from Beso de Judas
In 2015 Semana Santa will be the week of 19 March - 6 April. Semana Santa is Holy Week and Sevilla’s celebration
is likely the most famous in the world. Whether you are
religious or not there’s something to enjoy and I
guarantee you won't see anything like it anywhere else.
There are more than 55 church brotherhoods, some dating
as far back as the 13th century, which take part
in Semana Santa, carrying over 115 different floats, or pasos, through the streets of Sevilla. Nazarenos accompany the pasos in the march and in some cases
number more than 2,000 for certain processions - in this
case you may have to wait an hour to see the actual float.
Marching bands play music - la marcha procesiónal - which influences the pace and action of the pasos.
Some processions, such as El Silencio, march in
silence and without music. Almost every procession includes
an image of Christ - different depending on what scene in
the bible it depicts - as well as an image of the Virgin
Mary, always in mourning for the death of Christ. The images
of the Virgin are often the most anticipated for their subtle
differences - from facial expressions and characteristics,
to tears or other details in the paso. The paso from the Macarena is perhaps one of the most famous imagenes of the Virgin Mary.
solo during a procession
Semana Santa for many means more than the processions in
the streets. It marks the arrival of spring in Sevilla with
a week long celebration that fills the streets, churches,
bars and restaurants. It's moving your way around the center
of the city and through the crowd in search of the best
spot to catch a procession or float, all the while testing
your knowledge of the winding streets of Sevilla. Semana
Santa is la madrugá, when you "leave
for the day" around 10:30pm and spend the entire night
and morning following the action. It's a mixture of smells:
orange blossoms or azahar, incense, candle wax
and cheap cologne of the person standing on your foot because
there's no room to spare. Semana Santa is torrijas,
wine, beer and the bocadillo in some bar you swore
you'd never go to until you were dying of hunger. It's valuing
the comfort of a good pair of shoes you put on 10 hours
ago. Semana Santa is exercising restraint as you keep from
pushing over that mean old woman next to you who just took
your space. If you live in the center Semana Santa is hearing
the drum beat of a processional march at almost any hour
as it makes it's way down your street. And for weeks after
who can forget the sound of cars screeching in the streets
as their tires run over candle wax left by the nazarenos.
Polish up those Spanish skills, below is a quick guide
to Semana Santa vocabulary.
||hood worn by some members of the
procession - penitentes wear just the antifaz,
while nazarenos wear the antifaz and
|banda de música
||the band that accompanies
all of the processions except for the silent ones.
||the crowd - amassing quickly and
moving onto the next paso or procession.
|| the person who directs the costaleros carrying the float, or paso. You will often hear him giving directions or encouragement as he directs the costaleros around corners, or just before they lift the float.
||the pointed or cone shaped hood
worn by the nazarenos, symbolizing repentance
|| generally a larger fellow wearing
a thick belt and what almost looks like a turban on
his head, who is hidden below with others to help carry
the paso. There are more costaleros than will fit beneath the float, and at certain times
they will change to give others a rest.
||members of the processions carrying
silver staffs with candles, dressed like priests. While waiting for a float, many will keep their eye out for the ciriales to indicate the float is coming up.
|| very long candles carried by nazarenos during the procession
||same as hermandad - best
described as a brotherhood, or members of a church who
are part of the procession.
||Christ, as in one of the imagenes in a procession.
|cruz de guía
|| the cross carried at the front,
leading the entire procession of Nazarenos. While waiting for a procession to begin, many will keep their eye out for the cruz de guia, indicating the beginning of the procession.
||the entrance of a procession in
a church (the end of the procession)
||best described as a brotherhood,
or members of a church who are part of the procession.
|| members of the hermandad
||sculpture, most typically of Christ
or the Virgin Mary but also including other figures
in the paso which represent scenes from the
||incense, most often burned in metal
containers (incensarios) which hang by a rope
or chain and swung about to move the scent.
