A burst of joy and devotion every five years
Every five years, the island of La Palma keeps its date with its patroness the Virgen de Las Nieves. The Virgen descends from her Chapel to the city, thus fulfilling a vow taken in the 17th century. In 1680, the Bishop of the Canary Islands Bartolomé García Ximenez prayed to the Virgen for intercession because of the drought on the island which was leading to many deaths.
Since then, and with absolute faith, the Virgen descends every five years to the city to fulfil this vow. With time, this celebration has gained in splendour and complexity, with the religious celebrations being complemented by cultural and social events that are now well-established.
The Descent takes place in the months of July and August of years that end in 0 or 5, and include a packed programme of events that are mainly concentrated in the so-called Semana Chica and Semana Grande.
The Semana Chica marks the beginning of the Descent. The festivities are inaugurated by the Hosting of the Virgin’s Flag, which will fly above the Virgin’s Fort during the duration of the celebration. On the same day, a procession carrying the pieces of the throne sets off from the Chapel to El Salvador Church, which will serve as the seat of Our Lady of Las Nieves. The “Stella Salutaris” herald parade, the Children’s Song and Dance and the Virgin’s Sailboat are some of the important events.
The Semana Grande begins on the first Sunday of July and encapsulates key events like the Pandorga parade, the Dance of Acrobats, the 18th-century Festival or Minuet, the Dance of Dwarfs and the Carro Alegórico y Triunfal – an allegorical play wherein the Virgin prevails. The Semana Grande ends with the Virgin’s arrival to the capital and this triumphant entry of Our Lady of Las Nieves is marked by the Dialogue of the Fort and the Ship as also the Loa of Reception song.