Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Semana Santa 2014: Saturday in Seville

If Semana Santa in Andalucia is famous, Semana Santa in Sevilla is right at the top of the A-list. And for this reason, during Holy Week the city's streets are swamped with both locals and tourists all eager to get the best view of the Virgins as they sway by. I'd heard so much about the famous bulla (the pushing and shoving of the crowd), the footsore hours of waiting to witness a half-hour procession, the pickpocketing risks. But after four days of touring the region's towns to find out more about their Holy Week traditions, I had to see how it's done in the big city.

You're either a Semana Santa fan or you get out of town every time it rolls round. Luckily for me, my friend Kim of Becoming Sevillana is a fan. And even more fortunately, she had managed to find herself a crew of capillita boys to guide her around the 2014 processions. It turns out there are fans, and there are capillitas. A capillita is a Semana Santa devotee, someone who considers this their favourite week of the year, and in this case, someone whose knowledge of Holy Week is almost encyclopaedic. A group of smart young gents who had clearly absorbed every detail printed in El Llamador (the guide to Semana Santa in Sevilla), these guys didn't just know the best places to see the processions, they knew the shortcuts between them, the sculptors of the figures, the number of members of each of the hermandades, and the inside leg measurements of the costaleros. OK, I lied about the last one.

During an evening's procession watching (and marvelling at the capillitas' knowledge), I realized that Sevilla does Semana Santa on a different scale. Not surprising, when you consider that there are over 60 cofradías in Sevilla, with thousands of members between them. Given the huge numbers of nazarenos, it can take over an hour from seeing the cruz de guía at the start of the procession for the entire thing to pass by. Then there's the pasos themselves: some were on a par with those I'd seen in towns around the region, but others were so much grander, more opulent, more magnificent.

After more than five hours of dashing from procession to procession, I was about ready to call it a night. But the boys assured us that there was one moment we simply couldn't miss: the entrada of the Virgen de la Soledad into the Iglesia de San Lorenzo. In Sevilla, each procession leaves from its church to make its way to the cathedral, where the pasos are blessed, before making its way back 'home'. During the week, I had seen expectations mount and emotions run high at numerous salidas, but I hadn't seen any processions return to the church. The return of La Soledad has a great significance in Seville's Semana Santa: it marks the symbolic end of Holy Week before Resurrection Sunday (Easter Sunday). Hundreds of people turn out at midnight to see the procession make its way back home for another year. We secured a spot close to the door of the church and waited. The first flames of the nazarenos' candles floated into view, and the procession gradually wove its way through the darkness towards us.

La Soledad de San Lorenzo approaches the church

As the procession approached, a hush fell over the crowd and a single voice cut through the night, singing a traditional saeta. Gradually another voice joined in, and the two singers accompanied the Virgin as her candle-lit paso was carried towards the door. The Virgin, her clearly visible to all without a palio* covering the paso, was set down to rest for one last time as the saeta ended. The leader of the procession knocked on the closed church door, calling out to those inside and asking for admittance. The costaleros lifted the Virgin high for the final time that year and bore her into the church.

La Virgen de la Soledad de San Lorenzo

Until next year

The door swung closed, and those gathered outside surged forward to touch it. According to local superstition, those who touch the church door will return once again the following year to witness the beautiful moment again. Our group, capillitas and guiris alike, all brushed the wooden door. Returning to see La Soledad come home again in 2015 sounds great to me.

All photos by Juanma Sánchez, who is much better with a camera than me.

*palio = canopy Follow my blog with Bloglovin


  1. It was great to share sábado santo with you KTTW!

  2. Likewise! Looking forward to doing it all again next year :)


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