||beginning on late Thursday night/Friday
morning, the series of processions which run all through
the night until the next morning. This is one of the
most popular nights of Semana Santa
||flowing, intricately embroidered
gown covering the back of the image of the Virgin Mary
|| music played/dedicated to a special cofradia or specific virgin – La Amargura,
Virgen del Valle, Pasa la Macarena, El Rocio, La Saeta,
la madruga’ are some – certain processions
will use the marcha of another.
||children dresses like ciriales (priests) who hand out candy
member of the hermandad, who dresses in a robe
and cone shaped hood to hide his or her identity. Some nazarenos from particular processions are prohibited
from speaking with anyone once dressed in their gown
and cap. Colors of robes and hoods depend on the procession.
|| the canopy on a paso covering the image of the Virgin Mary, supported by
poles, or varales.
||float with the Virgin Mary or Christ,
the main attraction of a procesión decorated
with candles and flowers and at times depicting scenes
from the bible.
|| a member of the procession - nazareno without the capirote - repenting of their
sins carrying one or more crosses over shoulder. Some
have up to 4 crosses depending on the amount of
repenting, and many walk barefoot through the streets.
procession - the people associated with the paso and hermandad taking part in the parade.
|| A serenade sung by one person
to the imagen of the Virgin Mary. The paso will stop during the singing. The polite thing to do is be quiet during the singing.
|| the exit of a procession from
a church (the start of the procession)
|| a tunic, or robe worn by the nazarenos (white in the photo to the right).
|| like french toast, prepared with
honey, eggs and white wine. A typical food prepared
during Semana Santa. I'll fight anyone who thinks they have a better recipe than my mother-in-law ;)
||silver and/or gold poles supporting
the canopy, or palio, which covers the image
of the Virgin Mary in a paso.
|| The Virgin Mary, as in one of
the imagenes in a procession.
So how would we practice this vocabulary and put it into
context? It takes some work to learn it all, but here is
my attempt to gather it in one story:
It was La Madrugá and the hermanos who
made up the hermandad gathered in the church around 11pm before the salida of the procesión. Nazarenos were already
dressed, each with a túnica, capirote and antifaz,
while the penitentes made sure they had their crosses to carry. The costaleros hiding beneath the paso,
awaited the orders from the capataz to lift and move towards the doors of the church. Great
care was taken to make sure the imagenes in each pasowere perfect
in every respect, with last second adjustments to the manto of the image of the virgen being made. The nazarenos gathered their long cirios in preparation to leave. First out of the door was
of course the cruz de guia,
followed by the ciriales with their silver staffs and candles lit. Outside awaiting
them all was la bulla, as
people had been gathering for hours to see the procesión.
The first pasoto leave
the church was the image of cristo,
and upon successfully exiting the banda
de música struck the first chord of the marcha procesiónal,
greeted by cheers and clapping from the crowd. The second pasoto leave was the imagen of the virgen,
and the costaleros took great care that the palio,
held up by several varales,
fit beneath the doorway. After the success of the salida the procesión made it's way down the streets of Barrio Santa Cruz, where
some 10 minutes later the costaleros carrying the virgen rested under the orders of
the capataz. A man
in the crowd began a saeta,
singing with much passion. A little monaguillo who had been passing out candy stopped and began to cry
as the smell of incienso burning was too much for
his taste. He longed for the entrada, marking the end of the procesión,
so he could go home and eat the torrijas his mother had prepared the day before.
Some rules, customs and things to watch for – while
it’s Holy Week some people are quite serious about Semana
If people are on the edge of the curb waiting to see procession
you should not arrive after them and then try to stand in
front of them. They got there first and it’s custom
to get behind them on the sidewalk if there is room. If you
try to stay in front you will be told – rudely or
otherwise – to move. If you try to get behind them
and there is no room don’t be surprised if the people
refuse to let you through. (To those awful American girls
I saw last year who arrived late, placed themselves in
front of others who had been there for hours, then refused
to move, cursed at these people and then laughed about
it – I say thanks for being such fine representatives
of our country. As a reward I include your picture here)
As well, the curb marks the boundary of where you should
be and if you’re in the street you may be moved
out of the way as the procession goes by. Spots higher
up – some stairs, a trash
container, whatever it may be – are often prized so
you can get a view over others.
