Semana Santa 2016

ss 16 (2)people waiting for processions, contemplating that other Great Power… 4G

After last year’s “warning” 😉 about coming to Sevilla during Semana Santa, followed by the Twitter shit storm inadvertently caused by me posting this photo on Instagram, I am going to stick with a simple photo essay this year. It was a lovely and gentle Semana Santa for me, running into some processions by happenstance, seeking out others on purpose, and generally enjoying the ambiance since most of my time wasn’t spent in La Bulla (the very Sevillano name for the crush of humanity that congregates on the procession routes). And while I’d never actually choose to get caught up in a serious bulla, I have learned over the years that when this happens, just relax and ride it out. Though it does help to know which little side streets will get you off the main route, and after more than 23 years in Sevilla I am quite experienced in “procession dodging” when I actually need to get somewhere. So for Semana Santa 2016 here are 16 pics I took while out and about this week…

ss 16 (1)mini-nazareno

ss 16 (10)the San Bernardo procession in Cuesta del Rosario

ss 16 (14)chairs galore! Plaza San Franciso

ss 16 (13)Cristo de la Fundación, San Bernardo

ss 16 (12)Los Negritos

ss 16little boy waiting for the next procession

ss 16 (11)group of people from nursing home with “preferred seating” supplied by local bars

ss 16 (9)Virgen de los Ángeles, Los Negritos

ss 16 (8)elegant ladies dressed “de luto” (in mourning)

ss 16 (7)Cristo de la Salud, Los Gitanos

ss 16 (5)costaleros taking a break

ss 16 (6)off-duty Centurian posing for pics

ss 16 (15)María Santísima de la Esperanza Macarena

ss 16 (4)Cristo de la Expiración (El Cachorro)

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El Cachorro was created in 1682 by Francisco Antonio Ruiz Gijón. It depicts Jesús at the moment of dying on the cross (Cristo de la Expiración) and is a splendid and very moving work of art. Legend has it that the artist found a gypsy dying in the street in Triana and his face was the inspiration for his Christ. This is one of my favourite processions though I don’t get to see it every year. Glad I made time for it yesterday.

The longer I live in Sevilla the more I see and read accounts of my beloved adopted city by various expat bloggers living here, or by travel writers passing through, and while some are good and honest accounts (I don’t have to agree with them all) there are also many that are frankly just crap. My feeling is… DON’T write about something you haven’t actually experienced first hand. Also, try to approach your topic with an open mind, not with an already fixed agenda. Sometimes I wonder if some of these travel writers have actually been here. And as for the massive expat community here… as long as you are still calling somewhere else “home”, I wonder if you’ll ever really experience Sevilla – or Spain – other than through foreign eyes looking at a foreign culture. I’ve never thought of anywhere else as “home” since arriving in Spain back in 1992. And while I love showing visitors the joys of Sevilla, I guess also feel very protective. Because it is my only home.

Don’t Come to Sevilla for Semana Santa

Okay, that was a bit of a dramatic title… especially I have nothing at all against Semana Santa. In fact, I’ve now lived through 21 Semana Santas (Easter Holy Weeks) in Sevilla and have always enjoyed them.

jesus among the shoesWhen I first arrived here in 1993 it was a total novelty to me, as you can imagine, and I tried to get out to see as many processions as possible during the week-long festivities. But I also lived a stone’s throw from the Cathedral, so in effect, Semana Santa came to me every year. I soon learned that all my English classes would be cancelled (without pay! – I was a private tutor in those days), and that I had to get any errands and shopping done well before 2 pm. After about 5 pm I could either dodge the processions and crowds in order to get somewhere, or just stay at home – and as the years passed I more often chose the latter. Well, except when I went out to purposely see processions, usually one or two each year.

paso practice

You may think you know something about religious festivals and festivities, but trust me, unless you’ve been to Sevilla for Semana Santa there’s a definite gap in your education. Although Holy Week is an important festival throughout the Catholic world, the celebrations in Sevilla are thought to be the largest and most elaborate. And they are elaborate.

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The basic format doesn’t sound too complicated. The celebrations are organised by an association of religious brotherhoods (with the co-operation of the City Council), each of which is directly responsible for one of the processions that carry the statues of the Christ and the Virgin from where they normally “live” to the Cathedral to be blessed, and then return them. The actual mechanics can get complicated, of course, and between the processions and the onlookers a large part of the city, especially along the processional way and around the Cathedral, is pretty much closed for normal business.

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I love all of this, even though I’m not religious, but be warned! If you come to Sevilla during this time and expect to see “the real Sevilla”, you’re kind of out of luck. Most tapas bars in the centre stop selling tapas and you are left with ordering “raciones” or large plates. Which is fine if there are a few of you so you can share them, but it’s not a tapas-friendly environment and bars tend to be heaving (just like everywhere else). And you will already have noticed that flights and hotels are much more expensive during this time. Plus the streets and monuments will be so crowded that you will have a very hard time seeing them.

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I would only recommend a visit to Sevilla during Semana Santa if you have a particular interest in seeing this unusual and spectacular event. But if you have a desire to see and experience Sevilla itself, try to avoid this week and come at a time when the city is at its natural best. Either post-Easter to mid-June or September to November.

ss 15 (7)Slippery when waxy (from the procession candles)

Impromptu Processions

José de la Montaña 

Even after having lived in Sevilla for almost 19 years I am still taken by surprise by “impromptu” processions popping up here and there. Of course they aren’t impromptu at all, it just seems that way. Though I’m not alone in not knowing what’s going on. The other night on the way to pick up clients for a Sevilla Tapas Tour I came across this procession. None of the people I asked knew which one it was so during a stop I decided to ask some band members … and even they didn’t know!! Finally someone at a nearby bar filled me in and when I got home I looked up “José de la Montaña” on google, which led to me finding the ArteSacro website that lists what is going on in Sevilla procession-wise. It may or may not come as a surprise that there seem to be processions almost daily. Now I need never be caught out again! I can just check ArteSacro before going out and impress clients and friends with my vasty knowledge of obscure Sevilla cultural events.  🙂