Holy Week in Spain is the annual tribute of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods and fraternities that perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter.
Spain is known especially for its Holy Week traditions or Semana Santa. The celebration of Holy Week regarding popular piety relies almost exclusively on the processions of the brotherhoods or fraternities. These associations have their origins in the Middle Age, but a number of them were created during the Baroque Period, inspired by the Counterreformation and also during the 20th and 21st centuries. The membership is usually open to any Catholic person and family tradition is an important element to become a member or “brother” (hermano).
Some major differences between Spanish regions are noticeable in this event: Holy Week sees its most glamorous celebrations in the region of Andalusia, particularly in Málaga and Seville, while those of Castile and Leon see the more sombre and solemn processions, typified by Semana Santa at Zamora and Valladolid. This is a religious holiday.
A common feature in Spain is the almost general usage of the nazareno or penitential robe for some of the participants in the processions. This garment consists of a tunic, a hood with conical tip (capirote) used to conceal the face of the wearer, and sometimes a cloak. The exact colors and forms of these robes depend on the particular procession. The robes were widely used in the medieval period for penitents, who could demonstrate their penance while still masking their identity. These nazarenos carry processional candles or rough-hewn wooden crosses, may walk the city streets barefoot, and, in some places may carry shackles and chains on their feet as penance. In some areas, sections of the participants wear dress freely inspired by the uniforms of the Roman Legion.
The other common feature is that every brotherhood carries magnificent “Pasos” or floats with sculptures that depict different scenes from the gospels related to the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of Virgin Mary. Many of these floats are art pieces created by Spanish artists such as Gregorio Fernandez, Juan de Mesa, Martínez Montañés or Mariano Benlliure. Brotherhoods have owned and preserved these “pasos” for centuries in some cases. Usually, the “pasos” are accompanied by Marching bands performing “Marchas procesionales” a specific type of compositions, devoted to the images and fraternities.
Easter in Valladolid holds (“Semana Santa” in Spanish) is one of the best known Catholic traditions in Valladolid. As a reflection of its importance, is also considered as a Fiesta of International Tourist Interest of Spain since 1981. The Good Friday processions are considered an exquisite and rich display of Castilian religious sculpture. On this day, in the morning, members of the brotherhoods on horseback make a poetic proclamation throughout the city. The “Sermon of the Seven Words” is spoken in Plaza Mayor Square.
In the afternoon, thousands of people take part in the Passion Procession, comprising 31 pasos (religious statues), most of which date from the 16th and 17th centuries, by artists like Juan de Juni or Gregorio Fernández. The last statue in the procession is the Virgen de las Angustias, and her return to the church is one of the most emotional moments of the celebrations, with the Salve Popular sung in her honor.
Easter is one of the most spectacular and emotional fiestas in Valladolid. 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.