The procesiones de Semana Santa, Sevilla’s most important traditional events, happen once a year and it’s part of the cultural legacy of the city. It is definitely one of the most important events and probably one of the world’s most impressive spectacles.
In Seville, Holy Week celebrations are based on the passion and death of Jesus Christ. In order to do so, different brotherhoods organize procesiones throughout the city exhibiting pasos. The pasos represent individual scenes of Christ’s Passion as well as images of the Virgin Mary grieving for the suffering and killing of her son.
The processions are also known as an estación de penitencia (station of penance) and they work along a designated route from their home church or chapel to the Seville Cathedral and back. This route must be the shortest possible one.
The last section before arriving to the Cathedral is common to all brotherhoods and is called the Carrera Oficial (Official Path). This course begins at a square popularly known as the Campana (Bell) and then continues along Sierpes street, Plaza San Francisco, and finally Avenida de la Constitución, before reaching the Cathedral.
Once there, the procession marches through one door, receives a blessing from the archbishop, and marches out a door on the other side to return home to its parish.
How Is The Marching Order Of A Procession?
Therefore, every procession has the same structure.
It is generally formed by the following elements/people:
- A great cross (called Cruz de Guia or Guiding Cross) is carried at the beginning of each procession to open the way.
- Then come the nazarenos who are members of the brotherhood dressing in a robe, a capirote to hide his or her identity, and sometimes a cape. Colors of robes and capirotes depend on the brotherhoods.
- The diputados de tramo move between the lines to keep the formations organized.
- A group of altar boys, dressed like priests and carrying either chandeliers or incense, and other servants.
- The paso.
- A musical band follows or precedes the paso. However, some brotherhoods go in procession in silence.
- A number of penitents, carrying wooden crosses to make public penance. They wear the habit and the hood of the brotherhood, although their hood is not pointed.
Are All The Processions Identical?
The structure described above repeats itself depending of the number of pasos, which can be two or three. Note that the last paso is not followed by penitents. Finally, the procession should be closed -presided- by the titular chaplain in full processional vestments known as the preste.
Although this is the standard structure, depending on the traditions of each brotherhood and other circumstances, details may vary.
During Semana Santa, Sevilla is literally crowded. If you want to enjoy its beauty and mysticism you must prove an infinite patience.
You should be aware that a procession can be made up from a few hundred to near 3,000 nazarenos and last anywhere from 4 to 14 hours! Remember that the route’s length depends on how far the home church is from the Cathedral. Therefore, the largest processions can take over an hour and a half to cross one particular spot!
You can have a look at Semana Santa in Seville and its dates…