Virgin’s statue from the front - Ofrenda de Flores - Fallas Valencia

The Virgin’s statue

The Virgen de los Desamparados (Virgin of the Forsaken, in English) is the patroness of Valencia, to whom the Basilica in Plaça de la Mare de Déu and the Ofrenda de Flores itself are dedicated. On the occasion of the Fallas’ Offering, a 15 metres (about 49 feet) tall statue in the likeness of the Virgin is built and put in the square.

She appears with lily blossoms and a rose in one hand and baby Jesus in her other arm. Her gown is to be covered with the flowers offered by the falleros. She is generally depicted looking down, and her posture is slightly tilted forward. This has earned her the affectionate name of Geperudeta (or Jorobadita) de Valencia, meaning the little hunchback of Valencia*.*

The Virgin's statue - Ofrenda de Flores - Fallas Valencia
As the second day of the Ofrenda comes to a conclusion, the design on the Virgin’s dress is slowly revealed.

If the year is particularly hot and sunny, you’ll also see that a huge canopy will be hung from one side to the other of the square. This is to keep the flowers in the shade and prevents them from wilting.

The message hidden in the dress

For every Fallas edition, about 50,000 bouquets are offered to the Virgin of the Forsaken in Plaça de la Mare de Déu, for a total of about 17 tonnes of flowers. As the falleras and falleros get to the square, they will leave the flowers in the hands of the vestidores, who will arrange them onto a structure in the image of the Virgin. Thus, they will make up a colourful mantle whose design is different and kept secret every year.

The motifs, designed by the vestidores, are instead revealed little by little as the participants offer their bouquets. The image generally bears a symbolic meaning regarding recent events. In 2022, for example, the design was that of a phoenix, signifying the rebirth of the festival after two difficult years of pandemic.

Phoenix design of Virgin’s statue - Ofrenda de Flores - Fallas Valencia
The phoenix design on the Virgin’s mantle for the Ofrenda’s 2022 edition symbolised the return of the festival after two difficult years in the pandemic.

The guidelines

This tradition of a secret image has been around since the 1990s, when a premeditated design was first introduced. Ever since then, the techniques have improved and new guidelines have been established.

For example, any thorns or hooks in the bouquets must be removed, so that the workers don’t get hurt. Cellophane paper is also forbidden since it can become slippery and hard to see on the ground.

To ensure the success of the design, the flowers used are carnations (they last the longest), with red and white being the most popular colours. The Junta Central Fallera tasks each committee with a specific colour to make sure that the right ratio is respected.

Flower details - Ofrenda de Flores - Fallas Valencia
Although the most common colours are red and white, others like purple, yellow pink, and orange can be used.

Los vestidors

The vestidors (or vestidores, in Spanish) are the men and women who volunteer every year to design and dress the Virgin’s mantle in spectacular designs. There are about 50 of them, of all ages between 16 and 60 years old. The more experienced among them, who usually take care of making the outline of the design, are also called bordadores.

Vestidors in Ofrenda de Flores - Fallas Valencia
The vestidors climb up on the statue and wedge the flowers between the wooden planks.

When the first Virgin mantle was instituted in 1987, the vestidores were a small group of friends, mostly with lifeguarding and mountaineering experience, which they needed to be able to climb up the 15-metre (about 49 feet) structure to hang the flowers. Slowly, the tradition was passed from parents to children, the group expanded, and their craft was perfected.

Nowadays, this still remains a work of passion and devotion to them. The rest of the year they all have regular jobs, some of them as taxi drivers, some as nurses, and some are even retired.

You might also be interested in...

The Virgin’s statue