As you probably know by now, Sevilla is a very old city, filled with many traditions! Spring is huge for Sevillianos because it means 3 very important things: Bull fighting season begins, Semana Santa (or Holy Week) and Feria! Unfortunately, I will not be here for Feria since my program ends a few days before it begins, and I will not be going to any bull fights.
However, something I did take full part of was the craziness of Semana Santa here in Seville! It begins on Palm Sunday: “Domingo de los Ramos” and ends on Easter! Although Spain is predominantly Catholic, these festivities are less about religion and more about tradition!! (This tradition is over 600 years old!!)
It is very difficult for someone to understand the true madness of Semana Santa unless they experience it for themselves.
What exactly makes Holy Week so big in Sevilla? The Processions.
What do I mean exactly? Basically, there are different “brotherhoods” (hermandades) associated with different churches that process through the streets in their color garb, holding crosses and candles. Usually a marching band will lead the procession. At the very end, there is a “Paso”. There is no word in English for these things (one might be able to call them a religious float). They are very old…and priceless!
About a week or so before Semana Santa, you can go into the various churches throughout the city to see the Pasos on display before they process through the city! Here are two that we were able to see in Triana (where we live).
These Pasos are carried by 30-50 men, who are all in formation underneath it. They are hidden by a curtain around the bottom of the Paso, so only their feet are visible. This gives the illusion that this is floating down the street, to the beat of the marching bands drums. These Pasos can weigh more than 11,000 pounds. The men underneath carry it on their necks/shoulders. They rotate who is underneath every 10 minutes or so.
Men who just finished carrying a Paso.
A Paso being carried in front of the University of Sevilla, our school!!
Some members of the brotherhood walk barefoot, to honor Christ. These men/women are called “Nazarenos”. The ones that carry the cross do not wear a pointed cap like the others.
The pointed hats are called “capirotes”. Although this seems very eerie to an American, it is very traditional for Spaniards. During the day, some children will process with their mothers/fathers and wear miniature outfits of these.
Like I said before, the brotherhoods come in many different colors, including all white. Although in the United States we associate this look with the Klu Klux Klan, the nazarenos were around much longer than the KKK! Although I must admit, it was very difficult when I first saw the all white ones!
Purple “capirotes” as far as the eye can see! Some processions can take almost two hours to see in its entirety!!
Palm’s decorating balconies in honor of Semana Santa.
Chairs in “El Centro” for people to watch the processions from!
A procession crossing the Triana bridge into “El Centro”. The Pasos are taken from their church and paraded through the streets to the Cathedral, and then back to their church again!
These processions go from around 1pm-3am. Families and children stay up all night to watch them! They truly are incredible to see!
On the evening of Holy Thursday into Good Friday is the most famous night. Processions go all through the night, until 11am the following day! This is known as “La Madruga”. Most of the night processions are silent, and people will wear black on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to mourn the death of Jesus. It is to symbolize a funeral for Jesus.
The traditional dress for women on these days is called “La Mantilla”. This consists of a black dress and a black veil. Men will wear suits, as if attending a funeral. It is very beautiful to see.
I did not want to actually take a picture of the women, so this image is from Google! It was so hot here in Sevilla on Thursday, yet everyone was still in dress clothes and black! The processions continue on Friday evening, which is when we headed out to see them!
The audience will go silent as the Paso passes by them, and then applaud after it has gone by. It’s very interesting to see. There are no marching bands following these silent processions.
I am fascinated by tradition and culture. Semana Santa was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced! Although it is very tiring, due to the sometimes crowded and long processions–they are worth seeing! I must admit that by the end of this week I was not too pleased having roads blocked off by processions. It feels as though the entire city shuts down for this week, which makes it difficult to get to certain areas!
Yesterday was the last day of big processions, and today is a day meant for relaxing. This will be the first Easter I will be away from my family. I miss them a lot, but I will be seeing them in 11 short days!
It is going to be very difficult to leave such an incredible city, filled with beauty, tradition and life! Happy Semana Santa everyone, and Happy Easter!