Every year in spring Holy Week is celebrated in Spain to commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. This festival, which takes place in March or April, depending on the year, starts with Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, being one of the most important and most enjoyed on the calendar.
One of the best regions to experience Holy Week is Andalusia. This is due to the fact that Andalusians feel, in general, an authentic attachment to Holy Week, which they consider an essential part of their culture. Nowhere else in Spain is this religious tradition so important.
In addition to the religious importance of this celebration, Holy Week in Andalusia is a tourist and economic phenomenon for this land, reaching international fame. There are many national and foreign tourists who travel to Andalusia to enjoy this "Passion Week".
It is therefore not surprising that Holy Week in three Andalusian cities (Málaga, Seville and Granada) is classified as a Fiesta of International Tourist Interest of Spain. This distinction is granted in Spain by the Tourism General Secretariat of the Industry, Tourism and Commerce Ministry to festivals or events with cultural value and popular tradition, considering their ethnological characteristics and their importance as a tourist attraction.
Based on this criterion, the following describes what Holy Week is like in each of these destinations, Seville, Málaga and Granada, with its characteristics and singularities.
The southern capital not only hosts the most famous Holy Week in Andalusia and Spain, but for Sevillians there are few more important dates during the year. Many people consider Holy Week in Seville as the biggest festival in the city, even above the Feria de Abril (April Fair).
Every year, numerous processions belonging to more than seventy brotherhoods from all neighborhoods cross the streets of the historic centre of Seville, taking in procession the different steps of the Passion of Christ.
The Seville Cathedral is the final point in the official route of the steps in their career, which they access through the so-called Door of Saint Miguel and leave it through the Door of Sticks.
The official race is marked by the Seville Brotherhoods General Council. Sixty of them procession to the Seville Cathedral and the others procession two days before, on Friday of Sorrows and Saturday of Passion, without going through the cathedral.
The established theoretical order of passage of the brotherhoods through the official career is the inverse of their seniority, except in "La Madrugá" in which the direction is the opposite, although for reasons of organization and schedules they have been altered on some occasions. This order is determined, along with the itineraries, days before the celebration of the Greater Week in the Cabildo of Toma de Horas, in the Seville Cathedral itself, and which is attended by the Brotherhoods General Council and representatives of the brotherhoods.
These processions are accompanied by a processional cortege, which begins with the guiding cross, which is usually accompanied by a couple of Nazarenes with lanterns. After the guide cross, the procession of Nazarenes begins, who carry candles or crosses as penance. The sections of Nazarenes are interspersed with a set of insignia, the most common are the senatus, in memory of the Roman army that guarded Christ, the flags that accompany each step, which usually have passionate or Marian colors, the simpecado, in defense of the dogma of Immaculate Conception, the rule book and the banner. The procession of Nazarenes usually ends with the horns that announced the passage, with the presidency and, after this, the acolytes and the steps. Most of the sororities carry cornet and drum bands, musical ensembles incorporating trumpets and trombones, or full marching bands that include clarinets, saxophones, and other instruments. These are located behind the steps and interpret different processional marches.
The figure of the saeta should be highlighted in the celebration of Holy Week, a song with a religious theme that has its origin in Andalusian folklore and is performed without accompaniment. This couplet consists of several stanzas of 4 or 5 eight-syllable lines. It is usually sung in front of the images, either from the balconies or on the ground.
However, these characteristics are not exclusive to Holy Week in Seville, but they also occur in most places in Andalusia.
What does vary depending on where you decide to live Holy Week, is the size of the images and the way they are carried in procession. In the case of Seville, the sacred images are carried by people called costaleros. They are so called because they carry the weight with the neck, protecting it with a somewhat padded fabric called costal. Under the orders of a foreman, head of the costaleros, the steps are led through the streets of Seville.
Furthermore, the size and weight of Seville steps is less than that of the Málaga thrones, for example.
The most famous day of Holy Week in Seville is known as La Madrugá, which coincides every year with the night of Holy Thursday to Good Friday. Throughout the night, thousands of locals and visitors crowd the streets to enjoy La Madrugá of Seville, when the Virgin of the Macarena and the Virgin of the Expectation of Triana procession, which are by far the most anticipated religious steps they generate and more following and fervor awaken among the people.
Holy Week in Málaga is the second most important in Andalusia, after Seville, and is logically one of the Holy Week destinations preferred by the Spanish people.
Unlike Seville and other Andalusian places, Holy Week in Málaga stands out for its large and heavy steps, called thrones, so they need a large number of people to carry them and take them out in procession.
Those responsible for carrying the weight of religious figures during Holy Week in Málaga are known as men of the throne and they carry all the weight on their shoulders. These raise or lower the throne according to the acoustic orders indicated by the bell of the throne. This bell is rung by the steward of the throne. Two consecutive touches (of attention) and a slower one indicate the rise or fall of the throne. Three taps in a row and one more leisurely signal the freehand rise.
As in Seville, the foremen are the ones who give the orders in the advance of the throne and there are usually four foremen per throne, one in each corner.
