NEXT WEEK one of the most famous fiestas on the Murcian cultural calendar takes place in a small town in the South West of the region.
The Running of the Wine Horses is a unique fiesta which takes place on the same day every year, May 2, in the hilltop town of Caravaca de la Cruz.
The fiesta, known in Spanish as the ‘Caballos del Vino’ has been declared an event of International Tourist Interest and is part of a week of festivities, which begin on Monday May 1 and run through to Friday May 5.
There are great number of parades, processions and re-enactments aside from the main event of the actual running of the wine horses, which takes place on Tuesday 2nd May at 14:00h.
The history of this unique fiesta revolves around the 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 the small town’s elevation to a status of Holy City, one of only 5 in the world, on par with Rome and Jerusalem.
The legend dates back to the days of the Knights Templar, who came to the aid of the townspeople. The invading Moorish army had cunningly poisoned the water supply, which flowed into the besiege 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. So the brave Templar 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 townspeople.
The Vera Cruz was bathed in the wine and miraculously the sick and wounded were healed.
Today, to commemorate this happening 60 horses are dressed in spectacular embroidered cloaks and run up the hill to the sanctuary one by one, in a race against the clock.
It can be extremely exciting, as the streets are packed with onlookers who part 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.
In 1998, Pope John Paul II granted Caravaca de la Cruz Holy City status, along with Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Camaleño (Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana).
It celebrates its Holy Jubilee every seven years and 2017 is one of those years, which makes this year’s running of the wine horses a particularly significant event that should not be missed if you are in the area.