Semana Santa- Good Friday

Semana Santa or Holy Week has a long history in Spain. It dates back to the 16th century when Spanish pilgrims returning from Jerusalem began their own version of the Stations of the Cross.

Malaga and Sevilla are most famous for their Holy Week Processions. The floats or “pasos” are huge and elaborate with much gold and silver and masses of flowers. Many of the statutes are hundreds of years old.

One of the benefits of walking the camino in the Spring is the opportunity to observe Holy Week in Spain.

If you are planning to walk the Via de La Plata from Sevilla to Santiago, beginning your pilgrimage in Sevilla during Holy Week would be a perfect start.

The city turns out in its most solemn and finest and the floats carried by teams of strong young men are awesome.

The men who carry the floats in Sevilla by the way carry them from underneath the float so all you see are these huge floats rocking along the street as if by magic.

I have been in Spain to observe Holy Week on four different Camino routes. Each was different. Some were in large cities; others were in tiny villages. Each was equally as moving.

This year in Bilbao was no exception.

The crowds may have been smaller and the dress more casual but liturgical sequence was the same.

The floats are decorated inside the church.

and carried out to the street by members of the parish fraternity or guild.

Each parish or fraternity dresses in a different robe and headpiece known as a capirotes .

Unlike the Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods which are a perversion of this attire, in Spain they are an ancient symbol of humility and penance- all sinners are equal in God’s eyes and he alone knows their sins.

The sequence of each procession is the same although the themes of the individual processions may differ. Tonight, being Good Friday, will depict the Passion.

First comes the cross, then the parish banner followed by members of the fraternity carrying candles.

After this come the musicians, all manner of brass and drums. They range from loud to shrill to earsplitting, determined to get your attention for the floats that follow.

Next come the floats, a visual presentation of the passion narrative.

Each float is followed by a group of penitents of all ages, walking in silence -some bare footed, some with chains symbolizing their sins.

La Dolorosa is the final float- Mary alone with her grief.

The Bishop and clergy process after her.

One last mournful hymn by the brass, the crowd dissolves into the night, and Good Friday is over for the faithful.

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