NOW IT BEGINS: Maundy Thursday in Seville

A note about the delay in this blog. I could pretend that my “flight had been delayed” but the truth is I have turned into a shelter-in-place sloth.

I’m sure there are people who are at home catching up on all of those rainy day projects.

I am not one of them. I have no time to vacuum, no time to clean the garage, and no time to write. Yet I have all the time in the world to eat, to sit in the sun, to read and to sleep.

But today, it is the day after Easter in Coronaville. Outside, it is pouring and the wind is howling. The electricity goes on and off and I am out of excuses and Easter candy! Time to get back in the tour.

Tonight is the official start of our Seville to Santiago tour. Over drinks in the lobby, we will meet our fellow travellers.

There are fourteen of us: 4 from Rhode Island, 3 from New York, 2 from Wyoming and 4 from Great Britain. Bishop Don Carlos will not join us until Salamanca. He has to work!

It’s tempting to stay at our hotel and have dinner on the roof as the view from here is incredible.

But a better view and a far more interesting evening awaits us.

We will be spending the evening in the flamenco studio of the well known dancer and teacher, Lidia Valle. We will walk through her shop, past her custom made flamenco dresses and up the stairs to her studio.

Her studio has a private balcony and we will be able to watch the procession as they pass below us.

Since I have only witnessed this procession from the street, I am looking forward to this incredible opportunity.

Here is a foretaste of what we can expect to see- a photo from Lidia’s own web page! Thank you Lidia.

While we are with Lidia we will learn about the history of Semana Santa ( Holy Week) in Seville and we will eat tapas including mojáma atun (cured tuna), a dish traditionally served during Semana Santa.

And Spain being Spain, there will be liberal quantities of pestiñas ( sweet fried dough twists) and torrijas ( similar to cinnamon french toast) and plenty of local wine, finos and amontillados from Jerez de la Frontera.

But as delicious as this all will be, our primary focus tonight is the Maundy Thursday procession.

Let me give you a little background of Semana Santa and Maundy Thursday in particular.

Maundy Thursday in Seville is the most important day of Holy Week.

For the faithful it is a day of solemnity and rituals. It is not a holiday; rather it is a day of public worship. Men and women will dress in black and women will wear the traditional mantillas secured by elaborate combs and diamond clips, many visibly fingering their rosaries.

Families will gather for meals of traditional foods such as potaje de vigilia, a stew made of chick peas, spinach, garlic, onions, peppers and hard boiled eggs.

Processions will move through the streets from early afternoon and continue through the night. Each will follow a specific time schedule and a particular route , from the home church to and through the cathedral before returning back home again. These routes can take anywhere from 4 to 14 hours to complete and may have as many as 2000 persons in each procession.

Each procession is sponsored by a particular guild or brotherhood called HERMANDADES or CONFRADIAS.

Some guilds reflect professions such as bakers or dock workers. Some are ethnic groups such as the Gypsies. Other are charitable organizations and still others base their membership on being born in Seville. Today in Seville there are 70 active guilds, some going back 400 years.

Generations of families belong to the same guild and today women make up 40% of the guilds.

Seville has a population of 700,000 people and nearly 200,000 belong to one of these guilds. Membership is coveted and members are active throughout the year. Holy Week practices are a weekly activity for all members including the children.

Each guild has its own distinctive color and dress code right down to the shoe buckles in some cases.

Most wear the tradition robes and a pointed cap, known as a CAPIROTE, here a symbol of penitence not hatred. Others wear the dress of Roman centurions. Still others wear what look like military uniforms.

The men who carry the floats are known as COSTALEROS – literally sackmen, a reference to the thick clothes they wear on their heads.

At one time dock workers were paid to carry these floats, called PASOS, on their neck and shoulders. Now the stronger men in each guild carry them hidden underneath each float.

There is a standard order for every procession.

First comes the cross followed by the NAZARENES, members of the brotherhood,carrying candles, and then the PENITENTES, barefoot and carrying wooden crosses.

Next comes the marshall whose job it is to maintain order and keep the lines straight.

He is followed by the altar boys with elaborate candles and incense.

Next we will see the first paso depicting a scene from the passion of Jesus Christ, usually one of the mysteries of the rosary. These floats will be decked with brightly colored flowers and gold.

Following the paso will be a musical band playing specific music, appropriate for the tone of each procession.

The entire sequence will be repeated for the second paso, this one depicting the Virgin Mary. Her float will also be covered with flowers, usually white or pale pink, but instead of gold only, she will be surrounded by gold and silver and be sheltered under an elaborately embroidered canopy.

In Seville the most well known of these Pasos is Dedicated to La Macerena. Tonight there will be a procession known as La Magruda which will begin after midnight and carry this beloved statue through the streets for a dozen hours before returning to its home temple just before noon.

Following the prescribed form, we will see two floats. The first is the Sentencing of Christ. Magnificent in its own right, it cannot compare to the beauty of La Macerena, Our Lady, Hope of Seville.

On this most Holy Night, I will leave you in the dark, heading towards the cathedral. Who knows when or if we will sleep tonight. And we have only just begun.

Tomorrow we tour Seville and then board our bus and head north. We travel along the Via de la Plata to Zafra where we will observe Good Friday.

Hasta mañana.

2 thoughts on “NOW IT BEGINS: Maundy Thursday in Seville”

  1. You are right, Nancy! You had said that you had to see it to believe it! So beautiful! What Tradition and Devotion! You have given us a look at the celebration, but the sound and the tactile experience must be almost overwhelming!!! Gorgeous!! And No Easter Bunny!!! Love it!! NW

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  2. Wow. Looks like a holy Mardi gras without the beads. Beautiful. Ps. Give it a few more weeks and you will be out cleaning the garage. We are on week 6 here. Did the garage week 3.

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