Semana Santa: Not only in Seville and Málaga

Good Friday procession, Competa, Spain

One of the biggest festivals of the year in Spain is upon us – Semana Santa (Holy Week).  

Andalucía is well known for the many huge processions taking place each day (and throughout the night), particularly in the cities of Seville and Málaga.

But in even the smallest of white villages throughout La Axarquía, evidence of devotion and penitence can be seen, as religious effigies are squeezed through the often steep, narrow streets.

The images are very powerful as the life-sized religious figures set onto ornate tronos (floats or thrones) sway in time to the slow thud of the drums marking their beat.

The colourfully-robed, hooded penitents of the various Brotherhoods make their way through the streets accompanied by the solemn wail of the trumpets of the local municipal band.

Semana Santa is a festival to be perceived through all the senses. 

You can almost taste the overpowering aroma of incense and flowers filling the air as the processions pass by.   No matter the time of day or night, villagers will congregate on street corners, steps, or hang over their balconies to see and sometimes applaud or cry out to their favourite tronos, often reaching out to touch the display as it mesmerisingly sways past them.

Make no mistake, you don’t need to be a religious person to be deeply moved or feel the passion of Semana Santa.

After all – THIS IS SPAIN!


EDITED TO ADD:  After I posted the video yesterday of the Semana Santa processions in Malaga, I was reminded by Gilly, Cristina and Gemma‘s comments to tell you about the hoods that are worn (some conical and some not).   It IS important to know the origin.  Thanks ladies 🙂

A common feature of Semana Santa is the Nazareno or penitential robe for some of the participants in the processions.

This garment consists in a tunic, a hood with conical tip (known as a 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 procession.

The robes were widely used in medieval times for penitents, who could demonstrate their penance while still masking their identity.

Sadly, even though these robes and hoods have been used for hundreds of years in this way, they were “hi-jacked” by the Klu Klux Klan in the late 1860s – for which they are more “well-known” outside of Spain.  

More’s the pity.



39 thoughts on “Semana Santa: Not only in Seville and Málaga

  1. Pingback: Malaga: Orange Blossom, Incense and Art | East of Málaga

  2. I’m glad you mentioned about the conical head coverings being stolen by the Ku Klux Klan, Marianne. That was my first thought when I saw them in the video. It must have been exciting to be part of all that. I remember when I visited, you mentioned that people took the large figures out of the churches and paraded them through the streets. Now I can picture it!

  3. Like all smaller towns, we have our processions here in Conil on the Costa de la Luz. But the ones in Cádiz I found most moving, as the narrow streets and lanes, with their tall old buildings, create a very imposing backdrop.

  4. We witnessed a religious procession on Denia, Spain last May and followed it to the church. It was very moving. Thanks for explaining the hooded garments as I also found it upsetting. I was not aware of where the terrible Klu Klux Klan stole the idea from.

    • Hi Darlene

      I was the same when we first arrived in Spain, nine years ago. Of course, I’m quite used to it now.

      The parades are surprisingly moving – especially for someone with no connection or involvement. I guess that always catches me out – but I can see the devotion and faith of the participants shining through.

  5. I, too, got a bit spooked by the white hoods (thanks, but no thanks, to the KKK). These religious processions are always fascinating, though – a tremendous amount of time and energy lavished on these rituals. I vaguely remember some from my own childhood (in a Catholic town in Germany) – flowers carpeting the streets, priest and altar boys carrying crosses and other church paraphernalia. This was done for various saints’ holidays, I believe. On Good Friday, there were no church bells but everyone knew when mass was. The priest carried a big wooden cross on his back and barely made it up to the altar under its weight. Then, on Easter Sunday, the bells ringing triumphantly, the entire church decorated in flowers and flags…

    • I went into a town called Velez-Malaga yesterday afternoon to see the Palm Sunday parades. The streets were crowded , with most people dressed in their Sunday-best.

      As you say, the attention to detail of the costumes, effigies and tronos is spectacular.

      I’m not a Catholic, but at times I found myself choked with emotion. It was all strangely contagious. Can’t wait to visit some of the processions later in the week.

      Thanks for your comment. Most interesting and very much appreciated.

  6. What an amazing sight this is. Have a wonderful Easter, Marianne and thanks so much for putting up these lovely pictures (the explanation about the hoods is very good – damn hijackers!) 😉

  7. I was at the weekly market of a nearby village on Friday (We’re in Almeria), and the local school children were having their version of the procession. They were wearing headdresses, ‘cones’, made out of coloured card, and the Virgin was a doll! They were thoroughly enjoying themselves!

    • AAWwww how lovely! I went to Velez-Malaga yesterday to see the Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) processions. They were huge …. but I noticed so many of the children who were watching with their parents, had toy trumpets and drums, to mimic the bands in the parade 🙂

  8. Yes it was the ‘hijackers’ that caused my problem, I think I had a glimpse of some awful film at a time in my early teens when I was experiencing racist abuse. I am aware of the origins, but thanks for returning to explain 🙂

    • So sorry if my photos reminded you of that terrible experience, Gilly. I abhor racism.

      Glad to have the opportunity to set the record straight.

      Hope you have a lovely day 🙂

  9. Powerful, inspiring, a journey and celebration of faith. Semana Santa is also a huge religious practice in the Philippines. It’s a beautiful tradition that connects everyone us one Christian community. Wonderful pics. Happy Easter!

  10. Looks like this is going to be a fascinating week for you Marianne even though you’ve seen it all before. I hope you have a fantastic time while the atmosphere is so electric.
    xxx Sending Huge Hugs xxx

    • Yes, it’s going to be a busy week, but even though I HAVE seen the processions before, there is always something new to see. I’ll no doubt be taking lots of photos!

      Thanks David 🙂

    • It’s fascinating to watch them manoeuvring the effigies around the narrow streets, up and down steps, under the power wires etc. I guess they’ve had LOTS of practice though, Sue 🙂

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