Virgen de la Esperanza Shrine, Carved Out of Rock

Located in Calasparra, in the Region of Murcia, the Virgen de la Esperanza Shrine is a spectacular temple. Located six kilometres by road from Calasparra, this shrine stands out for being directly carved out of the rock of a mountain.

Virgen de la Esperanza Shrine
Virgen de la Esperanza Shrine

This Murcian monastery is one of the most striking in Spain, as it is from the 17th century. The caves are located on the Segura River, an old shepherd’s refuge, immersed in a halo of mystery and legend that, to this day, still leaves its visitors speechless.

Legend of La Pequeñica

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The Shrine of Calasparra carved out of the rock of the mountain

The Virgen de la Esperanza Shrine is one of the places to visit in Calasparra. In its hermitage, two carvings of the Virgin of Hope are venerated. This is the patron saint of Calasparra. The legend tells how the place where the shrine is located today was discovered by a shepherd who found La Pequeñica, also called La Aparecida, one of these two images of the Virgin. The fact was reported to the authorities and they ordered that the carving be transferred to the city in order to venerate it in one of the churches located there. However, the image, in spite of its small size, was so heavy that it became immovable, so it was decided to create a place of worship expressly for it, right in the middle of nature.

La Pequeñica or La Aparecida and La Mayor or Virgin of Hope

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Interiors of Virgen de la Esperanza Sanctuary

Inside the sanctuary, the chapel has a beautiful altarpiece from 1892 and a couple of statues on the altar. One of them is La Pequeñica, with a Renaissance style and from the 16th century. It is carved in wood. There are no known written references about its origin. The carving is located at the foot of the sculpture dressed and known as La Mayor, of Baroque style and from the 17th century. The disposition of both images, one at the foot of the other, is unusual in Marian iconography.

Walls inside the sanctuary
Walls inside the sanctuary

In 2017, the 400th anniversary of the donation of the large image of Our Lady of Hope to the shrine was celebrated. In 1617 the big statue arrived at the shrine to join the one that was already there. The citizens of Calasparra attribute miracles to her. That is why they would go to her when droughts that endangered their crops occurred. Both images received a canonical coronation in 1996.

Aerial view
Aerial view

It is not known why or when the image of La Pequeñica or La Aparecida is placed next to the Virgin of Hope, also known as La Grande. However, sources indicate that in 1786 they were already being venerated together. Later, in 1840, La Grande was named the first patron saint of the town of Calasparra. Both attract lots of people to the sanctuary every year.

The crown of the Virgin of Hope weighs one and a half kilograms, made of gold and gemstones. The arch is completed with twelve stars that symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel.

Architecture of the Virgen de la Esperanza Shrine

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Entrance to the Virgen de la Esperanza Shrine

Since its creation, over the decades the shrine has added new rooms and buildings used to worship the Virgin. The complex has also undergone extensions to serve the public, such as parkings, hotel and restaurant.

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Shrine of Calasparra

The architecture that can be seen today has its origin in the renovations that took place from 1948 to 1968. It was decided that the stone of the area would be used as masonry. Thus, the sanctuary would continue to be part of the same mountain. From that moment until now this constructive resource has been respected, inspired by the neo-Gothic style. In this way, the Virgen de la Esperanza Shrine has been declared a Site of Geological Interest.

The Nightly Pilgrimage

Aerial view
Aerial view

The nightly pilgrimage in honour of the Virgin of Hope is held on the night of September 7th. In the shrine thousands of faithful congregate to celebrate the festivity of the Virgin the following day. The rest of the year other important pilgrimages are also celebrated, such as those from Hellín, Mar Menor and Petrel.


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