At the beginning of the 21st century, Valencia has given new life to one of the city’s oldest traditions: The day of Our Lady of the Forsaken. In the midst of a modern, bustling, cosmopolitan city, looking to the challenges of the future, there is still time for tradition; exhibiting the devotion and charisma of a people that are proud of their roots.
The night before the second Sunday in May, the city centre area known as the Barrio del Carmen is the scene for the events in honour of the Patron, as well as the typical Saturday night bar and restaurant activities: a clear example of how the Valencia of the present and the future manages to go forward, united with its origins and the past.
History, Legends and Tradition
The origins of the devotion to the Patron of Valencia go back to a sermon by Friar Juan Gilabert Jofré (a friend of Saint Vicente Ferrer), delivered in the cathedral on the 24th of February 1409.
While walking to the church he noticed that some boys were laughing at a parishioner suffering from mental illness. In his sermon, the friar called on all the faithful to help the abandoned, the poor and the sick.
Among the congregation was Lorenzo Salmon, a tradesman who began a project to build the Hospital dels ignocens. Folls e Orats - an institution that is considered to be the first psychiatric hospital in the world.
Even more interesting is the legend of the authors of the image that is venerated today. It is said that in 1414, three young men, dressed as pilgrims came to the brotherhood that looked after the hospital. The brother that lived there had a wife that was blind. The young men said that if they were given food and lodge for four days they would build an image of the Virgin.
Four days went by and nothing had been heard from the room where the young men were working so the door was forced open - there was no sign of the young men but the Virgin had been built and the brother’s wife recovered her sight: they knew then that the young men were angels sent from heaven. The statue was later copied by the Ribaltas, Orrente, Zariñena and Espinosa and all of them said they recognised ‘something supernatural’ about the image.
Finally, we can add that Our Lady of the Forsaken is the only such figure that has her own transport; a vehicle made exclusively for the Virgin. The number plate of the ‘mare mòbil’, V-0075-GP, signifies; Valencia, the 75th anniversary of her coronation and GP for Geperudeta, as Our Lady is so often called.