I couldn’t really spend my year abroad in the South of Spain without experiencing Semana Santa in Sevilla now could I?! Along with La Tomatina and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, this is one of the classic Spanish festivals that British people (at least in my experience) have actually heard of.
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is celebrated in the week running up to Easter every year in Sevilla (and elsewhere in Spain too). Large processions of nazarenos (the people wearing capirotes – the pointy hats with the holes for the eyes) pass through the streets barefoot or in sandals in silence, following the Guiding Cross. The nazarenos where a different coloured hood and robe depending on which Brotherhood they belong to and where they are in the procession, and they also carry large wax candles which they light a night. The processions I saw ranged from a few hundred to around 2000 nazarenos.
Typically, the main highlights of each procession are the pasos – large, intricately carved wooden floats depicting scenes from the Bible, such as The Last Supper. There are up to three pasos in each procession, but the processions I saw each only had two: one of Jesus and one of The Virgin Mary. And in some processions, a musical group with brass instruments and drums either precedes or follows the pasos.
Depending on how far away the home church is from the Cathedral in the centre of Sevilla, the processions can be marching for anywhere from a couple of hours to around 14. I can’t imagine how tough it must be to march in the kind of heat we get here for 14 hours, especially under a long cloak and hood, but I guess the suffering is part of the point. But, as I’ve said before, I’m super ignorant when it comes to anything religious, so I might be wrong on that one.
Processions start on the Friday before Palm Sunday and there are multiple processions every day in the city until Easter Sunday. I only saw processions on the Saturday before Palm Sunday (and that wasn’t even on purpose; my family and I bumped into it on the way back to our apartment from Santa Justa after coming back from Córdoba), Palm Sunday, and Holy Tuesday. If I were to be here again for Semana Santa, I’d like to make the effort to see the processions during the dawn on the morning of Good Friday, because those are some of the most famous processions, and supposedly most special too.
For me, the best part in the processions was definitely the music – that was what really moved me more than anything else. But then I am a music fan, so live music of any kind tends to move me anyway. I didn’t go in and see any more processions in Sevilla later on in the week, because even at the beginning of the week there were so many people in the city that I felt uncomfortable, especially with the heat too.
What about you? Have you ever experienced Semana Santa in Sevilla or anywhere else in Spain? What was it like? Did you enjoy it? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.