The relation between guilds and the Sevillian Holy Week

Seville is a city that has a great cultural richness and a value that makes it one of the most attractive touristic destinations for thousands of people from all over the world. Spanish Holy Week in Seville is an example of the history and tradition that it has. Because, although Holy Week is, after all, a religious event, it has become one of our most characteristic festivals, which everyone lives with great intensity and passion.

But today we will talk about a very interesting point of the Sevillian Holy Week and its origins. With its traditions, steps and images, historically, it is strongly linked to the professional guilds.

Many of the brotherhoods and confraternities of Seville were born from guilds that already existed: goldsmiths, coopers, sailors, ceramists... Already during the Modern Age, there are recorded more than a hundred professional associations linked to brotherhoods and confraternities.

But let's start at the beginning. What is a guild? The historian of the Sevillian Middle Ages, Professor Sánchez Herrero, defined a guild as "an association, community, body or corporation of free men, professionals, that is to say, belonging to commerce or to a trade, art or need, for the exercise of their profession and defense of their own interests, all of them living in a certain neighborhood or street of the city".

These professional guilds began to develop confraternities and brotherhoods to achieve even more union and protection among themselves. As we have said, the members of a guild already had many things in common: the same profession, the same neighborhood, etc. So why not bring this union also to a religious level? The need arose to associate in order to share also a devout sphere.

These confraternities, often even encouraged by the churches, were generally placed under the patronage of a patron: they generally founded a hospital (where they cared mainly for the poor) and carried out various welfare and charitable works. The members had the obligation (and the desire) to help each other, not only in the trade of the guild, but also in the work of the house and the fields. They financially assisted those who made pilgrimages and, especially, they helped the sick brother or participated in the mourning of the deceased one.

The link between guilds and brotherhoods did not always follow the same path, since there were brotherhoods that arose with the guild, others that were born from a split or group, others that were linked by the partial participation of some of its members, etc.  But, as we have explained, we can understand this medieval grouping of trades as one of the origins of the penitential brotherhoods in the Sevillian Middle Ages, until the official extinction of the guilds in the 19th century.

 

Do you know which Sevillian brotherhoods were associated with a guild? And which guilds were the firsts ones to be linked to these religious corporations? We will tell you about some of them, read on!

  • La Hermandad Sacramental de la Esperanza de Triana was founded in 1418 by members of the ceramists' guild, established in the Parish of Santa Ana. According to historical documents, in the 16th century the brotherhood merged with other guilds of fishermen and sailors. Moreover, its current headquarters is known as Capilla de los Marineros (which means Sailors' Chapel) and it has an anchor on its emblem.

 

  • In relation to the fishermen, they also had their own brotherhoods before joining La Hermandad de la Esperanza. In the 16th century, they founded La Hermandad de San Juan. The sailors, for their part, created La Hermandad de las Tres Caídas, later merged with the two previous ones (Esperanza and San Juan).
  • Another one of the best known brotherhoods is La Hermandad de las Cigarreras (which means The Cigar-makers). As its name says, it was linked to La Real Fábrica de Tabacos (the Sevillian Tobacco Factory), although it is true that this only happened relatively recently. (If you want to know more about sevillian cigar-makers, check this out). It was founded in the 16th century in the old Church of San Benito de Calatrava. But it acquires the popular name of "Las Cigarreras" in 1904, where it begins its link to the tobacco factory, since it was moved to the chapel of the enclosure, where it would remain until 1965.

 

  • La Hermandad de los Panaderos (the bakers), originally called La Hermandad del Prendimiento, also had great correlation, as the name says, with the guild of bakers. Just as happened with the Cigarreras, this brotherhood was not created by the guild itself. Moreover, although it originates in the 1600s approximately, it is not until the late eighteenth century that it begins to be popularly known as Los Panaderos, because many of the brothers had this profession.

 

  • La Hermandad del Museo was founded by the guild of silversmiths in 1575. It is known as “Museo" because its headquarters is located in the Museum of Fine Arts. 

 

Did you know this historical relationship between professions and brotherhoods?Its appearance during the Middle Ages explains how life was in an ancient Seville, where even the profession was closely linked to religion, since all social life was totally influenced by religion.

 

Information from Pasión en Sevilla, Sevilla Tour and LA COFRADÍA-GREMIO DURANTE LA BAJA EDAD MEDIA Y SIGLOS XVI Y XVII (Rodríguez-Sala, 2009).

Pictures from here, here and here