A brief History of the Fiesta
Sat atop an Andalucian hilltop, this unique fiesta is all about the fabled story of the True Cross, in Spanish the ‘Verz Cruz’. This fragment of wood is said to have been part of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified and it has protected the city since the 13th century. The presence of the True Cross in Caravaca is the reason for its status as a Holy City, one of only five Catholic 'Holy" cities in the world, (alongside Santiago de Compostela, Santo Toribio de Liébana, Rome and Jerusalem).
The legend apparently dates back to the days of the Knights Templar, who came to the aid of the townspeople. The invading Moorish army had a cunning plan, to poison the water supply, which flowed into the besieged town, and many people were dying of thirst, as they couldn’t drink the poisoned water. The only liquid that could be found to drink was wine. Nice :-) So the Templer Knights tied flagons of wine to their horses and ran with them up the hill before the Moorish armies realised what was happening, bringing the precious liquid to the thirst ravaged people. The cross was bathed in the wine and miraculously the sick and wounded were healed. So there we go. A case of Rioja to the rescue......
Today, to commemorate this happening 60 horses are dressed in intricate embroidered cloaks and are run up the hill to the sanctuary one by one, in a race against the clock. It is both exciting and dangerous, and the ambulances were kept busy as horses occassionally careered into the crowds, the streets are packed with spectators who part last second to allow the horses to rush past just centimetres away. Prizes are awarded for both the fastest horses and those with the most exceptional embroidery. No prizes however for the middle aged lady who I saw get taken out by just horse number 2. More dangerous than it first appears.
Staying on the outskirts of the city with my family, in an exquisite rented villa (Air B'n'B scores yet again), amid vast eye-poppingly bright poppy fields, just a twenty minute walk to the centre, the trip is best described in my pictures rather than my words, so without further mutterings from me....,