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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Semana Santa in Seville

The third week of April this year was Semana Santa or Holy Week. Semana Santa is a religious celebration between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. The celebration is held to commemorate the last week of the earthly life of Jesus. Everyday during the week large floats with statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are carried from their respective church through the streets of Seville to the cathedral. They are accompianed by large processions of music and last around 2 hours. 

The processions are organized by over 50 different hermandades (brotherhoods).  Each brotherhood normally will have 2 pasos (floats), which are life size sculptural representations of events from Christ's Passion. The first paso centers on Christ; the second is an image of the Virgin. The floats are massive and adorned with gold and silver everything; candlestick holders, the the curtains that hang from the top and sides,  the clothes, and especially the jewelry. The festival has been carried out since the 17th century; many of these floats are the originals, which make them very delicate and treasured. They are carried throughout the streets by a group of about 40 men called costaleros. These men are placed under the float and carry the weight of the floats on the back of their necks. They were a special head wrap the has a large pad that rests across the back of their shoulders and neck. Each man supports the weight of about 110 lbs. The floats move with a rhythmic motion to the tune of their accompanying band. Each brotherhood has up to 2,500 costumed followers, called nazarenos. The nazarenos wear tall capes,  notoriously copied later by the Ku Klux Klan, which cover their heads, implying that the identity of the person is known only to God. Most of the men walk barefoot through the streets and carry crosses.

Paso of the Virgin
Paso of Christ
Jeff and I were traveling the first part of the week and planned on coming back to Seville to see the most important night, la madrugada, on Thursday. We got back from traveling and watched the first couple of days on television with my roommate Nacho. He knew a lot about the processions and explained a great deal of it to us over the two nights. Unfortunately it began to rain Wednesday. It was a mixture of all day light rain and then brief 20 minute shit shows of just down pour. The large floats are unable to be taken out during days of bad weather due to the delicacy and value.

Official pathway of the floats empty due to rain
We went out a few days in attempt to see some processions but each time they were called off because of the weather. It was on and off raining all day so the chances of them leaving were slim, even if the weather was clear at the time of their departure. We went to the cathedral to see the floats and look around the church during the bad weather. Their was mass going on as we were inside and we stood and watched in the large open area of the cathedral.

Thursday night, the madrugada, we went across the river to the Triana side to see a famous procession which crosses the bridge in silence and makes its way to the cathedral. It was clear weather when we made our way over but just about 10 minutes before they were set to leave it began to rain. We huddled under a canopy on a side street when it began to pour rain. The band was out in the streets playing when the weather changed. Everyone was running for shelter and trying to get out of the rain. A group of musicians to our side with drums hanging from their necks were sobbing. I noticed that most people who were running for cover were all crying. I didn't realize the significance of this night until I got home later that night. Nacho told us that it was the first time in over 78 years that the madrugada did not have one procession leave. My coworker told me the next day that it has been almost 150 years since that one of the most important pasos of the week did not leave. It was a bit bittersweet how the week passed. We missed the most important night of Holy week due to weather, but also got to see something that hasn't happened in almost 100 years. Without seeing this I don't think I would have comprehended the importance of this night for Spaniards, especially residents of Seville. Seville is regarded to have the best Semana Santa in all of Spain and millions of tourist each year travel to see the procession pass through the city streets. 
walking through the wet streets
 The rest of the procession for the week were nearly all canceled due to the weather. We attempted to see a few more in the last few days but every time it started to rain. It was still an interesting week; We learned a lot about the celebration from my roommate and felt how it affected the population when the processions were canceled. It was a sad Semana Santa but still enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting, to bad you didn't get to see it but still interesting bit of history to know.