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Holly Week in Seville.-

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The month of April comes up and together with it, the Holy Week of Spain. This week is especially celebrated in a city of the South. This city is called Seville. In Seville, there is a tradition which nearly has 7 centuries if existence. At the beginning of the 1st century AD, Iulius Caesar put the name of “Colonia Iulia Romula Hispalensis” to Seville. This meant something something like ¨the little Rome” due to the similarities of the Roman Seville with Rome, the capital of the Empire. Nowadays the passion of the Christ is celebrated in a very special way, in which the whole city really gets out of its way with such an amazing mixture of smells, feelings, sensations and artistic manifestations which make this spectacle to be considered ¨Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Among the different processions we can find sculptures from the 16th and 17th centuries. Seville was, then and due to the colonization of America, the richest city on Earth. Woodcarvers as Juan de Mesa and Martínez Montañés are some of the most famous names. But the Holy Week is not only sculptures or carvings. It is also music bands which rehearse during the whole year, and people who practise every day to be able to carry the floads in which the religious figures are displayed and move these floads with the rhythm of the music through the narrow streets of the city.

In the previous weeks we can enjoy the incomparable smell of jasmine which drops from the orange trees and which even the poet Lord Byron mentioned in his poem “Don Juan”. When spring comes, this is the most characteristic smell in this city.

The week begins on “Palm Sunday” (Domingo de Ramos) and ends with the Resurrection of the Christ one week after. The city takes out a large number of pieces of art, together with a large number of people who take care of the good functioning of the processions and who work during the whole year for just one day: The Big Day, the day of the procession.

The Holy Week is made up of 56 different brotherhoods and more than 100 different floads. Each one of these brotherhoods has a procession and one, two or three different floads depending on the brotherhood. And each one of these processions has a leading cross (“cruz de guía”), hundreds of nazarenes (anonymous people who accompany the floads as a penitence), the music bands, which open the procession and go right after every fload. However, some of the processions are not accompanied by any band. This is interpreted as a sign of mourning for the death of Christ constituting a perfect example of the chronology of the Holy Week in Seville where every fload and brotherhood conforms one piece in a perfect art puzzle. The “costaleros” are probably the most important members of the floads. They carry the floads over their shoulders trying to move themselves under the rhythm of the music.

The figures are mounted upon a “parihuela” which is a sort of altar, from 1 ½ meter to 3 meters high, and, from 5 to 7 meters long depending upon the scene being represented. There are 3 main types of floads: “misterios”, where we can see a representation of one scene in the passion of the Christ, going from the arrival to Jerusalem until he is pronounced dead and descended from the cross, going through, for example, the presentation of Jesus to the people of Judea by Ponctius Pilates. The second type is the “crucifiction” where we have the figure of Christ standing on the cross in different passages: asking for water, in the moment of the expiration, etc... And the third type represents the figure of the Virgin Mary in solitude after the death of her son.

Seville is known as the “city of Mary” since it was the church of Seville the one which proposed the purity of the conception to the church of Rome. It was aproved by the Pope in 1854. Because of that, the entire city do their utmost before these images and respect them as the real Queens of the city. Perfect examples are the popular images of “la Esperanza de Triana” and “la Macarena”, ¨who¨ divide the city for the love towards its mother.

Holy Week in Seville is a feeling. For each person it represents something completely different. It is a cascade of emotions in which everyone in the city has different memories going from he/she was a child and used to go to see the processions accompanied with his/her parents or grandparents to when he/she is the one who shows the floads and parades to his/her own friends, sons, grandsons...

This cascade of emotions gets even bigger when the night comes and all of this people, who wait expectantly in the old streets of the city´s historic downtown (the biggest Historic Downtown in Europe), join the floads in a perfect symbiosis before the unique light of the candles of the nazarenes and floads, and the greatness of a shining Giralda which arises as a guard and supreme judge of a city. All of this makes an espectacle of the Holy Week which, no matter credes or religions, nobody should miss.


Antonio M. Rueda. Profesor de Lengua Española en la Universidad de Chicago (EE.UU.)

Publicado en el periódico "El Informador", diario en español para los  hablantes de la misma lengua en Chicago e Illinois. El Autor es hermano de la Hermandad de San Benito.

Conocer Sevilla 2004 - Francisco Santiago©