As in other cities, in Málaga each processional procession is usually made up of two thrones, Christ and Virgin.
Something characteristic of Málaga is the escort of the processional images by the military and security bodies of the State, such as the Parachute Brigade, the Legion, the Navy, the Regulars, the Marines, the Local Police or the Civil Guard.
In Málaga, the place from which the penance season begins in the vast majority of brotherhoods is the Casa Hermandad (Brotherhood House), since the large dimensions that thrones are used to possess often make the exit from the temples unfeasible. This building, in addition to serving as a warehouse for all the artistic heritage of the brotherhood, also serves as a framework in which the life of the brotherhood takes place, and allows events such as concerts, presentations, conference cycles, etc. to be held.
As a consequence of this, what is known as Los Traslados is also typical of Málaga, processions in which generally a single throne of reduced dimensions is carried on which the two holders of the brotherhood go, and almost always a music band or similar. Their objective is to take the images of their temple to the Casa Hermandad, from where they will carry out the true processional exit. These usually start about a week before Palm Sunday.
The official route that all the brotherhoods and brotherhoods grouped in Málaga must do is managed during these dates by the Holy Week Brotherhoods Association of Málaga, which is also in charge of placing chairs and stands for spectators throughout the route, placing its tribune officer in the Constitution Square, where getting a pass to witness the passage of the processions is practically impossible. There is at the end of Carretería Street, at the confluence with the Saint Isabel Passageway, a staircase that at Holy Week becomes a natural platform to witness the processions of Málaga. Some images are awaited there with great enthusiasm and popular fervor, it is known as the Poor Tribune.
The most popular procession in Holy Week in Málaga is El Cautivo, recognizable by wearing a white tunic. It is the throne that carries the most promises and walks through the streets of Málaga on Holy Monday.
However, the following three days other processions take place that enjoy a lot of expectation in Málaga. On Holy Tuesday the Virgin of the Rocío, who is known as "The Bride of Málaga", comes out in procession. Holy Wednesday is the moment of Our Father Jesus "The Rich", whose characteristic is that with it they always pardon a prisoner. And on Maundy Thursday the Mena Christ takes place, the day when more people remain in the streets to enjoy the processions. This is because next to this Christ the Legion parades and the centre of Málaga is packed with people waiting for this military body to sing its famous hymn, "The boyfriend of death". If you make a getaway to enjoy Holy Week in Málaga, you cannot miss it.
The last Holy Week in Andalusia cataloged as a Fiesta of International Tourist Interest of Spain is Holy Week in Granada. This Holy Week gives off a special beauty and charm. It represents the Passion of Jesus Christ with sculptural groups that procession on steps through the streets of the city. Steps such as the Zaidinero Christ of the Labour or the Holy Lance captivate the senses of those present when they walk through such famous areas of Granada as the Albaicín or the Realejo.
The processional exit of a brotherhood in Granada receives the name of penance station. Currently, more than thirty brotherhoods participate, where more than two thousand bearers carry more than fifty processional steps, accompanied by more than five thousand brothers and waitresses, crossing the main streets of Granada every Holy Week. The Holy Week Brotherhoods Royal Federation in Granada is in charge of the organization and regulation, together with the Archdiocese of Granada, of the penance stations of the set of Passionist brotherhoods in the city.
In addition, during Holy Week in Granada the art of the steps is mixed with the historical past that the city emanates. The streets of the Albaicín, for example, so narrow and twisted with their typical cobblestones, serve as the stage for the Virgin of the Aurora or the Virgin of the Conception, who become almost human as they pass through the neighborhood. Also the passage of the Christ of Silence or the Christ of the Gypsies through the Carrera del Darro under the light of the moon and with the Alhambra de Granada illuminated behind is, without a doubt, a scene that will not leave you indifferent. To this must be added the enchantment of landscapes, such as the Sierra Nevada in the background.
In addition to the places specified above, in Andalusia there are other places to experience Holy Week that, although it does not have the distinction of a Fiesta of International Tourist Interest of Spain, is classified as a Fiestas of National Tourist Interest of Spain. In this group you will find Holy Week in Jerez de la Frontera, in the province of Cádiz; Cabra and Baena, in the province of Córdoba; and Riogordo, in the province of Málaga.
Meanwhile, with a distinction of Festival of National Tourist Interest of Andalusia, you will find Holy Week in Jaén, Úbeda, Baeza, Linares and Martos, in the province of Jaén; Córdoba, Puente Genil and Castro del Río, in the province of Córdoba; Arcos de la Frontera, San Fernando and Olvera, in the province of Cádiz; Almería and Huércal-Overa, in the province of Almería; Écija, Pilas, Estepa and Utrera, in the province of Seville; Álora, in the province of Málaga; Huelva, in the province of Huelva; and Loja, in the province of Granada.
In short, choose one destination or another, do not hesitate to enjoy Holy Week in Andalusia to make the most of the experience. And do not leave without savoring a rich and sweet torrija while you contemplate the steps or thrones of Holy Week.