Easter wrongly assimilated to the holy week, is actually a major catholic event in the south of Andalusia. As well you can see it as another deep cultural event in Andalusia and not so much as a catholic event.
Holy Week in Spain is the annual tribute of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods (Spanish: cofradía) and fraternities that perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter.
It is one of the city’s two biggest annual festivals, the other being the Feria, which follows weeks later. It is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter (Holy Week among Christians), and features the procession of pasos, floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of individual scenes of sorrowfull Mysteries of the Rosary, or images of the grieving Virgin Mary.
Some of the sculptures are of great antiquity and are considered artistic masterpieces, as well as being culturally and spiritually important to the local Catholic population.
This is a proper definition, but beyond that, it is a family event. During this week, you will see entire family (4 / 5 generations) going out altogether, as well group of friends. It is a joyful event where people go in the street together, have drinks, dinner.
This week the holy week takes place from the 14th of April to the 21st of April. We’ll update this page around the beginning of April to give you the complete schedule of the processions and their paths in the historical center.
There are up to three pasos in each procession. The pasos dedicated to Jesus use figures of wood, wax, and wire to depict scenes from the Passion, and are usually covered in gold. The pasos dedicated to the Virgin Mary are usually covered in silver, and depict Mary weeping for her Son and sometimes holding Him in her arms.[
The processions are organized by hermandades and cofradías, religious brotherhoods. Members precede the pasos dressed in penitential robes with capirotes, tall, pointed hoods with eye-holes. The capirotes were designed so the faithful could repent in anonymity, without being recognised as self-confessed sinners.
Cofradias (church brotherhoods) take part, each with their own image, as well as colourful misterios (tableaux of bible scenes), on elaborately-decorated pasos (floats). They may be accompanied by brass bands. The processions follow a designated route from their homes, churches and chapels to the Cathedral, usually via a central viewing area and back. The ones from the suburban barrios may take 14 hours to return to their home churches.
The processions continue from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday morning. The climax of the week is the night of Holy Thursday, when the processions set out to arrive at the Cathedral on the dawn of Good Friday, known as the madrugá.
The core events in Semana Santa are the processions of the brotherhoods, known as estación de penitencia (stations of penance), from their home church or chapel to the Cathedral and back. The last section before arriving to the Cathedral is common to all brotherhoods and is called the Carrera Oficial.
The standard structure of a procession is:
This structure repeats itself depending of the number of pasos (up to three). Usually the last paso is not followed by penitentes, and the procession should be closed -presided- by the titular chaplain in full processional vestments known as el preste
Although this is the standard structure, depending on the traditions of each brotherhood, details (and even the plan) may vary.
A procession can be made up from a few hundred to thousand Nazarenos and last anywhere from 4 to 14 hours, depending how far the home church is from the Cathedral. The largest processions can take over an hour and a half to cross one particular spot
At the centre of each procession are the pasos, an image or set of images set atop a moveable float of wood.
The structure of the paso is richly carved and decorated with fabric, flowers and candles. As of 2007, all but one of the dolorosas are covered by an ornate canopy or baldachin (palio) attached to the structure.
The sculptures themselves are carved and painted, and often lifesize or larger. The oldest surviving were carved in the 16th century, though new images continue to be added.
Overseer giving orders to the costaleros.
A distinctive feature of Semana Santa is the style of marching of the pasos. A team of men, the costaleros (literally “sack men”, for their distinctive – and functional – headdress), supporting the beams upon their shoulders and necks, lift, move and lower the paso. As they are all inside the structure and hidden from the external view by a curtain, the paso seems to move by itself. On the outside an overseer (capataz), guides the team by voice, and/or through a ceremonial hammer el llamador (caller) attached to the paso.
Depending on weight (most weigh over a metric tonne), a paso requires between twenty-four and fifty-four costaleros to move. Each brotherhood has a distinctive way to raise and move a paso, and even each paso within the procession
You will find in the following pages the complete details of every single day of the holy week. This includes the timetable of every procession, its pathway in Jerez, the hermandad in charge, the beginning and end church…
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