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.

A HILLTOP DETOUR: Holy Wednesday in Ronda – nancyelnorte

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…
— Read on

EASTER ON THE CAMINO From Seville to Santiago

April 9-In a normal world, today I would be waking up in Seville at the Hotel Vinnci La Rabida.

I would be waiting to join a group of 14 pilgrims from around the US and Great Britain for an nine day tour led by Joanna Wivell, Bishop Don Carlos Lopez, the Bishop of the Spanish Episcopal Church, and myself, along the Via de la Plata, one of the lesser known routes of the Camino de Santiago.

Here in Seville the famous orange trees would be in blossom. Curiously the blossoms and the oranges are on the trees a the same time. The oranges would be scattered all over the ground. The sight and the smell would be and is unforgettable.

This Easter on the Camino-From Seville to Santiago tour was to have started in Seville on Maundy Thursday and moved each day from the south to the north along the Via de la Plata, experiencing the ancient Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve and Easter Day rites of Semana Santa in different city each night.

We would spend our days walking parts of the camino and seeing some of the cultural highlights along the way while enjoying the best hospitality Spain has to offer.

The tour, which has been cancelled due to the Corona Virus, is one of two sponsored each year by Friends of the Anglican Pilgrim Centre in Santiago, of which I am a board member. These small relatively short tours are designed to promote the Camino de Santiago while highlighting the rich heritage and culture of Spain. At the same time we offer our bus pilgrims an opportunity to walk some of the most beautiful and interesting sections of the route.

Finally, ending in Santiago de Compostela,we would share with them our dream of establishing an international pilgrim centre where pilgrims of all denominations may gather to pray, study and reflect on their recently completed pilgrimaged.

Instead, like most of you, I am sheltering in place in Rhode Island, lamenting what might have been.

However, I have walked the Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago. I have also been fortunate to have witnessed Holy Week or Semana Santa in Spain three different years in four different cities.

So, this year instead of taking you to Spain, I hope you will let me bring Spain to you. I hope I can give you a glimpse of it’s majestic Semana Santa and its magical and diverse Via de la Plata and when the world is normal again, you might come and experience it for yourself.


Sobrino de Botín

Sobrino de Botín ( nephew of Botín) is,

according to the Guinness Book of Records, the oldest continuously serving restaurant in the world.

Formerly known as Casa Botín , the name was changed to reflect its new owner.

Famous for its roast suckling pig and roast lamb, it has been serving meals since 1725.

Both are slow cooked over a oak wood fire in a cast iron oven that has also burned continuously since the restaurant opened.

Micky Mouse ate here or at least his creator did.

Ernest Hemingway ate here frequently and loved the table in the corner with his back to the wall!

He mentions Botín in several of his books as does James Michener but among the writers who helped make Botín famous my favorite quote comes from Graham Greene in his novel “MonseñorQuijote”.

“…I suggest that before we buy purple socks we regale ourselves with a good lunch at Botín…”

Kings and Queens have dined here.

Nancy Reagan, after lunching here, wrote a thank you note on White House stationary that would make her mother proud.

So it is only fitting that we too should dine at Botín and dine we did. But first we had a tour the building from bottom to the top

before settling in for our own feast.

No more food photos but a couple of wines worth remembering.

Definitely not from the same wine cellar we visited earlier!

Sated with food and gifted with sangria pitchers from the owner.

One might assume it was time for bed, and no, we are not going out to buy purple socks.

I remembered we were on tour with Joanna and in her world the night was young.

We had a 10:30 pm reservation to see Flamenco across the square.

Some of our group headed for bed.

I love flamenco and would stay up all night rather than miss a chance to see it again.

But flamenco should not share the stage with anyone, even the oldest restaurant in the world.

So no report until next time. Here is a tease.

Stay tuned.

FEED MY SHEEP – Day two on the UTO Camino Pilgrimage

Today was the first full day of our UTO tour. Being Sunday, it is only right that we began our day in church.

We met in the lobby and headed out at intervals.

Bishop Doug Sparks of the Diocese of Northern Indiana and all of the other clergy have been invited to vest for the service so he led the first group.

From our hotel to the Cátedral Del Redentor, the Cathedral of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain, is about a mile, slightly uphill.

The route through the Puerta Del Sol and up Fuencarral is a mostly pedestrian zone with plenty to distract us including a surprising photo op.

Straight up the hill, a right turn at the Museo de Historia with its exuberantly baroque pink and gray facade

and we were on the the Calle de the Beneficencia .

The Cathedral is tucked in down on the right side and is easy to miss.

During the Franco regime a street was added in front of the Cathedral so it is also easy to be killed !

A modern building across the street houses a fine food market and a fantastic roof top restaurant so its hideous architecture and graffiti is forgiven.

The congregation of the Cathedral has just celebrated the 150th year of its founding. The building is slightly younger.

Although ground was broken in 1891 for the building, construction did not begin until 1893.

In spite of the fact that it was consecrated in 1894, worshippers were still not allowed to enter through its main door until 1905. Until then they had to go into the church through a small side door.

The church sits between a former parish school closed by Franco and the Bishop’s Palace.

The Palace now houses all of the cathedral clergy and the church offices.

Thanks to a generous grant from the UTO, renovations are underway for the school (above on the left) to become a cafe, a bookstore and a small pilgrim hostel. (What we hope to do in Santiago on a larger scale.)

Once at the Cathedral Spencer kitted everyone out in whatever vestements fit or mostly fit or sort of fit. No worries about matching copes cassocks here.

On a personal note, I was happy for the chance to wear my Mozzetta with its extremely fancy hood. (purely a decorative touch as you can see by the size)

I also got to wear the silver, amethyst and turquoise cross which I treasure, given to me by my friend, Santa Fe artist Willard Shaw.

The Bishop made me a Canon of his Cathedral primarily because I am his chauffeur when he comes to America. I am honored to sit in the Chair of Saint James.

One quick picture of the Bishop with his normally camera shy tortoise and we were off to church.

Church was as good as church could be.

God was glorified. We, the sheep, were tenderly fed by our various shepherds.

Even the MysteryWorshipper would have to have given this service a 10.

Coffee hour and one final photo (thank you UTO)

and it’s time for a picnic on the patio

before heading back to church to receive our symbolic scallop shells, our pilgrim passports complete with the first stamp, and a final pilgrim blessing by Bishop Doug.

For some it was time for a trip to the Prado; for others, siesta.

Our day was far from over so stay tuned. More to come.

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