Tuesday 7 April 2015

Semana Santa in Seville

I AM MIGRATING like a cute little Canadian goose, to www.blollings.wordpress.com - please visit there for new posts A-THANK-YOU, Saz xxx
Nazarenos during Semana Santa marching with the Giralda in the background
Spring is fully under way in Seville, which means the streets are full of  trees in blossom and it smells INCREDIBLE!! The scents of Seville... from incense in Christmas to oranges in February to azahar orange blossom now... I've never know a city smell so great! Last week was Semana Santa (Holy Week), one of the most important and hotly anticipated weeks in Seville. People have been talking about it since I arrived in October, so I was very excited, even though nearly every person I know from Seville told me to "GET OUT DURING HOLY WEEK! ITS AWFUL!" It coincided with the visit from my parents so we went to have a look together. I got some great photos during Palm Sunday so thought I'd share them as well as some information about Semana Santa in Seville as its very interesting!

"Why are there pictures of you with the KKK on Facebook?" - FAQs that arise during Semana Santa

One of the most shocking things for anybody who visits Seville is to see tourist shops selling little models and photos of people dressed like the KKK... it certainly gives you the spooks when you first see them. But the models aren't the KKK, they are of church brotherhoods from the many parishes in Seville. Their outfits actually outdate the KKK by about 500 years.

A common sight in the streets during Semana Santa... Nazarenos walking briskly towards their processions

So what's it all about?
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and all the locals went mad for him), follows onto Maundy Thursday/Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified on the cross, and finishes on Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Jesus. Its therefore like the most important celebration for Catholics.

During Semana Santa in Seville there are about 70 cofradias (church brotherhoods) who process from their church to the Cathedral and back again. The procession is centred around floats with the church's paso, a statue depicting one of the sections of The Passion (the story of holy week), and the church's virgen. These statues are incredibly elaborate, covered in gold or silver, and carried on the shoulders of men through the streets. Along with the floats go the nazarenos, who wear robes and hoods in the colours of their church/cofradia. Some of the cofradias have existed since the middle ages, while we saw some that had only been set up in the last decade or so.

Churches open there doors in the weeks surrounding Semana Santa so you can visit them and pay your respects to the models!


A close up of one of the virgens' floats. COVERED in silver! Definitely one of those "if you sold all this silver maybe you could feed the world's poor..." situations

The reason they wear hoods (capirotes) is because it is a procession of penitence, and therefore those marching are supposedly confessed sinners and the hoods retain their anonymity. To be honest I saw quite a few of these hooded figures lifting up the hoods so they could scratch their faces or eat a doughnut: its clearly more about tradition than remaining anonymous. Also its quite an honour to wear the outfit so I'm not sure people are that anonymous about it anyway.

Seeing as its such a privilege I was expecting their to only be a few nazarenos in each procession. Well I was proved wrong when we saw the first procession of the week and there were about 1500 people processing, taking them 90 minutes to get anywhere! We were also worried about even finding the processions but it turns out its kind of hard to miss them! We tried to stand in the shade as we watched them go past as it was boiling hot. As I said to my mother, I said, you could not pay me enough money to make me do that procession in those cloaks. Presumably you don't get rewarded with money but with endless heavenly paradises, but under those hoods it must be as hot as HELL!

These processions happen across Andalucia; there are quite big ones in Malaga too. Additionally across the province of Sevilla many churches and parishes have their own virgens that they adore. My colleague explained to me its like loyalty to a football team: people totally love their virgens, and there's a lot of rivalry between them. He said old women will often argue "no my virgen is more beautiful than yours!". In a town near Seville called Alcala, he said that there's a fierce rivalry. One church's colour is green and the other purple, and you can never wear the colour of the other church's virgen. Like, never. Ever. If you marry someone who's of the opposing virgen, that's fine, but and baby boys will be of the father's virgen and girls of the mother's!

I was expecting the processions to be very solemn, but actually the ones we saw were reasonably relaxed. It was also, like, SO HOT. Apparently it usually rains during Semana Santa but this week it was unusually sunny so everybody was very excited and it was very busy.


The paso, depicting a part of the story of holy week

Nazarenos of all ages... enjoying snacks

Having a rest. 

It was nearing 30 degrees last week, I don't know how they kept marching for so long. They certainly looked tired, especially the children. 

Some of them had hoods that were less erect.... I think the guys carrying the giant black crosses were the scariest

The virgen was at the back of the procession

Underneath are a group of men carrying her on their shoulders. We saw them taking breaks and some had massive sores on the back of their necks from the weight. All that silver is HEAVY!

I did enjoy seeing these peculiar processions and it's always nice to see a place upholding traditions like this. But it was hot and there were a lot of people ... if you are staying in Seville I'd recommend seeing some of the processions and then perhaps escaping Seville for a few days of Holy Week. We went to Portugal!

And I know you want one so here is a pic of the KKK from Django:

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