|Statue commemorating the wine horse festival|
Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia,Spain is the fifth most holiest site for Catholics and is surrounded by fascinating legends.Caravaca de la Cruz is situated just a short distance from the city of Murcia in the Province of Murcia, Spain and is a fascinating place to visit. It is a site of great importance in the Catholic Church and has a long and varied history. Caravaca de la Cruz is the fifth holiest city in the world for Catholics after Santiago de Compostela, Rome, Jerusalem and Santo Toribio de Liébana. The town celebrates an Annus Sanctus every seven years, the most recent being in 2010, a time of jubilee and when plenary, solemn and universal indulgences are granted to all those who make the pilgrimage.
Legend of the 'Vera Cruz'There is a legend of how the town came to get its name. According to the legend, during the time of Muslim occupation of the town around 1232, an imprisoned priest was to hold a Mass in the presence of the Muslim king of the region. The priest said “all that is lacking is a cross” and at his words two angels appeared carrying a cross with two arms. The Muslim king was so impressed by this miracle that he and all his subjects converted to Christianity. The most accredited version of this story was written by Father Gilles de Zamora, historian to King Ferdinand.
It was later recognised as the "Vera Cruz" by the Catholic Church, an authentic relic of the cross Jesus Christ died on. Today, the cross is still kept in the Vera Cruz Sanctuary. At one time it was guarded by the Order of the Templars and later by the Order of Santiago. Hundreds of pilgrims travel to the town every year to see the cross.
This Spanish festival begins with a procession in the Iglese early in the morning as a cross is submerged in a silver urn which is filled with wine & surrounded by local Spanish flowers which soak up any overflow
Caravaca's Wine RaceOne of the great fiestas in Caravaca de la Cruz takes place in May. It re-enacts another legend associated with the town. The legend says that during the time of the Templars, the knights were besieged in the castle by the Moors. They had run out of water and a group of knights volunteered to undertake a dangerous mission. In the dead of night, they saddled their horses and loaded them with wine skins; they then crept out of the castle, through enemy lines to a nearby fountain. When they got there, the fountain was running with wine instead of water. The knights filled the wine skins and covered them over with their cloaks. On the way back through enemy lines, they were spotted and had to race back to the castle at top speed on their horses.
So every year, on the 2nd May during the town’s Holy Festival, this great horse race is run again with around 60 horses taking part. The horses are covered in beautiful cloaks that are embroidered by the women of the town. They race from the bottom of the town up to the castle - Castillo. The men run alongside the horses to encourage them. The first horse to reach the castle is the winner.There are many interesting things to see in Caravaca, not least the castle which looms over the town and the Sanctuario de la Vera Cruz. There is a Fiesta Museum which has full details of the wine race, including some of the beautifully embroidered cloaks worn by the horses and outside the town is the Fuentes del Marqués, a natural spring with pleasant walks around it.
So, why not join the pilgrims and visit Caravaca de la Cruz, a Holy City that is surrounded by legends