Bocairent has a total of nine chapels dedicated to various saints, three of which can be found in the old quarter, whilst the other six are located in the surrounding area.
Although the exact date of construction is unknown there is an inscription indicating that the chapel was restored in 1802. Due to the extreme unevenness of the terrain the chapel actually forms the second floor of a house. The façade of the chapel is topped off with a belfry and a square bell tower, and presided over by an image of the virgin after which the chapel is named. The feast day of the chapel is celebrated on the second Sunday in May when ancient verses are sung in honour of Our Lady of the Foresaken.
Originally built in the XIII century as a mosque this was the first church to be founded in the town. The belfry attached to the façade has a Gothic arch and is built of stones and mortar. Nestled in the corner of Saint John Street (San Joan), the chapel appears to form a gable end with the neighbouring house. Built to a square floor plan the inside is decorated with serrated mouldings, ceiling roses, and baroque drawings set against a blue sky. On the walls are allegorical images of the Virgin and Child, and Our Ladies of the Sorrows, of Carmen, and of the Sacred Heart.
The high altar is presided over by a baroque altarpiece with Salomonic columns. In the centre of the altarpiece you can read the following inscription: “Charitas me fecit. Any (year)1728“. Hanging on the left hand wall is an oil painting representing the crucifixion, and on either side are images of Saint Eloi and Saint Barbara. The chapel festival day is celebrated on 23rd and 24th June.
This chapel was built following the town’s reconquest by the troops of James I in 1245, who in accordance with tradition constructed the chapel over the entry gateway to the town, so that everyone passing through it was protected by the Virgin.
The gateway is known as the Portal of the Holy Mother or of the Almaguer. On the chapel’s façade there is a ceramic tableau portraying the Virgin. The chapel is completed with a belfry section with bell tower and a plain forged iron cross. The chapel’s festival is celebrated on the 15th August.
Leaving Bocairent and crossing over the main entry bridge to the town, the bridge of Saint Blai, you will come upon the roundabout of the “Blanket Man”. Continuing in the direction of the old train station, take the middle road in the direction of the sierra. This is a one-way asphalted road with views of the town and the Sierra Mariola, which comes to an end at the chapel at a height of 720 metres. You can reach it by car, bicycle, or on foot.
The chapel is set in beautiful natural surroundings. You’ll find a spring flowing with fresh mountain water from the sierra, enclosed by pine and oak trees along with tables and benches for you to have a picnic and enjoy the privileged views. The chapel itself was built in the XVI century. Above the façade of masonry is a ceramic tableau portraying the saint; topped off with a belfry and bell tower together with an iron cross. The building is made up of a single nave in the Gothic style and is surrounded on the outside by a running bench.
The chapel is consecrated to the first patron saint of Bocairent, Saint James the Elder (Santiago el Mayor). On the first of May everybody is invited to join the locals in a procession up to the chapel where a Eucharist is then held. Afterwards there is a brunch accompanied by a brass band and then fireworks.
According to her devotees Saint Barbara is the patron saint of thunderstorms, and she has a chapel dedicated in her honour in the heart of the Sierra Mariola. You can get there by car having come off the main road from Bocairent to Villena and taking the secondary road from Bocairent to Alcoi (which passes through the industrial estate). After about six kilometres take a left turning when you see the large mansion house next to where the chapel is located, which is in a local beauty spot beside an ancient poplar tree. If you prefer to go on foot then take the same path leading to the chapel of Saint James and instead of turning off towards the chapel at the end, take the path on the left that starts at the last bend and keep on going up, passing by “els Teulars” and a little further ahead you’ll come across the chapel. Apart from making you feel at one with nature this path affords magnificent views of Bocairent in the distance.
As far as the chapel itself is concerned, it is the most recent of the nine chapels dating back to the end of XIX century and beginning of the XX century. Attached to a mansion style house, it comprises a single nave and porch. Its main door forms a semicircular arch. On the roof there is a belfry and bell tower, typical of Valencian chapels. Beside it stands a thousand-year-old poplar tree giving shade to a crystalline natural spring, set amongst delightful countryside. Close by and continuing along the path running parallel to the ditch you’ll come across the old washhouse, where the women from the local farmhouses would get together to do their washing and chat about life and local gossip.
In the past there was a local tradition amongst the nearby farmsteads, which consisted of keeping a picture called the Divine Shepherdess, (since stolen from the chapel), with each farmhouse taking it in turns to celebrate the fiesta in honour of the Virgin. Even today mass is celebrated every Sunday in July and August at 9.30. On 4th December the festival in honour of the saint is celebrated with a mass and brunch accompanied by music and rockets.
The legend goes that in 1536 two young men dressed as pilgrims approached these lands. Gazing upon the looming hilltop, they thought it was ideal for laying out a Calvary footpath, exclaiming to everyone around them: “What a wonderful hilltop you have here to make a Calvary way”. It was not long before they were interpreted as heaven-sent angels, confirmed by the appearance of three brightly shining lights in the very same place where the chapel stands today. Born out of this legend comes the “Festival of Lights”, a celebration held every September.
