Semana Santa in Seville
Seville, the capital of Andalucia, sits on the banks of the slow flowing Guadalquivir River. It has been influenced by the Roman’s and the Muslim’s, has gained a reputation for its architecture and culture, and was often visited as part of a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. But, in addition to that, it was also a popular destination for pilgrims who came to celebrate the Semana Santa – a religious festival celebrated in the week before Easter. Today, the biggest, and most respected of these events is still held in Seville.
In essence, the festivities of the Semana Santa involve marching processions of floats or pasos which carry a representation of the Virgin Mary and scenes from the Passion of Christ. These processions are acted out by members of the churches 55 brotherhoods, known as Nazarenos or penitents, who precede the floats dressed in penitential hooded robes. The processions, which each usually combine three brotherhoods, wind their way through the streets on a designated route from their church to the cathedral. The climax of the event is Maundy Thursday, when at midnight, the processions leave their churches and arrive at the cathedral at daybreak on Good Friday, known as the madrugá.
Each of the brotherhoods, some dating back to the 13th century, can total up to 2,500 Nazarenos. They wear their own colour and shape of garment much like a long robe, which helps distinguishes themselves from the other groups; they march either bare foot or wearing sandals. The hood, or capirote, of these habits can best be described as a pointy hat with fabric which covers the face of the person who wears it. Some of the Nazarenos march in silence; El Silencio is an example of this, whilst others are accompanied by bands that play short, passionate flamenco style hymns about the Passion and the Virgin’s sorrows, as the procession travels through the city.
The Nazarenos are followed by altar boys who carry burners which produce the smell of orange blossom and incense, filling the streets with rich smells. The altar boys are, in turn, are followed by the paso, the band, and then a number of penitents carrying wooden crosses.
Every day throughout the week processions leave their churches all over the city. Depending on the location of these churches, these processions can take anything from four to fourteen hours to reach the cathedral, snaking through the winding streets, past specially constructed viewing platforms. The processions attract an immense audience of spectators, and on the whole, they are watched in a respectful yet cheerful atmosphere, until the passing of the pasos, when it is customary to remain silent. It is also traditional to wear black throughout the week, and disrespectful, even for tourists, to wear shorts and t-shirts on the Thursday. In addition to the black suits and dresses, the women also wear what is known as La Mantilla, a black lace headdress, which is particularly beautiful.
These processions are not just for those who are religious; they are an amazing spectacle for everyone. But, spare a thought for the poor men who carry the floats for several hours. It’s heavy work, but no doubt they receive a well-earned drink at the end, which helps to make the job worthwhile.
But the Semana Santa is only one reason to visit Seville. The city’s architecture and history are here all year round and there is always something wonderful to experience. Here are just three of the city’s best sights.
The Cathedral of Seville. The cathedral is said to be the third largest in the world after Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, and as you would expect, it is extremely grand.
The large and elegant bell tower of La Giralda is a beautiful minaret tower, a landmark of the city, which was initially intended to be part of the chief mosque. The detail is simply stunning.
Finally, the Real Alcázar, a beautiful Moorish palace to rival the Alhambra in Granada. Here visitors can tour the chamber which Christopher Columbus used to prepare for his journey to the Americas.
There are many, many more incredible sites in Seville which the staff at Euroscape Travel would be more than happy to tell you more about; they can also advise on some of the best hotels for every budget.
View Euroscape Travel Esc, Seville Hotels Accommodation offers,
Euroscape Travel recommended hotels in Seville Tourist Class : Hotel Petit Palace Canalejas; First Class : Las Casas De La Juderia