while carrying the Virgin, a statue that Darden said is “an aspect of the Virgin Mary.”
In Spain, during what is called “Salto de la Reja,” participants are in such a frantic hurry to get their hands on the statue to be able to carry it that they often jump over the gate at the altar.
“They get over there, pick it up, carry it out through the doors (that’s why the door is so high) and take her off on the procession,” Darden said. “It’s very much the same style of what they do in the streets of Spain.”
Aiken County Sheriff’s deputies and paramedics will be on hand.
According to Darden and Coves, carrying the statue is about paying homage to the Virgin, making a promise to her in the hope that she will help them out of a bad situation.
For the couple, this weekend is all about bringing a taste of Spain to South Carolina.
“They know about it, and they haven’t time to go to Spain,” Coves said. “Now they are happy to have Spain without making the trip.”
“It’ll be available for people who want to get baptized, who want to get married, who want to have their silver anniversary or who would like to use it for special events,” Darden said. “They just need to contact us and we’ll make it available.”
Coves-Darden P.R.E. is located at 1705 Surrey Race Road in Springfield. For more information, visit the farm’s Facebook page or www.covesdardenllc.com.
• Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.