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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

La Saeta in Semana Santa: Revering the Passion of Christ
Friday, March 29, 2024

La Saeta, a deeply emotional and spiritual form of devotional song, has become an integral part of the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations in Spain. Originating in Andalusia, this unique musical expression has a rich history that dates back centuries. As the streets of Spanish towns and cities become filled with processions and fervent devotees during Holy Week, the haunting melodies of the saeta resonate, creating a profound and moving atmosphere.

The roots of the saeta can be traced back to the Moors' domination of Spain, which lasted from the 8th to the 15th century. The lyrical style of the saeta reflects a fusion of Arabic and Spanish musical traditions, resulting in a distinctive and captivating sound.

Over the years, the saeta has become intrinsically linked to Semana Santa, particularly in the region of Andalusia, where it flourishes. During Holy Week processions, statues depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ are carried through the streets, while saeteros (singers of the saeta) perch on balconies, doorways, or improvised stages. These singers offer their heartfelt devotions through song, expressing their adoration and pain for the suffering of Jesus Christ.



Themes in the saeta revolve around the Passion of Christ, focusing on his torments, crucifixion, and the sorrow felt by the Virgin Mary. The saeta serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifice made by Jesus and elicits intense emotions from both performers and listeners.

The lyrics of the saeta are characterised by their simplicity and directness, often using metaphors and poignant imagery to convey the singer's spiritual connection to the Passion. The starkness of the lyrics, combined with the melancholic melodies, creates a sombre and introspective atmosphere.

The Virgin Mary, a central figure in the Catholic faith, is frequently the subject of saetas. These songs often express profound lamentation for her son's suffering and her own anguish as she witnesses his crucifixion. The saeteros use their voices to convey a sense of empathy and solidarity with Mary, amplifying the emotional impact of the saeta.

The saeta also serves as a form of personal reflection, allowing individuals to express their own fears, hopes, and desires in relation to the Passion. Many saetas delve into the inner struggles faced by individuals as they grapple with their faith and seek solace in the divine. These introspective elements further contribute to the emotional depth of the saeta.

In recent years, the topics explored in the saeta have expanded beyond traditional religious themes. Saeteros have started incorporating contemporary issues, such as social injustice and political unrest, into their compositions. While maintaining the core religious nature of the saeta, these expressions offer a creative outlet for social commentary and enable artists to connect with modern audiences.

La Saeta in Semana Santa encapsulates the power of music to connect individuals to their faith, stirring deep emotions and fostering a sense of unity in times of devotion. Its origins dating back centuries, the saeta has become an essential part of the Holy Week celebrations, particularly in Andalusia. Through heartfelt songs expressing the profound pain and adoration for Jesus' suffering, the saeteros help create an atmosphere of reflection and solemnity.

The simplicity and directness of the saeta's lyrics, combined with its haunting melodies, make it a truly unique form of music. By focusing on the Passion of Christ and the grief of the Virgin Mary, the saeteros succeed in evoking intense emotions that resonate with both performers and listeners. Furthermore, the inclusion of contemporary themes allows the saeta to remain relevant and adaptable to the changing times.

Year after year, this ancient tradition reaffirms its place as a powerful testament to the enduring faith and devotion of the Spanish people.


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Largest Cemetary in Europe
Friday, March 15, 2024

This vast cemetery in Madrid is the largest necropolis in Spain and Europe, and one of the largest in the world. Approximately five million people have been laid to rest here – that surpasses the current population of the city.

Our Lady of Almudena Cemetery (Cementerio de Nuestra Señora de La Almudena) is more akin to a town of the dead. Crowds of visitors, especially on All Saints’ Day, on November 1, walk the burial ground along pathways with streets names and varying sections that resemble neighbourhoods with different social standings.

There’s a separate walled “neighbourhood” for the tombs of the rich and famous, miniature palaces, many with ornate doors and windows.

 In another section, the graves of the less fortunate or not so well-to-do aren’t burial plots at all, but rather rows and rows of stacked mini crypts housing the cremated remains within niches several stories high, resembling apartment blocks.

In the centre is the historic heart of the cemetery, with beautiful marble tombstones and statues dating back to the 19th century. The cemetery was built in 1884 and grew rapidly as the cholera epidemic spread.

Although not as grand as the cemeteries in other capitals of Europe, Almudena still has some ornate and interesting gravestones worth visiting. So if you happen to be in the area it is well worth a visit. The Metro Line 2 will get you to the Elipa station, from where you can walk to the entrance, which is about half a kilometre away.


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Gaudi's First House
Saturday, March 9, 2024

Anyone visiting Barcelona is likely familiar with the unique work of architect Antoni Gaudí. His buildings are a defining aspect of the city. Now, visitors can become even more familiar with the revolutionary architect by stepping inside the first house he ever designed.



Casa Vicens is one of seven properties built by the Catalan modernist architect in the Barcelona region which are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO considers its distinctive style an “outstanding creative contribution to the architectural heritage of modern times.” As they define it.

From the tiles painted with French marigolds on the first two floors to its domed rooftop, which provides a spectacular view of the neighbourhood, Gaudí’s first major architectural project laid the groundwork for his remarkable works of art and paved the way for Catalan Modernism.
Currently, a museum, which opened in 2017, it boasts 15 rooms restored with extensive research and input from descendants of the original tenants. It features a collection of furniture made by Gaudí and 32 paintings by the Spanish painter Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés.

Stockbroker Manuel Vicens i Montaner commissioned the house, which was constructed between 1883 and 1888 as a summer home and it was later expanded in 1925 by Barcelona architect Joan Baptista Serra de Martínez. The structure contains a myriad of styles which reflect the innovative architect’s inspirations from subjects like nature to oriental and neoclassical architecture. Truly an architectural gem and very much worth a visit if you happen to pass through Barcelona



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