Friday, June 20, 2014

Seville: Holy Week

Our spring break trip to Spain fell right in the middle of Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Holy Week isn't a very big thing in the US but we realized immediately how important it is in Spain. (Side note: It might just be me but this blog post is a bit all over the place, sorry!)

Seville is filled with tiny streets upon which no cars are allowed. On top of that, many of the streets were blocked off for cars due to the many processions occurring throughout the week.  Therefore, we were greeted by a few members of the hotel staff a few blocks from our hotel. They led the way through the crowded streets, as we all lugged our bags and tried our best to keep up, all the while trying not to bump anyone with our suitcases.

One of the main procession routes is just in front of our hotel so we had to wait a few minutes until there was a break in the procession and we were allowed to pass.  Watching these processions was a huge cross-cultural experience. The members of the brotherhood wear penitential robes, something I hadn't heard of before but originated at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

Penitential robes are long robes and a tall, pointed mask/hat, called a capirote, that make it impossible for anyone to know the identity of the person behind the mask. Although they can be colors other than white and have a much older history, they are reminiscent of the costumes worn by the KKK, which made them a freaky sight to see. They are associated with penance because they were used when people would have to declare their sins in public so that those to whom the sin was being declared wouldn't know the person behind it and would only focus on the grave sin. I believe today they symbolize the fact that we are all sinners and that only God knows our true identities behind the sins we commit, however, I'm not entirely clear on the traditions.

The first procession we saw while walking to our hotel.
The processions consist of hundreds to thousands of people from various brotherhoods of churches in Seville and it's surrounding areas. They march from their smaller churches to the main cathedral and back every day during Holy Week. There were certain times during the day that the main cathedral was closed, however, we were able to go inside at one point and watch one of the processions go through the cathedral.

It doesn't show as well on camera but the angle made the light shine in the shape of a cross.

We didn't realize how large an impact the processions would have on our trip, mainly because we didn't know that the biggest Holy Week celebration was in Seville. It seemed as if the processions were everywhere we went and we couldn't escape them. While at times it could be frustrating from a navigation standpoint, for the most part it was entertaining and extremely cool to be immersed (literally) in another culture.

Even well into the night, past midnight, the street was full of families and friends celebrating the holiday.
Along with the members of each brotherhood dressed in their penitential robes, there are enormous floats, belonging to each brotherhood, that are carried along the procession route. Each float depicts a scene from the week leading up to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. There are scenes depicting Jesus carrying the cross, being sentenced, and, the most prominent one, Mary grieving the loss of her son. They are extremely elaborate and each church/brotherhood has their own style. These floats are extremely beautiful and hundreds of years old. Their beauty rendered me speechless several times. They weigh an absolute ton and a group of men must carry them from their home church to the cathedral and back each day, I can't even imagine the strength it takes to do that.

A float depicting Jesus carrying the cross sits in the cathedral for visitors to look at.
Another tradition that I absolutely loved was that of the women's attire. Not everyone partook and I'm not sure if there are certain requirements for who must dress that way or not, nonetheless, it was one of my favorite things I saw. Women all over Seville were dressed in all black dresses and shoes, and wore a black lace veil over a beautiful, tall comb called a Peineta. There were women of all ages, from tiny little girls to graceful older women, wearing this traditional dress, called the Mantilla. I loved it because every woman gave it her own personal touch in her dress, shoes, and the comb she chose, but they were still all connected in holding up this tradition.

This float brought me to tears, the woman, dressed in the Mantilla, praying to Mary, added to the power of the moment.

Due to the importance and large presence of the processions, our nights would always lead to us finding a restaurant or square to sit and observe the procession and enjoy the Spanish culture.  The Spanish stay up very late so the celebrations would continue well past midnight. There was so much activity throughout the entire city but it was calm and joyful because the streets were full of families. The weather was beautiful in Seville so sitting outside and watching the processions while talking with my friends soon became my favorite part of the trip.

Many of the members of the procession carried large candles.

An empty procession route covered in multicolored candle wax from the various brotherhoods.

No comments:

Post a Comment