Holy Week in Granada: float of the Hermandad del Santisimo Cristo de la Lanzada
y Maria Santisima de la Caridad


by Chris Collins


Holy Week (Semana Santa) is the celebration of the Passion of Christ and, by definition, ought to be a religious holiday. It ought to be solemn, with lots of piety. But because the celebrations rely heavily on the processions of the brotherhoods (hermandades), aka fraternities, piety is a popular kind of piety and the processions may be a solemn event but it could also be glamorous. The most glamorous Semana Santa is the one celebrated in Andalucia, particularly in Granada, Malaga and Seville. The more somber celebrations are those held in the autonomous region of Castilla y Leon, particularly in Zamora and Valladolid.

Hermandad in their cloaks and hoods (capirotes) carrying float of Christ of the Seven Last Words, in the City of León, in the autonomous community of Castilla y León

But whichever part of Spain the Holy Week is celebrated, it has two definitive features.

One: the donning by some of the processional participants of the nazareno or penitential robe consisting of a tunic (sometimes with a cloak) and a hood with a conical tip (capirote) used to conceal the face of the wearer. The gear is a throwback to the medieval times when penitents do public penance but still hide their identity. Carrying processional candles or heavy crosses, many nazarenos, then and now, walk barefoot in the processions. Some carry shackles and chains on their feet for greater atonement.

Float of the Virgen de las Angustias (Virgin of Sorrows) at a Holy Week procession in Valladolid. Image sculpted circa 1561

Two: the brotherhoods’ magnificent pasos or floats which carry sculptures depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ and/or the Sorrows of Virgin Mary. Usually, the floats are owned and passionately preserved by the brotherhoods which, in some cases, have been in their possession for centuries. In front or following the pasos are marching bands playing compositions to honor the images and the fraternities.

This year, the Semana Santa, a moveable feast, falls on the week of 28 March to 4 April.


Featured image/Claudio Landi, CC BY-SA3.0
Christ of the Seven Last Words/Alessio Damato, CC  BY-SA3.0
Virgin of Sorrows/rastrojo, cc by-sa3.0