Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Semana Santa - Part 1 - Introduction, Centro, Seville, Andalusia, Spain

"Holy Week in Seville is known as Semana Santa de Sevilla. It is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter (Holy Week among Christians), and features the procession of pasos, which are floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion, or images of the grieving Virgin Mary." Source: Wikipedia.

Approximately 60 different church brotherhoods participate over the eight day period with as many as ten processions on a given day. All are timed to begin in their respective parish neighborhood and process through the city streets along a predetermined path to arrive in the vicinity of the Cathedral of Seville at a planned time.

Although many folks simply stand and watch along the route, certain areas are prime viewing and have seats and special boxes for the events. The image above shows the Plaza de San Francisco, adjacent to the City Hall building at left, after the crews have painstakingly constructed the reviewing stands with individual boxes, chairs, and fabric drapes for those who enjoy that access.

Each procession has religious persons, most have music, a paso (a float which is carried on the shoulders of 20-50 men called costaleros hidden underneath), and are accompanied by hundreds or thousands of penitents (called Nazarenos and they wear the tradtional tall pointy hats). There are approximately 100 pasos over the week-long event and almost 60,000 penitents.

I have seen many spectacles of various kinds in my life but, this is in a class by itself. The scale, scope, participation, passion, reverence, and devotion is palpable.

In an impressive display of execution and pre-planning, all the signs, barricades, chairs, and stands appear in a well-rehearsed and choreographed exercise that the Sevillianos have performed once a year for their entire lives.

The police presence is increased to help with street control but, it never seemed over-bearing.  People here know how to behave.  After all, this is a profound religious celebration that has earned a certain level of decorum and the citizens have practiced and lived this throughout their entire lives.

An hour or so before the posted start time, I began to see random penitents walking through the streets to their respective start points.  At first, it is a jarring sight to someone from the United States. Pointy hats and hoods are not associated with peace, love, and religion.  This tradition here, however, has been in place for many hundreds of years, long before a certain evil organization in the United States co-opted a similar style of uniform.

People of all ages participate in the processions. They are often seen with hands at their necks to keep the eyeholes aligned.

On the first day of the eight day event, I walked to a nearby neighborhood starting point. The crowd is milling about along this narrow street waiting for the procession to begin.  Once the participants approach, the crowd will have to be behind the yellow lines to allow for the passage of the procession.

And suddenly, here they are.

Many have full brass and drum bands accompanying.

Like the penitents, the musicians span a wide age range.

Most of these processions last about 12 hours so this is quite an endurance challenge for the participants.

The long candles they each carry will be used for the evening portions of the procession. In fact, the dripped wax on the streets causes screechy sounds for weeks afterwards as rubber tires (or shoe soles) come in contact.

It is a tight fit on the narrow streets.  If you have to get somewhere, it isn't going to happen until the procession ends. There is NO movement along the sidewalk since it is shoulder to shoulder and elbow to elbow packed with people.

It was common to see parents or other relatives intermixed within the procession attending to the snack or water needs of the participants.

The paso is guided by men stationed at the corners communicating to the costaleros hidden underneath behind the perimeter drapes.

When these brass bands start playing at full volume in the narrow streets, the effect is loud and thrilling.

Sunset and blue hour approaches.

Time to light the candles.

Note:  For purposes of this narrative, I have mixed images from different processions. In reality, each brotherhood's procession is characterized by a specific combination of cassock colors, hood color, and associated markings.

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