Santa María’s church is the most remarkable temple of the city and it is a symbol of identity for Elche citizens. It is located in the same area in which the original mosque of the Muslin settlement used to be. It was devoted to the Transition (Death) of the Virgin after the conquest of Jaime I, in 1265. It was demolished in 1334 and a Gothic temple was erected in its place, followed by a Renaissance temple that lasted until 1672. The erection of the current building, example of Baroque architecture, started one year later and it was consecrated in 1784, after the finishing of the works in its Communion chapel (neoclassical style). It has to be stressed the contribution of the sculptor Nicolás de Bussy, author of the superb “portada” (door face) Mayor (1682), genuine example of Valencian Baroque style, and of the “portada” of San Agatángelo (1680). It is also relevant the tabernacle located in the altar Mayor, which dates from the 18th century, designed by Jaime Bort. Santa María was qualified as “Distinguished” in 1789 by the bishop of Orihuela, José Tormo, and as “minor Basilica” in 1951 by HH Pío XII. The Pope Urbano VIII, in 1632, granted to this church the privilege, unique in the whole Catholic history, of being allowed to perform indoors the Mystery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Mystery Play of Elche, declared World Heritage masterpiece.
Any house of a community –Church –shows us who we are and what we celebrate. Community gathers around Christ, who teaches us to “worship God in spirit and truth” (John 4, 23-24). The building itself is not the most important, but the community of believers, temples of the Holy Spirit, alive stones that form the Church.
Our Basilica, like the rest of churches, represents the prayer turned into stone or the theology turned into architecture. Here, the heart of the city beats in an special way, because we venerate the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, in the mystery of her Assumption to the skies, the Virgin of the Assumption and, is for Her that it has also endured our other great monument, which is a conjunction of religiosity, music, visual expression, joy and faith: the Mystery Play of Elche.
Distinguished Basilica of Santa María: Tel.: 965451540
From Monday to Sunday: from 7:30 am to 1 pm and from 5:30 pm to 9 pm.
Groups: it is recommended to arrange visit in advance on the telephone of the Basilica
Parochial Office: Tel.: 965452393. Tuesdays: from 6 pm to 7:30 pm.
Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays: from 11 am to 1:30 pm.
The Bell Tower is forty meters tall and its highest point is reached by 170 steps. Its privileged position offers the best panoramic view of the city surrounded by palm trees that were declared World Heritage in 2000. King Amadeo I, in 1871, was so impressed by this view, that he granted to Elche the status of city. The Tower has a square floor-plan design, three landings and three rooms, in which photographs and explanatory panels about the temple are displayed. The Bell Tower holds the four bells of the Basilica that were built between the 17th and 18th century and their names are, from largest to smallest, Ave María, Bárbara (remelted in 1984), Dijuny (or during fasting) and María de la Asunción. These bells do not only announce the religious acts, but they are used during the performance of the Mystery Play of Elche, emphasizing the openings of the sky and the greatest moment of the Coronation of the Virgin. On the 13th of August, at midnight, a huge firework with the shape of a palm, known as “the palm of the Virgin”, is launched from this Tower, culminating with «la Nit de l’Albà», festivity that traditionally meant the beginning of the celebrations consecrated to the Virgin of the Assumption in Elche.
“The Tower Bell and the bells have a spiritual meaning. The ringing of the bells calls us to mass, to prayer, to remember our deceased and to the joy of festivities, to the eve of celebrations or to relevant ecclesiastic and social events. These bells do announce the important issues with the height of the Tower and the sound of their ring when they call citizens together. The ringing of the Christian bells tells us about the importance of life and the vertical direction of our history.”
Plaza de Santa María, s/n – Tel: 615337821
Form Monday to Sunday: from 10:30 am to 3pm.
July, August, September: from 10:30 am to 7pm.
Donations: Adults - 2€. Children 1 €
THE MUSEUM OF THE VIRGIN
Throughout history, Elche citizens have captured their devotion to the Virgin of the Assumption on works of high value, which adorn her figure, her chapel or which are related to their devotion to her. Documents, paintings, carvings, artworks with precious metals and an exceptional collection of textiles and embroideries allow us to approach the picture of Elche and its main celebrations.
The Museum of the Virgin offers an accurate and pleasant tour through these works of sacred art, which date from the 16th to the 20th century. These works follow a periodical rotation, according to the annual liturgical calendar, enabling this art exhibition to be kept alive forever. It is worth mentioning the capes donated in the 18th century, and a crown and a chalice by Fernando Martínez, a jewellery designer of the same period. Likewise, it is relevant the bed made of ebony and silver, excellent example of Portuguese silversmithing of the 17th century. During the celebration of the “Octava of the Assumption” (religious acts after the 15th August during 8 days) the Virgin is exhibited on this bed, in order for all her believers to venerate her. The first reference to the Mystery Play of Elche is recorded in the testament of Isabel Caro (1523), document belonging to the Parochial Archive.
Museum of the Virgin of the Assumption, Patron saint of Elche (MUVAPE)
Plaza Santa Isabel, 6 – Tel: 965455661
From Tuesday to Saturday: from 10 am to 2 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm.
Sundays and holidays: from 10 am to 2 pm.
Donations: Adults - 2€. Children and groups (minimum 20 people) - 1 €
Texts: Sobre la Basílica (About the Basilica): Joan Castaño. Sobre el sentido de los lugares religiosos (About the meaning of religious places): José Aldazábal, Gestos y símbolos (Gestures and symbols), CPL 2003. Photographs: J. David García
Vosaltres siau ben vinguts,
Parents e amics de grans virtuts
Welcome, relatives and friends of great virtues.
(Mystery Play of Elche, 15th century)
PHOTOGRAPHS AND SOUVENIRS
They are for sale at the entrance of the Tower and at the entrance hall of the sacristy.
Donations for visiting the Museum of the Virgin and the Bell Tower, as well as other donations, enable the maintenance and restoration of the religious and cultural heritage of the Basilica of Santa María.
RULES FOR VISITORS
You are in a Catholic temple. The Basilica of Santa María is a sacred place, a place of prayer and is the monument that houses the most beloved image by all citizens of Elche, the Virgin of the Assumption. It receives many visitors. Thank you for considering the instructions of the staff and these rules:
Enter the temple appropriately dressed (in winter and summer)
Refrain from using a mobile telephone inside the Basilica and use a tone of voice appropriate to the sacred place, aiming to contribute to the atmosphere of peace, reflection and respect that the Basilica requires.
If a Eucharistic celebration is being held, please, refrain from visiting the temple until the Mass has finished.
Enter the temple bareheaded.
Children must be accompanied by adults. They are not allowed to run along the corridors, keeping a respectful behaviour and avoiding disturbing other people.
Smoking, food and drinks are completely forbidden inside the temple.
Pets are not allowed inside the temple, with the exception of guide dogs.
In the mornings there is a service of voluntary guides, who will be pleased to go with you during your visit to the Basilica.
Thank you for your visit. Mother of God, in the mystery of her Assumption, blesses you and your family.