Let’s be honest, there’s never a bad time to visit Spain on a school trip, is there? But have you ever visited during Holy Week?
In most of the larger towns and cities, festivities run from Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) to Easter Monday (Lunes de Pascua). Every day during this time ‘brotherhoods’ (cofradias) process from their home church to the town’s cathedral.
They carry what is known as a paso – a float of wooden sculptures depicting either the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of Virgin Mary. Some of these were crafted by famous Spanish artists, and some even date back as far as the 16th century – several are considered real masterpieces.
Some of the members of the cofradia don special outfits to take part in the procession. They wear belted robes and a tall conical hat, known as the capirote¸ which covers their face, to allow these nazarenos to repent for their sins anonymously.
The processions are often accompanied by music – whether that’s provided by a marching band or an a capella choir depends on the cofradia.
The atmosphere tends to be more solemn in the northern cities, and more celebratory in the south, particularly in Andalusia.
Everyone dresses up to watch the processions and, on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in particular, men wear dark suits and women wear black dresses, sometimes with the mantilla¸ a traditional veil.
Seville boasts some of the biggest Semana Santa processions in all of Spain. A particular highlight is La Madruga – a series of processions that take place overnight from Maundy Thursday into Good Friday.
While watching a procession, you may witness somebody almost spontaneously singing from a balcony. This is the saeta, a type of religious song typical of southern Spain, and is normally directed to the figures of Jesus or the Virgin Mary on the passing paso.
The Semana Santa celebrations in Malaga are among some of the liveliest in Spain – there’s a real festival atmosphere in the city at this time.
In Malaga the floats are known as tronos, or thrones and are incredibly ornate. And you may also catch a few military parades, which is unique to Malaga’s Semana Santa celebrations.
As in Seville and, indeed, the rest of Andalusia, you’re also likely to hear the saeta in Malaga.
Salamanca’s Semana Santa celebrations are so popular thanks to the beautiful backdrop of the city itself. The historic architecture and spectacular landmarks really make for a unique atmosphere.
Some of the sculptures on the pasos are centuries old and were created by important Spanish artists, including Alejandro Carnicero, Mariano Benlliuere and Luis Salvador Carmona.