Semana Santa in Seville 2019

This year we had our annual Semana Santa, maybe better known as Easter Week or Holy Week.It’s something many people are looking forward to and do tons of preparations for this festivity. It’s an important celebration for the local and religious people. Also many tourists come to Spain during this week to see the processions since it’s declared as an International Tourist Interest in 1980. Though, a lot of people still don’t know or understand what these festivities are about or why they are celebrated…

But before we go into the history and facts about Semana Santa, you’ll have to know some vocabulary to understand things better. Let’s start with a short list:

PASOS
Floats with religious illustrations that are visible during the processions

HERMANDADES
Catholic religious brotherhoods

NAZARENOS
People who are walking in the processions. You can recognize them by their specific clothes, long candles and most of them are walking barefoot

CAPIROTES
Pointed, tall hoods with eye-hole, worn by the Nazarenos

COSTALEROS
Men who are carrying the paso with their shoulders. Most of the time there are around 60-70 people under a paso

So, let’s start with the basic question: what is Semana Santa? This festivity is an annual tribute towards the commemoration of Jesus Christ, Maria and other Christian religious people. Las Hermandades are doing processions through the streets carrying pasos with realistic scenes and images of life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. In total there are around 60 brotherhoods each with approximately 2000 members. They parade the pasos from their church to the cathedral and back. During the parade, in front of each brotherhood there’s a nazareno holding a large cross which is called “La Cruz de Guía”, which means in English, “the guide cross”. Behind this nazareno, you can see other nazarenos walking with candles recognizable by their outfits. These are woman, men and even children. Then there’s a paso being carried by costaleros underneath the structure. Sevilla and Cádiz are the only two cities who are still doing the processions traditionally. In other cities, they are using vehicles that are being pulled so there aren’t any people under the float. Then there are more nazareno’s from each Hermandad. When a paso passes through the street, people stay silent as respect.There’s also a band playing on their horns and drums which makes it really special during the silence. The last paso of a parade always ends with the Virgin Mary.

This year Holy Week was between 14th until 21th April. The pasos are since then being paraded from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, the Palm Sunday is called Domingo de Ramos and the last day, Easter Sunday is known as Domingo de Resurrección. But before the original start of Semana Santa, on Sunday, there are a few brotherhoods who are already doing processions on Friday of Sorrows and Saturday of Passion (el Viernes de Dolores y el Sábado de Pasión). The only difference is that they don’t go to the cathedral.

The most important procession is the night of Thursday until Friday morning. It is called La Madruga and is also one of the most emotional processions.  La Macarena, la Trianera and El Silencio are the popular ones.

For this celebration, visitors get guides with information about timetables, routes and pasos of every procession. Having one is necessary, because believe me… The streets are full of people and it’s not always easy to get somewhere, to see a paso or get to another place.

Also, during this week you can smell incense enormously; this smell always goes with the religious processions.

How did Semana Santa start? Well, if we go back to the origins it dates back to the Middle Ages where a few brotherhoods were living in chapels. In the 16th Century Sevillian brotherhoods, made a penance station to churches. In that time there was a beginning where Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara obliged the brotherhoods to perform penance to the cathedral while wearing tunics of coarse canvas. Through the years it was developed with capirotes and pasos.

In the 19th Century, during the French invasion, some problems appeared. For five years, brotherhoods didn’t come anymore to do processions which closed a lot of convents. In 1842, processions started to recover and brotherhoods returned to do the traditional yearly routine and today, it’s still done, more or less in the same way

Semana Santa in 2019 was again successful with crowed places and emotional processions. It was a busy season for all of us but we enjoyed every second of this beautiful celebration Though, the last few days of the celebration was a bit rainy.. it wasn’t a reason to stop celebrating it!

We hope you all had a great Holy Week! Or for the ones who took a break from the city: we hope you had a nice rest! See you next year.

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