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The Culture Vulture

About cultural things: music, dance, literature and theatre.

Sunday, March 24, 2024 @ 8:20 PM

Holy Week (Semana Santa) begins today, Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos), and lasts until next Sunday, Easter Sunday (Domingo de Resurrección).

In Spain Semana Santa is the annual tribute of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods (hermandades) and fraternities that perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during Holy Week – the last week of Lent, immediately before Easter.

These hermandades have their origins in the Middle Ages, but a number of them were created during the Baroque Period, inspired by the Counterreformation and also during the 20th and 21st centuries. The membership is usually open to any Catholic person and family tradition is an important element to become a member or "brother" (hermano).

Some major differences between Spanish regions are perceivable in these processions: Semana Santa sees its most glamorous celebrations in Andalucía, especially in Jerez de la Frontera, Granada, Málaga and Sevilla, while those of the Castilla y León region see the more sombre and solemn processions in Zamora, León and Valladolid.

A common feature in Spain is the almost general usage of the nazareno or penitential robe for some of the participants in the processions. This garment consists of a tunic, a hood with conical tip (capirote) used to conceal the face of the wearer, and sometimes a cloak. The exact colours and forms of these robes depend on the particular fraternity.

The robes were widely used in the medieval period for penitents, who could demonstrate their penance while still masking their identity. These nazarenos carry processional candles or rough-hewn wooden crosses, may walk the city streets barefoot, and, in some places may wear shackles and chains on their feet as penance. In some areas, sections of the participants wear dress freely inspired by the uniforms of the Roman Legion.

The other common feature is that every brotherhood carries magnificent floats (pasos or tronos) or with sculptures that depict different scenes from the gospels related to the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of Virgin Mary.

Brotherhoods have owned and preserved these "tronos" for centuries in some cases. Usually, the " tronos " are accompanied by marching bands performing "marchas procesionales", a specific type of composition, devoted to the images and fraternities.




Note: A version of this article in Spanish is available here:

SEMANA SANTA (Holy Week) (


© The Culture Vulture



Andalucia, brotherhood, Castilla y León, cofradias, Culture Vulture, Domingo de Ramos, Domingo de Resurrección, Easter, Easter Sunday, fraternities, Granada, hermandades, Holy Week, Jerez de la Frontera, León, Málaga, marchas procesionales, Middle Ages, Palm Sunday, paso, Passion of Jesus Christ, Semana Santa, Sevilla, Sorrows of Virgin Mary, trono, Valladolid, Zamora

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PablodeRonda said:
Sunday, March 24, 2024 @ 8:22 PM

What a fascinating article! The Spanish version by Don Pablo is just as good!

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