10 Must-See Semana Santa Processions

by John Bascombe on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Semana Santa in Spain

Semana Santa in Spain

Signaled by the full moon, Semana Santa (holy week) launches us on an annual journey of reflection and tradition. It’s a time celebrated by both the religious and those who simply welcome a few days off from work or school to watch the spectacular recreations of scenes representing the passion of Christ. No matter what it is that attracts visitors, Semana Santa in Spain offers an incredible amount of celebrations which center mostly on processions that take place throughout the country.

We know that any top 10 selection will inevitably be incomplete, but we’ve gone ahead and put together this list with the best intentions for anyone hoping to delve deeper into the rich traditions of Spanish culture.

Semana Santa in Elche1. Las Palmas de Elche

Palm Sunday, a day that recalls Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem according to biblical scripture, in the city of Elche (in the eastern Valencian Community) Holy Week participants take to the streets holding yellow palm leaves that have been intricately woven into wonderful and seemingly impossible figures. The palm leaves come from the city’s enormous palm grove that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Particularly noteworthy is the procession of La Borriquilla, which displays Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey.

Semana Santa in Toledo2. Procesión del Cristo Redentor

Just before midnight on Good Friday, in the city of Toledo (the capital of Castilla-La Mancha), the Cristo Redentor procession emerges from Sto. Domingo el Real Monastery. These solemn procession participants make their way through the complicated labyrinth of streets in the Judería district. Dominican monks accompany them, adding a churchly air to the Easter ambience.

Semana Santa in Granada3. Los Gitanos

Throughout the night of Holy Wednesday, the statue of Jesus called el Cristo de los Gitanos de Granada drifts along city streets beneath the dignified gaze of an illuminated Alhambra fortress. The statue makes its way through town eventually entering the “barrio Gitano”, which erupts in bonfires as the statues of the Cristo del Consuelo and María Santísima del Sacromonte pass. The procession is slowed down by the throngs of observers who gather to touch the figure of Mary’s cloak.      

Semana Santa in Málaga4. Los Legionarios

The Spanish Legion has always been associated with this parade, which is always held on the afternoon of Holy Wednesday in Malaga, the capital of Andalusia’s Costa del Sol. Soldiers speed-march at 180 steps per minute, carrying the Cristo de la Buena Muerte statue, better known as the Cristo de Mena after the statue’s sculptor. This is Malaga’s most eagerly awaited Semana Santa procession.

Semana Santa in Zamora5. El Yacente

On the night of Holy Thursday, the town of Zamora (western Castile and Leon) fills with a silence that is only broken by bell chimes and candles and long torches knocking on the ground during the stirring Cristo Yacente procession. Thousands of people with crosses join the procession in complete silence, making their way to the Plaza de Viriato, where the event is highlighted by an emotional funeral hymn.

Semana Santa in Seville6. La "Madrugá"

In Seville, nobody sleeps on the night of Holy Thursday, known as “La Madrugá”. Procession participants parading with floats of statues proceed through the streets of the Andalusia capital. These are some of Spain’s most famous Holy Week statues: La Esperanza de Triana, la Macarena, the Cristo de los Gitanos, and the Jesús del Gran Poder are all present here. The bustling city observes in attentive silence as the float bearers carry the heavy statues and move to the inspired rhythm of the procession bands.

Semana Santa in Castro Urdiales7. Pasión Viviente

In the north, on the Cantabrian Sea, in the city of Castro Urdiales, Good Friday is celebrated not only by way of a series of processions, but also with a full reenactment of the Passion of Christ, from the last supper to the end of the Resurrection. All the town’s 30,000+ residents participate in some way or another in this extraordinary tradition, an event that is enriched even more by the spectacular stage scenery. Santa María Church is particularly beautiful in itself, a gothic temple that is half light house and half castle.

Semana Santa in Aragón8. Romper la Hora

Internationally recognized Spanish film-director Luis Buñuel has included the sounds of these marching drums in many of his movies. They are drums that play every year at noon on Good Thursday in the Calanda’s town square in the province of Teruel (southern Aragón). Thousands of  people sporting purple tunics and bearing drums of all different sizes eagerly await the first bell chimes of the clock striking 12:00. Right when the bells ring, not a second before, the plaza erupts into a thunderous celebration of tradition when thousands of participants pound their drums in vibrating in unison.

Semana Santa in Valladolid9. Procesión General

In Valladolid (the capital of Castile and Leon), on the afternoon of Good Friday, streets fill with floats of incalculable beauty when the city’s 19 brotherhoods join together in procession for the Procesión General. The parade is like watching a moving museum; statues of polychromatic woods from Spain’s opulent Siglo de Oro period (16th and 17th centuries), produced by legendary sculptors such as Juan de Junio and Gregorio Fernández, ramble down Valladolid’s streets accompanied by drums and cornets and the classic dulzaina instrument.

Semana Santa in Cuenca10. Las Turbas

In the early hours of Good Friday, Cuenca (Castilla-la Mancha) is splashed with a wave of joy and color. Drums, bugles and trumpets sound throughout this gorgeous city. The procession of the Camino del Calvario, better known as “Las Turbas”, reaches the iglesia del Salvador as the sun rises. The incredible commotion of excitement is silenced only by the appearance of Our Lady of Solitude. It’s a loud night that is abruptly halted by a moment of silence and deep reflection. 

Keywords: semana santa,spanish culture,panish traditions,easter in spain,semana santa in spain,semana santa spain,semana santa traditions,spanish easter traditions


1 » Speekee - Spanish for kids (on Monday, April 21, 2014) said:

¡Muy interesante! We also recommend Holy Week in Arcos de la Frontera, which traditionally ends with a bull run.

« Next Article: Lesser Known Madrid Museums

» Previous Article: Top 5 "patios" in Salamanca