You can’t beat Seville, the land of the fiery, when it comes to the passion and pageantry of Spain’s Semana Santa held on the week before Easter. Beside it, Madrid’s Holy Week
celebrations would pale. (No offence meant to the Madrileños!)
By Jack Wright
The Holy Week, central to which are the religious processions, commemorates the Passion of Christ, the climactic last days of the Savior on earth. In Seville the floats (pasos) in these processions, which usually weigh more than a ton each and are carried on the shoulders or necks of the costaleros (float bearers), are reputed to be the most elaborate in the country. The pasos portray Christ through lifelike wooden images – in themselves magnificent works of art – from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) to his crucifixion (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter Sunday).
Just as important in the celebrations are the pasos of Christ’s grieving mother. During the Lenten celebrations, the Virgin Mother is honored in Seville as The Virgin of Hope of Macarena, more popularly and simply known as La Macarena. She appears in the form of a 17th century wooden image whose religious grandeur drive vast crowds to fervent veneration.
Also known as La Señora de Sevilla (The Lady of Seville), the procession in her honor is one of the longest of the Holy Week (14 hours, from midnight of Good Friday to 2:00 PM of Holy Saturday). The most applauded, certainly.
The image of La Macarena is in fact considered a national treasure by Catholic Spain. It reflects quite palpably the piety and the suffering of the Mother of Christ, she whose son would die on the cross to redeem his sinning people.
These are the sights. How about the sounds and scents of the Sevillian Holy Week? Just like anywhere else in Spain, really. Except that here they’re more intense.
The aroma of thousands of burning candles, the incenses, the solemn rolling of the drums and the blowing of the melancholy trumpets, the fiercely emotive saeta sung in the night by the Sevillian saeteros to Jesus and Mary as they pass by on their floats.
If these don’t take you to an amazing world of rituals and audio-visuals you’ve never known before, nothing ever will.
Holy Week in Spain, and more potently in Seville, is a celebration for all the senses to imbibe and whose memory will be treasured by those who are lucky to attend.
Featured image by Sandra Vallaure, CC BY2.0
Elaborate float by Sandra Vallaure, CC BY2.0
La Macarena by Sandra Vallaure, CC BY2.0
Saeta by Pablo BM, CC BY2.0
Our Lady of Hope of Triana by Catedrales y Iglesias/Alejandro Blanco, CC BY2.0
Trumpets, cropped, by Juan Carlos Guijarro, CC BY2.0
Religious brotherhood by Sandra Vallaure, CC BY2.0
Torrija by Mover el Bigote, CC BY2.0
Float with Jesus in the center by Juan Carlos Guijarro, CC BY2.0