Some of Spain’s biggest festivals take place during April starting with ‘Semana Santa‘ or Holy Week which is celebrated all over the country -this year between 13th and 21st of April-, but we will focused on some of the most traditional, colorful and impressive religious ‘parades’ along the French Way, such as Leon, Astorga or Santiago de Compostela. No matter if you are o not a religious person, the processions of ‘Semana Santa’ in Spain are part of its folklore and one of the most traditional events. So if you fancy learning more about Spanish culture and traditions, April is a fabulous month to walk the Camino de Santiago.
LEON. During this celebration, extraordinary religious images, created in the workshops of important Baroque artists centuries ago, are paraded through the streets of the city.
Leon’s Easter week tradition dates back to the 16th century. Over ten days, the 16 Easter brotherhoods do not only organise thirty or so processions, but also poetry sessions, concerts and speeches. Some 16,000 members take part in these acts amidst massive expectation from the crowds. From the first appearance of the Virgen del Camino through to the release of doves on the morning of Easter Sunday, there are many highly emotional moments. Worthy of special mention is the Cristo de las Injurias procession -where scenes from the Passion are represented-, as well as the Ronda and the Pasos procession.
Throughout the night of Maundy Thursday, with bells, trumpets and drums, the brotherhoods announce the departure of the procession that sets out at 7.30 on Good Friday morning. One of the most long-awaited moments is the encounter between the statues of the Virgen Dolorosa and San Juan in Plaza Mayor Square.
Definitely, Easter week is one of the most spectacular and emotional ‘fiestas’ in Leon. Religious devotion, art, colour and music combine in acts to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ: the processions. Members of the different Easter brotherhoods, dressed in their characteristic robes, parade through the streets carrying religious statues (pasos) to the sound of drums and music – scenes of sober beauty.
ASTORGA. The oldest ‘cofradía’, or religious association, in Astorga has been in existence since the 15th century, and is testimony to the age-old tradition of these Easter week commemorations. The ‘cofradías’ taking part in the Easter week processions in this town in Castile-Leon carry on their shoulders a series of religious images of outstanding artistic and traditional value. Two images in particular still survive from the original processions: the image of the Crucified Christ, from 1560 and Christ Flagellated.
One of the crowning moments in this Easter week ritual is the ceremony known as the ‘Desenclavamiento del Cristo’, when the figure of Christ is removed from the cross during the Procession of the Santo Entierro on Good Friday. Other important elements include the musical bands which accompany the images, such as the Municipal Band of Astorga which has taken part in these processions since the 19th century.
Another region where the ‘Semana Santa’ is very impressive is in Galicia:
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA. Among Compostela’s processions, the “Nuestro Padre Jesús Flagelado” one (popularly known as the “Caladiños Descalzos” procession) that is held on Holy Thursday stands out. Its penitential character is highlighted by the heavy crosses carried by the brotherhood members and by the long chains dragged by their bare feet. Also very popular is the “Santísimo Cristo de la Misericordia” or “Santísimo Cristo de los Estudiantes” procession, which is held on Holy Wednesday.