Pontifical and Royal Archdiocese of Our Lady of the Rosary
During this century and the next, we note the public procession of the Marian image of the Rosary through the streets of Antequera, every March 25, the day of the Incarnation, as well as the dedication of religious festivals, especially from 1571, when the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary led to the triumph of the troops of the monarch Philip II against the Ottoman Turkish. in the memorable Battle of Lepanto. This victory of the Catholic arms helped to spread throughout the Christian world the cult of the Virgin and the recitation of the Most Holy Rosary, being the Supreme Pontiff Pius V who, from that same year, instituted his annual feast on October 7. The number of indulgences and privileges granted by the different Holy Fathers to the chapels, sanctuaries and confraternities, whose owner was the Virgin of the Rosary, are countless, being extensible to all the territories of Christianity, without exception.
Handwritten stories about the city of Antequera, written in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, stop at transcribing these papal bulls that accredit the immemorial and usefulness of Rosarian’s fervor. However, it will be from 1586 when we can verify, with greater rigor, the historical trajectory of this brotherhood. That year, the Order of Santo Domingo de Guzmán founded a convent in our town. The new Dominican temple will be made in a short time with the images and the cult practiced both to the Nazarene of the Sweet Name – until then located in the Franciscan convent of Jesus – and of Our Lady of the Rosary, claiming for it pontifical rights. The brothers installed in the hospice of Charity agree to the transfer without resistance, being able to affirm that they are the same brothers in forming the new corporation under the sponsorship of the Dominicans. In 1587, a little before settling in the new headquarters, the corporation acquired a new carving of María Santísima del Rosario, the work of Juan Vázquez de Vega, more suitable for pouring and processioning, surpassing in dimensions the one venerated until then. This new and beautiful Marian image, with the Child Jesus in his arms, is the one that we can admire today in the dressing room of his chapel of the Basilica of Santo Domingo in Antequera, of which his golden polychromy, his beautiful features and serene look stand out.
A tragic event will unite the Virgin of the Rosary with the history of the city. In 1679 the people of Antequera suffered the most terrible epidemic of bubonic plague recorded up to that time, whose unfortunate consequences in loss of human and economic lives were not comparable again until the yellow fever pandemic, which occurred in the early nineteenth century. The lazaretto located around the Plaza de San Bartolomé, to care for the sick, barely provided help to the hundreds of stinking people crowded inside, due to the lack of doctors and resources, being the Capuchin fathers the most sacrificed and dedicated in the physical and spiritual assistance of the dying. The entire city was boarded up to prevent the access and exit of people, thereby stopping the entry of food. Death, figured in plague and hunger, roamed the streets of Antequera without any brakes. The
Mass graves opened in areas outside the walls reached thirty-three, without being able to gauge exactly how many souls the contagion took with it. Along with these collective burials, the fire of the great bonfires, lit day and night for long days, consumed textile and wooden objects, in order to purify, thereby destroying the trousseau of the houses, the tools of the artisans, the pews of the churches … The devastation was a fact and contemporaries believed that the end of the city had come, its most absolute extinction.
Not without initial reluctance, the Dominicans agreed to the massive request of the Antequeranos to procession the image of the Rosary through the streets of the city, to ask for its mediation before the punishment of the plague. The long-awaited event occurred on the night of June 20, 1679, preceded before the parade a great storm, of unusual violence, according to the chronicles. The storm calmed down just at the exit of the “Queen of Heaven”, who arrived at the hospital where the sick were, then returned to her temple, accompanied throughout the journey by the prayers of the religious, the municipal authorities and the neighborhood. The coincidence of this procession with the purifying rain, cleaned the environment vitiated by the contagious disease and restored health to the people of Antequera. The Virgin of the Rosary returned to walk the streets of the city on June 28, accompanying him, along with the fervent crowd, a white dove fluttering between his walks, a sign interpreted as the definitive redemption of sins and the miracle of collective health performed by the pious heavenly mother.
The council of Antequera in the chapter session held on June 23, 1679, proclaims the Virgin of the Rosary patron saint of the city and votes an annual perpetual festival (with bullfighting and night fires), being the first to be held on October 8, 1679.
The group of scribes and procurators also dedicated to him, perpetually, a mass sung one of the days of his octave. The devotion awakened by the miracle of Mary Most Holy of the Rosary, in the face of the catastrophe of the plague, earned her numerous gifts from devotees, from jewels, cloaks, to a precious silver lamp that crossed the Atlantic from Mexico, sent, in 1720, by an Antequerano settled in the distant American lands.
Among all the votive offerings offered to the Virgin, the painting of The plague epidemic stands out, guarded in the nave of the epistle of the church of Santo Domingo de Antequera. Although the original canvas, by an anonymous author, was painted shortly after the publication of the victory over the plague, possibly between 1679 and 1680, what we admire today is a renovation dated 1732, paid for by a devotee of the Rosary. In the lower part of the canvas we can see different cures practiced on the sick: bleeding, excision and cauterization of buboes… We can identify the hospital of San Juan de Dios in the middle, the cars transporting the corpses to the graves outside the walls, next to which the burners were located where all the contaminated objects were destroyed. At the top appears the Virgin of the Rosary, in a break of glory, stopping the disease that fell on Antequera in the form of arrows.
The fervor to the Virgin of the Rosary continued throughout the centuries, being more evident in the years in which the Antequeranos suffered hardships, especially viral, such as yellow fever of 1804. The convulsive nineteenth century and the confiscations of ecclesiastical goods, extinguished the order of the Dominicans of the city and without their sponsorship, the history of the brotherhood is diluted, experiencing a devotional decline, without being consumed at all. It is today, already in the XXI century when a group of confreres works to recover and increase the faith professed to the Virgin of the Rosary, expressing admiration for the glorious past of this title. Without it, many episodes starring the Antequeranos who preceded us centuries ago would not be understood. Guarding, preserving and expanding the heritage associated with Our Lady of the Rosary and her archconfraternity, as well as spreading the belief in her effective intercession, are the objectives of the people linked to the current brotherhood.
Currently the brotherhood is noticing a resurgence and it is worth mentioning the realization of conferences around artistic, historical and religious themes throughout the year, as well as the events centered around the feast of its owner on October 7. As a cultural manifestation, an annual exhibition is held in the last half of September, accompanied by a populous festival around the third weekend of September. In the first week of October they celebrate their annual triduum in honor of the Virgen del Rosario that culminates with a colorful processional departure on the morning of the first Sunday of October for a traditional route in a neighborhood that turns to Her Virgin, who walks majestically in a carved and spectacular silver temple and wearing one of the 14 mantles that has vestige of wedding dresses of ladies grateful to the Virgin. All this seasoned with two Antequera lanterns that go in their own throne, inheritance of a lavish past and animated by the bells of boys and girls dressed in an original coral-colored altar boy.
It is also worth mentioning the impressive jewel that this dedication has, pieces of gold, silver and precious stones of impressive material value and incalculable artistic value fruit of the populosity and devotion in the past to this Image. Part of this jewel has its own showcase and is exhibited in the Museum of the City. The image of the Virgin work of Juan Vazquez de Vega in 1587 is guarded in the Basilica of Santo Domingo sheltered in an exalted crowning of golden wood for 300 years and surrounded by votive offerings around its miraculous existence, wood carvings by Andrés de Carvajal and other pieces of goldsmithing such as the tabernacle attributed to José Ruiz.