Sunday, April 1, 2012

Semana Santa

The Spanish take Easter seriously. As the name La Semana Santa implies, it lasts for a week, starting on Palm Sunday and it signals the beginning of the greatest festival in the Christian calendar - the commemoration of Christ's Passion and Resurrection.

Most people participate in the fiesta. Processions take place in towns and villages throughout Spain and in most places la Pasión de Cristo is performed in the streets. The procession starts and finishes at the church during which some of the penitents walk without shoes, some on their knees, others are in chains and some walk flogging themselves.
photo: public domain (Txo)

Throughout Spain it is marked by ceremonies of holy images and passion plays that last all week especially in the Andalucian cities of Sevilla & Málaga. They are splendid affairs - penitents carry the magnificently ornate displays that comprise oodles of gold and silver set off with masses of flowers. The exhibits are extremely heavy comprising as they do of highly decorative floats supporting religious images. Brass bands, soldiers and señoritas, dressed in black, accompany the penitents. In fact, a large proportion of the population involve themselves in both the preparation and the weeklong celebrations.

Domingo de Ramos is the Spanish for Palm Sunday. On that day, the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on a donkey is celebrated. Many children take part and the populace wave palm tree branches.

On the Monday, in the big cities, thousands of penitents follow the procession of Christ taken captive.

photo: public domain (Raizraiz)
On Jueves Santo - Maundy Thursday and Viernes Santo - Good Friday, every little town and village also get involved by bringing out their religious effigies, usually an image of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Maundy Thursday commemorates the 'Last Supper of Christ' whereas Good Friday is in remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus.

The last procession of Santa Semana is on Domingo de Resurrección - Easter Sunday to you, representing Christ risen from the dead.

Of course, the build up to the events start many months before. There is much planning involved. The authorities have to plan for roads to be closed, traffic to be diverted and publicity of the event. Temporary seating has to be arranged and erected along the main thoroughfares. Women get to work with needle and thread, as they and their children must look their best during the forthcoming celebrations. Of course, the richer señoras do not bother with all that but they still have to purchase their outfits and plan what restaurant the family will visit for their celebratory meals.

Semana Santa float in Almería Cathedral
photo: Robert Bovington
However, the biggest enterprise is preparing the floats and even after this is done rehearsing the carrying of them as they weigh many tons. The hermandades - brotherhoods do this. A hermandad comprises members of a particular church that organize the yearly processions and the hermanos are the actual members. Some of the hermanos are Nazarenos, who dress in long, flowing robes and special pointed hoods, which hide their identity when they walk in the procession. The colours of the outfits change every day, black on day one culminating with white and gold on day seven.

photo: public domain (Romerin)
Semana Santa float in Almería Cathedral
photo: Robert Bovington

Semana Santa sketch in chalk by Goya (1824) 

more blogs by Robert Bovington...
"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

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