Human Flower Project

Araceli’s Flowers on a Seat of Honor

The patron saint of Lucena inspires a distinctive floral outpouring from the faithful of Southern Spain.


The Virgin of Araceli, patroness of Lucena, Spain, dressed in typical Andalusian costume

Photo: Oracion Año Jubilar

On the first weekend in May, residents of Lucena, Spain, make splendid veneration of their town’s patron saint the Virgin of Araceli.

This year the celebration promises to be especially lavish and well attended as it marks a “jubilee,” 450 years since the sacred statue came to Lucena from Rome. The town stretches out its season of celebration from April 30 forward (May is the traditional month of Mary), though Saturday May 5 is climactic: the major procession, will involve the formal offerings of flowers to Our Lady, as the statue moves from a shrine on the outskirts of town through the city to the church downtown.

“As usual, the procession will depart from Paseo de Rojas, and conclude in the Parish of San Mateo, which is home to the Lady of Lucena.


June procession, Romería de Subida al Santuario, when the Virgin of Araceli is returned to her shrine outside Lucena, Spain

Photo: Oracion Año Jubilar

“The first Sunday in June, the Virgin takes her leave and is once again borne in pilgrimage up to the Shrine, an event known as the Romería de Subida al Santuario.”

Each year, the statue is dressed in a different gorgeous attire, one year in typical Andalusian costume, another in rococo turquoises and pinks, yet another in heavy white and gold brocade….

imageOfrendas crowd into the church of San Mateo after the May procession.

Photo: El Dia de Cordoba

Along with fabric flowers, the real things play a big part in this rite, both as gifts of veneration and decoration for the processional float. The photo taken last year at the San Mateo church reveals a distinctive style for the ofrendas at this celebration.

They are similar to the large wreaths on pedestals one used to see at business openings (and elaborate funerals) in the U.S. But the Lucena flowers are arranged in wide wicker baskets upheld on low wooden stools. Most of them are embellished with satin ribbons, emblazoned with the names of local cofradias (fraternal organizations).

These are arrangements designed to be viewed from all sides (not, like wreaths on easels, simply from the front).


Ofrenda for Our Lady of Araceli, presented the first Saturday in May in Lucena, Spain

Photo: El Parigolon

The effect, as well as being exorbitantly beautiful, is stronger and far more animated, as if these bouquet offerings were portly, living creatures in need of a spot to rest.

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