Virgen Blanca Festivities / History and tradition

The Virgen Blanca, patron saint of the city

Our Lady of the Snows, also called the Virgen Blanca (The White Virgin), can be found in the Church of San Miguel. She is represented by a statue from 1854 by the sculptor Alejandro Valdivieso. In Vitoria, the cult of the Virgen Blanca began with the founding of the city by King Sancho VI in 1181. The Confraternity of Our Lady, the Virgen Blanca appeared in the seventeenth century and is in charge of all activities related to the devotion for this virgin. In 1921, she was declared the patron saint of Vitoria and in October 1954 she was canonically crowned as the Queen of the City at a ceremony attended by thousands of citizens.

Origin of the festivities

The festivities in honour of the Virgen Blanca go back to remote times, long before she was declared the patron saint of the city. Until 1883, a number of events were organised that, under the general name of the "Festivities of Vitoria", took place during the first week of September. From 1884 they were held in August, after a municipal agreement where it was decided that the festivities would officially be a tribute to the Virgen Blanca, whose festivity appeared on the liturgical calendar on 5 August. It was in 1953 when the City Council established the festivities as they are known today.

Celedon, symbol of the festivities

Celedon is a symbol of a countryman from Alava. Wearing a beret and a typical shirt, and always carrying an umbrella, this character has been placed by historians in different environments.

The lowering of Celedon was invented in 1957 by a group of Vitoria citizens who wanted to introduce something special to their city's festivities. The descent of the character is intended as an analogy between the doll and the peasants from the province who came to town to celebrate the festivities.

Tradition says he was born in Zalduendo, a small town in Álava where there is a fountain dedicated to this character that offers wine on festive occasions. They say that the character's name was Juan Celedonio Anzola. Other researchers point out that Celedon was a brigadier in the Carlist Army, born in Andagoya, whose name was Celedon Aguiluz.

Since the character of Celedon was created in 1957, four people have given shape to the legend: Jose Luis Isasi, who held the title for 22 years, Enrique Oribe, who replaced him in 1976, Iñaki Landa, who played the villager from Zalduondo from 1980 to 2000, and Gorka Ortiz de Urbina who became Celedon in 2001.

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