easter week in seville

Have you ever thought of visiting Andalusia on a Holy Week? Firstly it is pretty warmer than in every part of Europe at that time and secondly you may experience something very traditional and unique.

Holy Week, or “Semana Santa” in Spanish, is one of the most deeply rooted traditions in Spain and each year it attracts thousands of worshippers in the streets, along with tourists who come to experience these emotional days. The sacred images are taken out of the churched and walked along the streets in procession, and everything surrounding this custom is full of art and beauty.

Andalusia is the stand-out area in Spain due to its unique and intense treatment of these days. It is not only the ecclesiastical traditions, but a good deal of cultural heritage and social events. Easter Week consists of processions in which enormous thrones (tronos) are carried around the streets by teams of bearers (costaleros) followed by hundreds of penitents (nazarenos).

These thrones are religious works of art that date back as far as the 17th century, each showing a small part of the Easter story. Some of them are so huge that they just can not be housed in the churches as they are taller than the entrance doors. These thrones look more like a real-sized chapels weighing over 5 tones and being carried by dozens of bearers.

The passion of Christ is celebrated intensely throughout the Spanish territory but it is in Andalucia where it takes on a greater meaning. Feel free to come to the south at this time of year and enjoy the originality and beauty that surround the streets these days.

Although each town has its processions, there are some outstanding ones that are worth seeing and should not be missed if you are travelling Andalusia:

Málaga

easter week in malaga

Holy Week in Málaga is very different from that celebrated in other Andalusian or Spanish cities, and those who go to Málaga for the first time will be surprised, as the Passion Week there is not lived with meditation and silence, but it is full of happiness, noise, cheer, spontaneous saetas (flamenco verses sung at the processions) and applause as the images pass by. Another distinctive feature of Holy Week in Malaga are military parades. One of these military celebrations is of the Spanish Legion, which parades the image of Christ of the Good Death together with the Legion’s own military band and Honor guard on Maundy Thursday. This parade is very popular among locals and an absolute must see if you are in Málaga during Holy Week. All of this fuss does not mean a lack of respect or religiosity, but it is the particular way a lot of malagueños live their faith and feelings during the Holy Week.

Seville

holly week sevilla

Seville doubtlessly hosts some of the most elaborate processions for Holy Week. Every year, the Passion Week takes out to the streets a real festival marked by the five key points: processional thrones carrying images that sway all along the entire route, thousands of penitents lighting and giving colour with their candles and robes, processional marches, as well as aromas of incense and flowers filling the air as the processions pass by and thousands of people crowded to see and applaud their favorite tronos. These Thrones are physically carried on the neck of costaleros or literally “sack men”, it was the old-times name given because of their distinctive headdress. The “costaleros” (from pax. 24 to 48) are hidden inside the platform so it seems to walk alone. Historically dock workers were hired to carry the thrones as the job was not easy at all. From the years 70-s and onward, that task has been universally taken over by the members of the confraternities who organize each procession.

During the Holy Week, almost every day, there are different processions but the most impressive and the one that is definitely worth seeing is that of the “Dawn” or “La Madrugada” in Spanish. This procession takes place overnight from Holy Thursday to Good Friday and is the most special time during Holy Week. Two extreme devotion Virgins come out onto the street: both are Our Ladies of Hope but one of Macarena and the other of Triana. The spectators wait all night till these two images appear. Another unmissable procession is that of the Great Power, called the “Lord of Seville”, which draws the looks and prayers of all Seville in its path.

Granada

easter week granada

Granada will surprise you with two totally different and quite contradictory processions: one solemn and full of respect and sorrow and the other one is featured by flamenco and fires.

The first one is known as Silence of Granada. This procession is one of the most beautiful in Andalusia, not only for the quality of the image of the crucified Christ, which is an absolute masterpiece, but also by the unique setting of historic center of Granada. At the foot of the Alhambra, on the slope of the river Darro, this solemn procession can be observed. One of the most outstanding features is the silence kept by both the penitent and the faithful in its path, only broken by the sound of the drum. Both the public and private lighting along its way is switched off so the image is illuminated only by candlelight.

The other famous procession in Granada is Christ of the Gypsies. It is one of the more striking images of Holy Week in Andalusia due to the picturesque neighbourhood of Sacromonte, historically inhabited by gypsies, where procession passes and because of the tradition which surrounds it. As the procession pass, gypsies light fires and sing flamenco to the image of their most fervent devotion to Jesus and Virgin Mary. Both processions definitely worth seeing if you pass through Granada during Holy Week.

Apart the processions there are some other interesting thing you should know about Semana Santa in Andalusia:

Woman wearing mantilla

woman mantilla

One of the most recognised characters during Holy Week are women who wear lace veils, in Spanish called mantillas, during the procession. This traditional Spanish veil is most-often worn on the days of the Passion of Christ to show mourning and pain. A black formal dress, a sign of respect, is accompanied by a mantilla of the same colour. The solemn beauty of this outfit is one of the reasons why you should not miss Holy Week.

The Saeta

The singing of saetas to images that are being paraded is positively the most distinctive feature of Holy Week in Andalusia. This is a type of traditional religious singing which takes place during these days of Passion and quite like flamenco singing. The saetero, the one who sings, has to have a strong and powerful voice which is filled with emotion as it is sung without musical accompaniment and is aimed towards the image of Jesus of Virgin. As the rule the throne stops or slows down during the saeta.

The bands

Every float and procession includes its own musical accompaniment. Throughout the year, bands rehearse the traditional Holy Week anthems giving them a rather sad sound. Trumpets and drums are commonly used while processions. The bands are very important for all of the processions except those known as “silent”. On those, you will only hear the Nazarenos‘ footsteps and the noise of moving floats. They are very solemn processions which demand great respect.

The vigil

The Spanish Holy Week is accompanied by another series of demonstrations and religious customs. The most common is that of the “vigil”, which consists of abstaining from eating meat on Good Friday as a sign of respect for the crucifixion of Jesus and his death. On this day, it is typical to prepare food with cod. Restaurants as well have a special menu with cod as a tribute to continue this tradition.

Typical Sweets

easter week in spain sweet torrijas

Easter is closely linked to the preparation of pastries which are different from the rest of the year. Torrijas are one of these traditional sweets, made ​​with toast soaked in milk and honey, dipped in egg and fried.

We invite you to come to Andalusia during this Easter Week to get new experience and to attend some of the processions and alongside we will be glad to introduce you to the history and culture of our region while on Private Day Tours discovering UNESCO heritage sites.