Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Semana Santa in Alcala la Real

Today sees the start of Semana Santa. This isn't a direct correlation with the Easter celebrations our family is used to in England. It is Holy Week, the last week of Lent and the week before Easter and it is marked throughout Spain by a series of processions, with Andalucia being particularly famous for its elaborate and glamorous processions. In Valladolid - Castilla y Leon province - events are much more sombre and serious. In previous years, we have stood in the streets around Valladolid, often in rain or drizzle, and watched the pasos amongst big quiet, formal crowds and listened to the slow, dirge-like music played by solemn bands. I can't say I enjoyed it very much.

This morning - Palm Sunday - a gorgeous spring day, we walked up to the town centre with our next-door neighbour and his two children in their Sunday best. (We hadn't thought to dress up...though Romy had on her lovely dress sent over by Grannie for her birthday). The streets were full of people waiting to see the paso - a big, heavy float depicting a scene from Christ's life, specifically his last few days, with life-sized characters.

Those who carry the float - which weighs a tremendous amount - are hidden underneath and walk at a given pace. This pace is set by the band that follows behind.

The whole paso sways magnificently from side to side and the pace varies - sometimes to a slow beat - DUM      DUM      DUM      DUM - and then a few faster steps as the drum beats change to DUM DUM DUM DUM. And from time to time, the carriers are required to almost run and the paso skims along at speed.  (If you get the picture...)

And then it stops for a while - I hope this is for those underneath to recover a little. It must be very hot as well as very hard to carry such a weight. When eventually the signal is given, it is hoisted up once more and applauded by the crowd as it sets off again.

Heading for an impossibly narrow street

Along with the paso, the procession is made up of penitents who wear the high pointed hats, that cover their faces, and long robes a tradition going back to Medieval times but as this is also a guise chosen by the Ku Klux Klan, it appears very sinister to more modern eyes.

We cut across the procession route and made it to the main square, where we got a fantastic, front-line spot.

And then I found out the batteries had gone in my there are lots of things I can't show you here. I'll try harder next time to be organised!

The parade today was clearly a serious affair but had none of the solemnity that coloured the Valladolid processions. It was a day to get together as a town, to watch a spectacle that happens every year, to feel part of a community celebrating their faith in their own way.

Even the statues had a softer, friendlier look to them.

And the band was excellent. Really excellent, playing tunes that made the hairs on your neck stand up and sending a tingle down the spine.

Take a chair - there's a lot to see!

Yes, they were excellent, if a little loud, especially the drums, in the narrow streets, where the sound echoed around and made your heart follow its rhythms.

Life-like statues

Narrow streets

This will be the first in a procession of blogs about processing. Andaluz-style. I enjoyed today's procession - and that's a first. And I really do think it's because I feel at home here, part of the community, taking pleasure in the customs of the town and finding many people in the streets to greet as friends.


  1. Lovely photos and a fascinating account, Annie. T've heard about thse processions before but never from someone who has just watched one. A far cry from our Palm Sunday procession round the little church in the village whcih is where I was this morning.

  2. A 'hot off the press' account, Perpetua - ears still ringing, pulse still racing. It's exciting stuff - emotive and emotional - and I'm told this emotion increases as we reach Good Friday.
    It's not very English - that I have to stress!


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