While it is now becoming less common there are still many
nazarenos and penitentes that walk the entire
procession wearing no shoes. If you’re drinking from
a glass bottle be careful where you leave it (try and throw
it away properly!) and of course try never to break a glass
or bottle in the street where a paso will go by. Smokers don't
throw out your butts in the street while they're walking by!
Crowds and pushing
Do be ready for some of the biggest crowds you've ever seen
as well as some pushing. It's often an exercise in
patience to get through a narrow street and people with
baby strollers are often seen lifting them over their heads
to get through in the tightest spots. You'll also see people
who insist on moving through an already packed crowd to get
closer to the action. I’ve left a few places because
it became intolerable. Also be prepared for people who will
not let you pass. It drives me crazy sometimes if I really
need to get by, but I may be the 100th person who has pushed
by them and they just can’t take it anymore. I have
to sympathize with them there.
I don’t, at least not that much, but you will see some
people extremely well dressed during Semana Santa. Palm Sunday
(Domingo de Ramos) and Thursday, Friday (Jueves/Viernes
Santo – during the day you'll see them dressed
their best. For La madrugá people wear comfortable
clothing, shoes, and a coat in case it gets cold. This is
dressing down for Semana Santa. And while I can’t for
the life of me understand why they wear them, I must say I
admire the women in high heels if only because they stand
for 12 hours in the cobble-stone streets of the center. Thursday
and Friday during the day you’ll see some women dressed
in black and with mantillas in mourning of the death
of Jesus. In the morning you'll see these women go to church
to visit the pasos that will go out that day.
Silence and light
The crowds will often hush others (try to follow them) with
the arrival of a paso.
Certain processions such as El Silencio, might
clue you in. Do try and respect the silence. Street, store
front and apartment lights are also turned off for several
processions. One of my favorite’s is the salida for
El Silencio where both the silence and the lights
out rule apply. It is very spooky and seems to turn back he
clock to older days. The nazarenos in these processions
are also forbidden to talk with anyone once dressed.
It is strictly prohibited to take any pictures of any of
the processions – JUST KIDDING! Snap away like everyone
Tourists, crowds with people squeezing by, lots of cameras
and of course money for the day in the street, all make Semana
Santa an ideal place for pickpockets and the like. While I’ve
never had a problem, many do – keep your belongings
close to yourself and never take your eye off them.
Pasos like La Macarena, Gran Poder, Los Gitanos,
La Trianera, have a lot of
nazarenos – sometimes thousands - be prepared
to wait to see the paso.
Getting across on Sierpes is controlled at certain points
where they will let you through every 5 minutes in groups.
There are maybe three streets – Calle Cerrajeria/Rioja
and Calle Granada are two - where you can pass.
Seems obvious, but don’t touch the pasos as
they pass by – it’s not El Rocio! I still see
many do it and there is little said to them.
Weather is monitored by radio if it looks like rain, with
everyone listening in to see if a procession will leave that
day or not. Rain = no Semana Santa! Some processions may risk
it, then look for refuge in other parts if it starts to rain
a little. The imagenes and other items carried during
the processions are quite old and can quickly damage with
even a little water. If a procession does not leave it is
quite common to see people involved with it crying. This something
very important to them – they practiced or planned all
year and then not to leave is a true disappointment.
Areas where you certainly don’t want to be if you’re
trying to see a procession – unless you’re a
lucky person who has purchased seats – include Calle
Sierpes, La Campana, Plaza San Francisco, Avda Constitución
near the Cathedral, and Plaza Virgen de los Reyes. These
are areas with reserved seating and getting a good view
is difficult. The most expensive seats are in Plaza San
Francisco, while “cheaper” seats are typically
in some seats in La Campana and the Plaza Virgen de los
Reyes. These areas either have bleachers erected or seats
lined up along the street. This said I did have some good
luck in 2004 behind the reserved seating in Plaza del Duque.
