The chief method of worship during Semana Santa, sometimes referred to in English as 'Holy Week', is the procesiones. There were 11 of these during Baza over eight days, but larger cities like Seville can have as many as 60, sometimes going all night. A procesión is basically a religious parade put on by one or multiple brotherhoods, paying homage to the central figure of that brotherhood.
To explain brotherhoods: here in Spain, you don't just worship Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary - who, by the way, is even bit as big a deal as her son is, around here. People also worship different aspects of the Virgin or Christ or those two figures at different points in the Bible story, known as imagenes - for example, there's Our Lady of Mercy, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Hope, Christ of Love, Christ of the Resurrection, Christ of the Mendez (don't ask me about that last one, I have no idea). People who are devotees of a particular imagen pay their yearly dues to the brotherhood to receive the newsletter, yearbook and medal of the imagen, and those devotees make up most of the people in each procesión (apparently you can pay a fee to participate if you're not a member but still want to join in).
Anyway, different brotherhoods will organise a procesión for their imagen, centred around a float depicting that imagen, known as a paso. There's a fairly consistent structure for a procesión. At the front will be a penitente, a penitent devotee of the brotherhood, garbed in the flowing cloak and pointed capirote hat that we've all seen on TV and mistaken for the KKK, carrying a large ornate metal cross.
Following them will be a series of children, clad in the same robes but bare-headed, often carrying a series of small crosses roped together in a string, and passing out lollies to children in the crowd.
Behind the children come the rest of the adult penitentes, wearing the pointed capirotes and carrying tall candles.
The final penitente carries an ornate book that I believe has to do with their imagen.
|My friend Blanca as a manola|
Behind them come a group of altar boys and girls, some carrying wicker baskets and others carrying censers of burning incense to 'purify' the path of the paso.
Finally, the main point of the procesión, a large wooden or gilded 'float' called a paso with some depiction of Jesus or Mary, elaborately carved and garbed and surrounded by fresh flowers. This is carried on the shoulders of 30 or 40 of the burliest men in the brotherhood, who are very well-rehearsed at marching in slow unison.
|The light on the church wall is the front candle on the Jesus paso|
The best part of the week for me was that I had students in almost every single procesión, which made it very personal for me - though since at least some of those students were wearing capirotes, I have no idea who they were!