Easter Processions in Spain: Elaborate Public Devotion Marks Spain’s Traditional Easter Season

Figures much like those displayed in nativity scenes throughout the Christmas season, are a tradition of the Spanish Easter celebrations. These processional Passion figures are often the works of famous artists, such as the 18th-century master, Francisco Salzillo y Alcaraz (1707-1783).

Perhaps the most precious of all these figures, the lifelike Baroque figures carved by Salzillo, are taken from their year-round home in the Iglesia de Jesus in Murcia, in southwest Spain, each year and carried through the streets.

In 2007, commemorating the 300th anniversary of his birth, these and Salzillo’s nativity figures will be part of a special exhibition in Murcia. Shown in three venues, the Salzillo Museum, the church of Nuestro Padre Jesús and the parish church of San Andrés, the exhibition is free, but must be booked in advance.

Along with Salzillo’s nativity scenes and Passion figures will be the recently restored Saint Ann and the Virgin as a Child and Saint Michael, works rarely exhibited to the public, as well as a silver monstrance designed in 1737 and a crucifix sculpted in 1769, which earned Salzillo a royal commendation.

The region around Murca — Cartagena, Lorca, Cieza and the Ricote Valley — has designated six new cultural rutas through these “Cities of Salzillo” as part of the 2017 celebrations of his artistry, called “Salzillo, Witness of a Century.”

Although the celebrations in Murcia are of particular interest this year because of the anniversary, many other Spanish cities are known for their Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations, too. Oddly, Madrid is not among these, although visitors there – or any city in Spain — the week before Easter will see colorful processions and bands in the streets.

  • Leon: At midnight of Maundy Thursday the brotherhood of Jesús Nazareno parades through the streets with bells, drums and trumpets, and at 7:30 am on Good Friday a procession of 13 statues sets out, carried on the shoulders of members, who are accompanied by groups of robed and hooded penitents. This is only one of 16 such brotherhoods that form parades on Good Friday. Easter Sunday is marked by the release of white doves.
  • Granada: Brass bands and groups of women carrying candles and crosses accompany the brotherhoods as they process through the streets in one of Spain’s most spectacular Holy Week observances.
  • Seville: Perhaps the best known in Spain, Seville’s Semana Santa begins on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) and consists of 57 different brotherhood societies, each with its own procession. Some of these societies date back to the Middle Ages. They wind through the narrow streets between their parish churches and the cathedral (which is among the world’s largest). At the height of the activities there can be as many as 15 different processions going at once.

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