We were able to get to the front to see several processions
as they made their way to La Campana.
the best path before the crowd takes over
Planning your route may be one of the most important parts
of the day. What seems like a 10 minute walk can become
45 minutes so give yourself plenty of time to get from place
to place. The salidas and entradas can
be some of the most crowded parts of a procession’s
route through the city, and as mentioned above you may need
to get to some places an hour ahead of time to get a good
spot. You’ll need a map as well as a daily schedule
of the processions, which list approximate times when you
can see them at a particular point.
Some of the busiest days include Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) where you'll likely see the most people in
the streets. La madrugá is also another
favorite - an all night event beginning around 12:30 am.
Thus on Jueves and Viernes Santo you may see less
people as most are preparing or recovering from the madrugá.
A basic breakdown of the processions by day. There is a
much more structured schedule which includes the entrada
and salida for each procession as well as when you can expect
them at certain locations. You will definitely need one
of the detailed schedules to be able to see the processions
and plan your way around the city. For a complete and detailed
schedule Canal Sur's El Llamador proves to be one
of the best. You can download the pdf version here. Again, you need to find a print version and
take it with you when during the day - this helps you see
the most as well as avoid congestion points on your way
home when retiring for the day. There is an online version in pdf, and new for 2010 is a downloadable version for your mobile phone! This same version will be available via bluetooth in 3 locations during the week: Plaza del Duque (near La Campana), Plaza Nueva (near the giant TV screen), and Calle Imagen (corner with Santa Adela).
Domingo de Ramos
||El Buen Fin
||Penas San Vicente
||Cristo de Burgos
||Soledad (San Buen.)
||Soledad (San Lorenzo)
||Esperanza de Triana
Domingo de Resureccion
I'll keep it short, but everyone has a story or two from
Semana Santa. Friends who have taken part in a procession
are the best source. Ciriales at the end of a procession
who were not seen by the crowd were cut off from their procession
and had to make their way around the streets to catch up
with everyone. A playful individual who chose to swing the
silver container of incense around until ashes flew out
and caught another's robe on fire. Another incident with
incense in which too much was heaped on the pile until the costaleros and other members of the paso either
couldn't see or were inhaling too much smoke to continue.
An older priest on Good Friday who couldn't make the entire
procession and had to "go home" was later spotted
drinking a beer and eating meat in a local bar. The the
list goes on and on.
Just a few years ago there was a series of incidents during
Semana Santa where people began to panic and push to get
out of the way. Processions, nazarenos and everyone
scrambled for safety, but it seems nobody is still sure
what actually happened. Some claim a role playing game during
the week which included fake pistols put a scare into the
crowds. Either way it was dangerous as people in a packed
crowd running for cover creates a situation where someone
could be hurt. Don't count on this or think or it as a normal
occurrence, it's just another story you might hear.
I had less of an interview with a nazareno than
I would have liked to. I did get some details on what one
needs to do to become a nazareno and although not
common there have been a few guiris from time to
time who have participated. Basically you will need to register
and pay a fee at the offices of the hermandad to
participate. After doing so it is fairly up to the you on
how much you want to attend meetings and/or mass at the
church. One can easily pay the fee and maybe show up at
one obligatory meeting during the year. There is much less
organization to the participation of a nazareno than there is to be a costalero or a member of
the marching band, both which require much more practice.
As a nazareno you will be responsible for purchasing
your own clothing and cirio for your march. Then
simply show up dressed about 30 minutes to an
hour before the salida and you will receive instructions.
Members of processions like El Silencio where the
nazarenos cannot speak means instructions and communication
will be done with hand signals and gestures.
Finally choosing which hermandad also means choosing
the length you want to be in the street. A few will last
only six to seven hours, while one or two of the processions
involve a twelve to thirteen hour march! The number of nazarenos will depend on how many have joined each year, but as mentioned
above some like the Macarena include over 3,000 nazarenos,
meaning it will be hard for their family members to pick
them out of the crowd. I am still amazed at my girlfriend's
ability to identify her brother in the processions, but
he seems to have the family "walk".
Most of these are links to pages in Spanish:
You can check out some Semana Santa photos below for 2003,
2004 and 2005. You may think Semana Santa begins on Domingo
de Ramos, but weeks before you can get a taste of what's
to come as you will see in the Semana Santa preparations