Spain at Easter

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
Salamanca

Salamanca

Many of you will be heading for the warmth of Spain this Easter. Apart from the beaches and the attractions there will be plenty of events taking place as different parts of the country celebrate one of the most important religious festivals of the year.

Spain is completely transformed during Easter week. Everybody, everywhere, turns out to experience one of Spain’s most traditional events to the full. In Spain, Easter week is celebrated with a great deal of emotion. People take an active role in its events and traditions. All day and night the streets are filled with the beat of the drums, masses of colourful flowers, and of religious sculpture, all combining to produce a highly moving atmosphere.

Easter week is celebrated in every city, town and village in Spain. Nevertheless, there are some fiestas that are especially well known for their uniqueness and beauty, and have received the International Tourist Interest designation.

Seville has been holding its Easter week celebrations since the 16th century, and they have become universally famous. From Apr 13 to Apr 20, some 50,000 people put on traditional robes to parade in the 58 organised processions, while the costaleros carry the pasos (religious statues) on their shoulders. Every day there are processions in the evening and at night. Each brotherhood sets out from its church and has an established route, although they must all pass the so-called “official section”, which starts in Calle Campana Street and finishes passing through the Cathedral. Once each procession has left the Cathedral, it returns to its church on a different route.

Calanda

Calanda

The early hours of Good Friday constitute the most important time of the Seville Easter week celebrations as it is on this night that some of the most venerated statues make their way through the streets. You can see processions by heading for any point on their routes, except in the “official section”. If you would like to reserve a place, contact the Consejo Superior de Hermandades y Cofradías (Brotherhoods’ Association) on tel. 902 995 275, or via their website but be aware that it is only in Spanish.

If you go to León in Easter week, you’ll find one of the highlights is the encounter between Saint John and the Virgin Mary in the Plaza Mayor square, which marks the end of the Easter processions. During the processions in Valladolid, make sure to look closely at the religious statues –they are priceless works of Baroque art.

The Palm Sunday procession in Elche in Alicante features the customary palm leaves and is one of the most beautiful of any held in Spain. In Cartagena the culmination of the processions is especially moving, with thousands of people joining their voices in song to intone the “Salve Maria” to the Virgin Mary. Easter week in Lorca is especially original –the processions include figures and scenes from the bible and from ancient civilisations. In the province of Albacete, the crowning moment in Easter week in Hellín is the tamborada, when the sound of up to 20,000 drums invades the town. Easter week in Cáceres is unique for its “cofradías” dating from the 15th century, and Easter week in Murcia has moments of breathtaking emotion such as on Easter Saturday, when the procession of  Cristo Yacente passes beneath the Santo Domingo arch.

Calanda, in the province of Teruel, is one of the nine villages that make up the Route of the Tambor and the Bombo (drums). During the Easter week   celebrations, the sound of drums can be heard in every corner of these villages in the south of the Aragón Region. The most long-awaited moment of the celebrations in Calanda is the rompida de la hora (breaking of the hour). Unlike the other villages, in Calanda the rompida is at midday on Good Friday. Thousands of these drums come together in the village square and, at midday, they begin to beat in unison, filling the whole village with an incredible sound. It is the El pregón procession: the drum rolls cease when the pregonero (announcer) proclaims the death of Christ. After the Santo Entierro procession of Saturday evening, the sound of these instruments will not be heard again until the following year.

Zamora

Zamora

The first documentary reference to Zamora’s Easter week celebrations dates from the 13th century. The contrast between its daytime and nocturnal processions is marked: silence and meditation are characteristic at night and in the early hours, while music and light define the daytime processions. Some of the processions are all but legendary, such as the Cristo de las Injurias, which takes place on Easter Wednesday. The Jesús Yacente brotherhood have their procession on the night of Maundy Thursday, carrying an impressive 17th century statue of Christ and singing the Miserere after midnight. The Vera Cruz brotherhood, one of Spain’s oldest, also celebrates its procession on this day. Worthy of special mention on Good Friday is the La Congregación Procession, with emotional moments, such as the appearance of the Camino del Calvario statue and the famous reverence paid by the other statues to the Virgen de la Soledad on Tres Cruces Avenue – at this moment enthusiastic applause breaks forth from the crowd.

Granada

Granada

In Granada, 32 cofradías  participate. Places such as the Albayzín quarter, the Alhambra and the Sacromonte hills fill with processions, religious figures and carvings, and the cofradía members. On the night of Holy Wednesday it is the turn of the Cristo de los Gitanos, a spectacular and moving sight thanks to the huge fires lit in the caves and homes of Sacromonte. On Holy Thursday the procession of the Cristo de Silencio takes place, the silence broken only by the sound of the drums. This is when the Albayzín fills with colour and a special aroma. Meanwhile, at nightfall on Good Friday the oldest cofradía of all, the Soledad de San Jerónimo, takes to the streets in a thrilling procession in which real people represent historical figures from the Bible. Finally, Easter week in Granada culminates on Easter Sunday with the procession of the facundillos in which children carry ceramic lanterns (facundillos) that jingle as they walk along.

Easter week in Salamanca stands out for its beautiful processions with the backdrop of the streets of the historic city centre. Emblematic spots like University square, the Casa de las Conchas (House of the Shells), and the Arrabal and Clerecía churches take on a vital role at this time. Of the numerous events held in the city, the services held in the chapel of the old university stand out. They are a mixture of the liturgical and the academic, with all the university professors in attendance. They are held on Maundy Thursday and are an extraordinary assembly, where the professors dress in all their academic finery. At the end, those in attendance receive the traditional chocolate and sweets.

Wherever in Spain you go this Easter, there will be something happening to recall that special Easter of about 2000 years ago.

Our thanks to TURESPAÑA – the Spanish tourist board – for their help with this story and the images. For more about Spain, click here.

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