The chapel is situated at a height of 730 metres and can be reached from the Town Hall Square by following the Stations of the Cross footpath. Just over the Roman bridge at the start of the climb you’ll come across “the Slide” (“La Esgolaora”), a slippery- faced rock, which every Bocairentine worthy of the name, has slid down. The chapel, constructed in the XVI century, contains three buildings: the hostelry, which was once a convent, the Chaplain’s house in the centre and the Gothic style church with the bell tower attached to it. An interesting couple of details are the sundial painted on the façade and the stone pantocrator figure of Christ. Not far from the chapel is a monument dedicated to those killed during the Battle of Camorra, which in 1873 ended the war between the Carlists and the supporters of Queen Isabel.
There are other celebrations held at the chapel, such as the commemoration of the Battle of Camorra on 10th March, or the festival of Cholera in July, the “Festival of Lights” in September, and the festival of Mores and Christians (on 5th February) when the diehard fiesta participants climb in procession up to the chapel in order to celebrate a communal brunch and then a mass ending in the “Dispossession of More”, a highly emotive act within the busy calendar of festival events in honour of Saint Blai.
Popularly known as “Saint Anthony of the Piglet or down below” (“San Antoni del Porquet o de Baix”), the chapel lies about a kilometre away from the town. You can get there by car after taking a left hand turning 800 metres along the road leading to Ontinyent, after which you must take the right hand asphalted path leading to the chapel. If you’d prefer to go on foot or by bicycle, take Mosén Hilari Street leading down to the Medieval Quarter from the Town Hall Square. Follow the road to the bottom and cross over the town’s oldest bridge, from where you get great views of the original village and the rock it sits upon, with the cemetery lying above and to the right. Go past the “d’en Ferris” spring and the old washhouse and a little further on you’ll come across a large cross, also known as “the humiliator”. It was called this because in the old days Christian troops who took prisoners professing other religions made them pray in front of these crosses as a form of punishment. Finally you’ll see the asphalted path that will lead you to the chapel.
Built in the XVI century by Augustine monks, it is made up of a single south-facing nave. The chapel has a rose window, through which a ray of sun shines illuminating the image of Saint Anthony on the saint’s day, every 17th January at five o’clock, in an wonderful natural spectacle. The entrance door, situated at the side, is framed by a round Romanic arch between two buttresses, above which there is a stone coat of arms and a ceramic tableau portraying the saint. On the wall beside the chapel belonging to the hermit’s house you will see a Romanic pantocrator figure of Christ also made of stone.
The tradition of sharing the bread of Saint Anthony, also known as the “tallà” on the saint’s day (17th January), is lost in the mists of time. But on this day and the following weekend all the devotees get together to celebrate the festival accompanied by guitars, good food and the “tallà de Sant Antoni”.
…The legend among followers goes that on the day of Saint Anthony, 13th June, any spinster wanting to find a suitable husband should pray to the saint for one, and afterwards she should leave a needle in the baptismal font, whereupon a bachelor putting his hands into the water would prick his finger, henceforth becoming the spinster’s husband…
The chapel can be found 5 kms from Bocairent on the 3.316 B-road, situated on the left hand side heading in the direction of Villena. By bike or on foot you can get there via the Canaleta font, which is in the new part of town, until arriving at the road along an asphalted path. If you cross over the road and take the old railway line you’ll end up at the chapel.
The chapel is in a privileged location surrounded by pine and cypress trees providing a fitting atmosphere. Built in XVIII century and rectangular in shape, its sides are constructed with masonry blocks, with buttresses surrounding the outside. Next door is the hermit’s house. In the old days the children from the nearby farmhouses would come here for communion classes and it was also used as a primary school. Since 1780 there has been a traditional fair celebrated over the weekend coinciding with the saint’s day. It was traditionally an agricultural fair and it is typical to buy turrón sweets and the famous candy cigars.
Also to be found within the municipal boundaries of Bocairent in the heart of the Sierra Mariola is the chapel of Saint Thomas of Villanueva. You can reach the chapel via the B-road connecting Bocairent to Alcoi. Turn off at the Font de Mariola beauty spot, and then follow a path to the Mas del Parral country house, which is where the chapel is located. You can also get there from the town by taking the GR-7 hiking trail that will lead you to the Mas Nou camping ground and then on to the Mas de Perral country house. Surrounding the chapel are oaks and cypresses, which tend to block out most of the sunlight.
The chapel, reminiscent in style of the Romanic period, is square shaped and built with exterior buttresses. The inside is small and in olden times the day of Saint Thomas was celebrated here. As a result of the depopulation of the surrounding farmhouses the chapel is no longer used.