Easter (Holy Week), or Semana Santa as it is known in Spain, is one of the biggest events in the Spanish annual calendar. Visitors come from all over the world to take part in the celebrations. The traditional celebrations are both deeply religious and vibrant, the processions, which last all night, turn the streets of every city, town and village into an outdoor temple.
In the two Andalusian cities of Malaga and Seville, Semana Santa is taken extremely seriously; here you will experience two of the best celebrations in Spain. Emotions run high; Andalusians really feel the events, and the excitement running through the onlooking crowds is nothing short of feverish.
In the coastal capital of Malaga, the scene is a vibrant and upbeat one; far from solemn, the crowds are happy and joyous, the scent of flowers from the huge thrones filling the air.
A few of the ‘tronos’, thrones, are so large and heavy, they can weigh up to five tons, that they are not housed in the churches. Some are taller than the church entrances and they can’t exit and enter into the church at the start and finish of the procession.
The military also play a part in the Malaga celebrations; a soldier’s parade assists the procession, military skill displays and musicians playing a solemn processional march, animating the overall performance further.
Malaga has an extra special Holy Week claim to fame, in Hollywood star Antonio Banderas, who was born in the city and is still a member of one of the Malaga brotherhoods who help to organise the event.
Antonio plays one of his hardest, or definitely heaviest roles during Semana Santa, as he takes his place in the procession as a ‘Costalero’, the chosen men who carry the giant thrones. Bearing the weight of the huge throne (float), Antonio and his compatriots sway from side to side shuffling slowly along for 12 crazy hours from dusk to dawn, start to finish. Something you have to see to believe!
Plus in Málaga you get the added bonus of being able to enjoy the beach and coast during your stay, a nice break from the high emotions of the processions.
Intense and passionate, Seville celebrates one of the most dramatic Easter processions in Spain; the event is taken rather more seriously than in Málaga and it is of course on a larger scale, being the largest city and capital of Andalusia. Its origins date back to the 14th century and apart from the Seville Feria, it’s the most important event in the cities calendar.
It is definitely no ordinary event, religious fervour, mixed with flamenco, and the overwhelming spectacle of the ‘costaleros’, the chosen men who carry the giant floats, and the ‘nazarenos’, the penitents who follow the floats wearing tunics and the tall hoods, which although appear to be from the Klu Klux Klan are actually signifying their closeness to the salvation, and of course the huge thrones themselves, all creates a powerful image.
One of the most important moments during the week is the dawn procession on Good Friday, when some of the local brotherhoods set off on their penitent’s procession. The ‘Cofradías’ (brotherhoods) make the procession, starting from their respective churches to the cathedral. They have to take the route with the shortest distance, an ancient religious law.
Throughout the week 116 floats are carried through the streets, with over 60,000 representatives of the different brotherhoods taking part. Seville Holy Week is a religious procession on the grandest scale, with over one million visitors to the event.