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Semana Santa in Sevilla

Semana Santa

Every year, during the last week of Lent, almost every town and city in Spain celebrates Semana Santa or Holy Week. Culminating on Easter Sunday, Semana Santa is from April 13-20 this year (2014), kicking off with Palm Sunday. It’s also one of the biggest celebrations in the country.

Catholic fraternities and brotherhoods (hermandades and cofradías) lead somber religious parades, or processions of pasos, with life-like wooden sculptures of events and scenes from The Passion or the grieving Virgin Mary.

semana santa

An El Cristo paso

The fraternities have origins in the Middle Ages, but many formed during the Baroque period, inspired by the Counterreformation. Others formed during the 20th and 21st centuries. Membership is open to any Catholic, but family tradition is an important element in becoming a hermano or brother.

Each procession has three pasos, two of which usually focuses on El Cristo (Christ and scenes from The Passion) and one on La Virgen (grieving Virgin Mary). A paso is a massive, ornate table made of intricately carved wood and precious metals. It stands about seven feet high, it’s legs covered by a velvet hem. El Cristo pasos are usually covered in gold and La Virgen ones in silver.


Semana Santa

The brothers wear nazareno or penitential robes, which consists of a tunic, a hood with conical tip (capirote) used to conceal the face of the wearer, and sometimes a cloak. The colors of the robes vary, depending on the procession. The nazareno were widely used in the medieval period for penitents, who could demonstrate their penance while still masking their identity.

Semana Santa

The procession emerging from a church

Sevilla arguably hosts the most grand and elaborate Semana Santa in all of Spain. Although it is a religious holiday, and the pasos leave from churches, the week is full of celebration and frivolity. Bars are full, all day and night, with multiple generations of families. The patrons include everyone from young babies to grandparents, many of whom stay up until three and four in the morning.

Semana Santa 5

Semana Santa 2003

When I lived in Spain in 2003, one of my priorities was to be part of as many festivals and holidays as possible. I was that dorky student in Spanish class who loved reading about each Spanish-speaking country’s special celebration or unique national treasure. I couldn’t wait to experience all of Spain’s vibrant celebrations, like Feria (Sevilla’s April Fair), The Running of the Bulls, and Semana Santa.

Even though I flew home to visit family over Easter, it was important for me to be in Sevilla for part of Semana Santa and to return in time for Feria de Abril (the next great Spanish festival I’ll write about!)

What are your Easter traditions? Have you ever experienced Semana Santa?

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9 Responses to Semana Santa in Sevilla

  1. agnesstramp April 14, 2014 at 6:14 PM #

    I’ve never experienced Semana Santa in Spain, but I was studying Spanish and I’ve read a lot about it. This is one of the most spectacular, yet important Festival in the country.

    In Poland, we all go to church with a basket full of eggs. We pray in the morning all together and have an Easter breakfast full of delicacies. It’s nothing compared to Semana Santa, but at least all family members get together to see each other and celebrate together.

    • Lindsay April 14, 2014 at 8:21 PM #

      That sounds awesome Agness! I love hearing about holiday traditions from other countries! So, you bring the eggs to church! cool!

  2. Brianna Simmons (@Casualtravelist) April 14, 2014 at 6:21 PM #

    Though I’ve never witnessed Semana Santa I found Sevilla to be a very passionate city. I’m sure any festival they host is wonderful!

    • Lindsay April 14, 2014 at 8:14 PM #

      It is a very festive and passionate city! I think people really know how to live well there. All of the festivals and holidays are so fun…

  3. Loz in Transit April 23, 2014 at 7:19 PM #

    Definitely the appeal of the Sevilla and Andalucía region is the tradition. It delivers what you imagine when you think of Spain (Bullfights, Tapas, Flamenco). Was caught off guard by the traditions of Semana Santa but enjoyed the revelry. With the Copa del Rey Final (fútbol) on at the same time there’s always activity on the streets. Not only that they’re well dressed in their Sunday Best.

    • Lindsay April 23, 2014 at 8:06 PM #

      Nailed on the head! Sevilla is steeped in tradition. Celebration and culture are very infused with their lives. I think that’s why I loved living there so much!

  4. Aggy April 25, 2014 at 12:27 AM #

    Looks like a great celebration! It’s always nice to experience another’s country’s celebration while living in that country – adds more knowledge and brings you closer to that country’s tradition!

    • Lindsay April 26, 2014 at 8:50 PM #

      Absolutely, Aggy! In the past couple of years, the first thing I look out when I decide to travel somewhere is if there are any festivals or unique traditions during the times I’m visiting (I’m working on transitioning to visiting places specifically for festivals or cultural events). When my family went to Thailand a year and a half ago, we were very fortunate to be there during the Loi-Krathong festival (with all of the lanterns). It was the highlight of the trip for me!


  1. Feria de Abril in Sevilla - The Traveluster - April 28, 2014

    […] is Sevilla’s Feria de Abril or April Fair. Usually at the end of April (two weeks after Semana Santa or Easter Holy Week), this year’s fair is late, from May […]

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