A HILLTOP DETOUR: Holy Wednesday in Ronda

This morning I am going to take us off the beaten path, at least from our scheduled tour. Later on I will get back on track and bring you Maundy Thursday from Seville.

But first, we are going to take a detour to the ancient hilltop city of Ronda, about 80 miles from Seville.

I am doing this for two reasons.

First, I want you to see the full glory of springtime in Spain.

Between the flowers, the green countryside, the blue sky and the white clouds, the colors are straight out of a crayon box.

My Via de la Plata pilgrimage was in the autumn and those pictures will reflect a more subdued palette.

But ours is a spring tour and spring in Spain is not subtle!!

Second, although all of the Holy Week rituals in Spain may have the same components, each city and town adds its own flavor and style and each experience will be very different.

Ronda is set high up on two hills. The old city is on one hill; the new city on the other. A bridge connects the two and the chasm between them is deep.

The view overlooking the valley below is equaled by the view from the valley looking back up to the bridge and the town. And between the poppies and the yellow buttercups, a walk in the countryside isn’t bad either.

Back in the town preparations are underway .Tonight there will be two processions.

The Passion of Jesus Christ is presented each day and night when a series of decorated floats are carried through the streets.

Ronda will have an average of 13 processions beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Day. Seville will have 58.

Each Procession will be sponsored by a particular brotherhood or guild with its own distinctive dress and color. Most guilds will carry two floats. The first float will be a scene from our Lord’s passion. The second will be of his mother Mary.

These floats are elaborate, heavy and in some cases hundreds of years old. They will be carried by a core of men and will be accompanied by penitents, some carrying crosses and others wearing chains.

Some will have bands of drums and brass; others will walk in silence, the only sound being the chains as they drag on the street. Some will dress in white and carry banners of the virtues; others will carry crosses with the deadly sins written on them.

Many will have their faces covered as a sign of shame and humility, believing their sins should be known by God alone.

The colors are rich; the atmosphere is solemn. For a Christian, it is an awesome experience.

The final procession begins at 11 pm and finishes near 3am. It is held in complete silence and ends when a loud voice shouts out, “ Now it begins!”

And so it does.

Tomorrow we be back in Seville to begin our own tour. We will visit the city and witness our first Holy Week Procession from our own private balcony. Hasta mañana.

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