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The Holy Week processions, with all their particular characteristics and intrinsic beauty, take place every day as from Palm Sunday, culminating with the glory of the Resurrection and the joy of Easter.
An atmosphere of mourning and devotion is succeeded by a day full of light and colour and the sound of bells pealing from the gables and towers of our cathedrals, churches and hermitages.
From South to North, from the world known Seville´s Semana Santa, the one in Malaga and in Granada as the most representatives in the south of Spain, we will aslo recommend you to visit the Processions in Old Castile, northern Madrid, in which some of the most popular ones, are the ones in Valladolid and Zamora.
Also we can not forget to mention the Rocio Pilgrimage which happens near Seville every year and the Corpus Christi in Toledo, near Madrid.
Andalusia celebrates its festivals with passion and abandonment. Seville, as the region’s capital, hosts some of the most important events. When the orange trees begin to blossom, Seville decks itself out for its famous Semana Santa (Easter Week) and Feria de Abril (April Fair).
The city’s most famous celebration, Semana Santa was begun in the 14th century. In the 17th century it assumed the traits which it maintains today, coinciding with the golden age of Sevillian religious images. This is the period of the creation of Jesús del Gran Poder, La Macarena, and the Christ of Cachorro, pivotal images of the processions.
Semana Santa in Seville spans the 7 days of Easter, with the staging of daily processions, as well as the 40 days of Lent, necessary for the preparations. The celebration lasts from Palm Sunday to Easter day and includes the participation of 57 brotherhoods.
Holy Week has been officially declared a “Holiday of Interest to the Tourist” and is one of Granada’s best festivities, attracting more and more visitors each year with increasing displays of popular fervor. On Wednesday of Holy Week, there is a procession held called “Christ of the Gypsies” or “Christ of Sacromonte”. Other processions of interest are: the Procession of Silence held at midnight on Thursday of Holy Week, departing from the Church of San Pedro on the Carrera del Darro, and Procession of Las Angustias on Saturday of Holy Week.
Other religious festivals in Granada:
- May 3rd is the Festival of Crosses, a very popular celebration. Crosses made of flowers are placed in the streets, while courtyards of the houses are also adorned.
- Between May and June, the Corpus Christi Fair, the biggest festival in the city, is celebrated. Typical Andalusian dress is worn, horse–drawn carriages are used, and there is dancing at the stalls of the fair. Bullfights are also held.
- The last Sunday in September is the Festival of the Virgen de las Angustias, patron saint of the city. Open–air dances, bullfights and processions are held.
The Easter Week, a very solemn event in the capital which dates from the 15th century – the beautiful stages of the Passion of Christ (wooden figures by Pedro de Mena and Benlliure, among others) and the baroque ornamentation of the processional ‘thrones’ make it one of the most attractive Easter weeks in Spain.
The unforgettable Holy Week of Valladolid is officially classified as of interest to international tourism. Its processions, especially those of Good Friday with their great variety of images, pass through the streets amidst a silence only broken by the mournful roll of drums.
On Maundy Thursday, a procession of 16C and 17C polychrome wooden figures on platforms passes through the town and also through typical La Rúa Street.
Easter Week is witness to various processions: the most famous of these is the Silent Procession on Good Friday Night, in which a 13th century carved figure of Christ is borne through Toledo’s narrow streets amidst an awe-inspiring silence. From Wednesday evening until Friday evening, all the city’s churches remain open, including those which by virtue of belonging to convents or having fallen into disuse, are otherwise closed to visitors.
Besides Valladolid, there are other important processions during the week in Avila, Segovia, Burgos and Zamora.
Corpus Chirsti in Toledo (May / June)
Toledo’s most important celebration is held to mark Corpus Christi (which falls on the Sunday of the ninth week after Easter). Forming part of a time-honoured tradition that goes back eight hundred years, there is a religious procession that starts at the Cathedral and, adorned with tapestries, describes a route along the main thoroughfares of the city to eventually return to its original point of departure. It is the only day in the year when the monumental silver-gilt monstrance, made by the Gothic silver- and goldsmith, Enrique de Arfe, and normally displayed in the Cathedral Museum, is taken out and paraded through the town. Lending colour to the solemnity of the procession are the uniforms, habits and gowns of the different military orders, guilds and brotherhoods. Faithful to age-old custom, many streets along the route are roofed over with white awnings, whilst the ground beneath is carpeted with flowers and fragrant herbs. In the evening of Corpus Christi it is customary for a traditional bullfight to be held.
The Pilgrimage to El Rocio (May / June)
A lot of people go on a pilgrimage to El Rocio. Those who believe in heaven and those who don’t. A few hours after starting along the paths of Lower Andalusia, a unique form of relation is established. Differences disappear. Hearts open. This is the miracle of El Rocío.
The Virgen has been venerated at this isolated site for over 800 years, and since 1758 the Romeria Del Rocio has been celebrated on Whitsuntide, the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday. There are really two parts to this celebration, the festival in Almonte and the actual pilgrimage that starts several days before.
Hundreds of “brotherhoods” from the surrounding villages and towns organize the processions that all end up in Almonte. Travelers (or “romeros”) come from all over Andalucia on foot, on horseback or by oxcart. No motorized vehicles are allowed. Most of these pilgrims wear the traditional garb, women in bright gypsy-inspired flamenco dresses and men in the unique wide-brimmed “bolero” hats and short-cropped jackets associated with Andalusia. As they get closer to Almonte, the pilgrims camp out in the fields and forests of the surrounding Donana National Park.
All the romeros arrive in the village of Almonte on today before dawn, and then the festivities really kick into gear. Accompanied by tambourines, flutes and guitars, the entire group strolls across the broad plains to the El Rocio shrine in the nearby marshes. A large silver shrine that contains an effigy of the Virgen is carried along by Almonte’s elite “Hermandad Matriz” brotherhood. The sound of firecrackers fills the air as the crowds cry “Viva la Reina de la Marisma” (“Long live the Queen of the Marshes”). Once everyone arrives at the shrine, mass is recited and the Virgen is paraded around the dusty fields for several more hours.