Semana Santa 2014

We really need firstly to understand what the origins and traditions of the Semana Santa are. It is a Christian celebration just before Easter. It is also the last week of Lent, and includes Sábado de Pasión, Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos commemorating the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem), Holy Monday (Lunes Santo and the Cleansing of the Temple), Holy Tuesday (Martes Santo where Jesus predicts his betrayal and the Denial of Peter), Holy Wednesday (Mièrcoles Santo sometimes known as Spy Wednesday referring to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot), Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo commemorating the Last Supper and the preceding foot washing), Good Friday (Viernes Santo commemorating the crucifixion), and Holy Saturday (Sábado Santo commemorating Jesus in the tomb and the Harrowing of Hell, and including the Easter Vigil or Vigilia Pascual), but strictly speaking not Easter Sunday (Domingo de Resurrección), nor Viernes de Dolores which precedes Palm Sunday and commemorates the suffering of the Mother of Christ during the Holy Week. The exact date each year depends upon the lunar calendar, e.g. Easter is on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon. In 2014 Palm Sunday was on April 13, Maudy Thursday on April 17, Good Friday on April 18, and Easter Sunday on April 20. The Spanish do not celebrate Easter Monday (April 21), but they still actively commemorate Viernes de Dolores.

The Semana Santa in Spain is celebrated by the different Catholic brotherhoods (Ser Cofrades) who perform penance processions through the streets. It is said that these associations have their origins in the Middle Ages, but quite a number of them were created (or re-established) in the last 50 years (just look at this group in Andalusia). In some cities the celebrations are quite ornate, whilst in other cities the preference is for sombre and solemn processions. The most famous processions are in Cartagena, Málaga, Murcia, León, Salamanca, Sevilla, Valladolid, and Zamora. Murcia is particularly famous for some of the polychrome wooden sculptures borrowed from the museum dedicated to the famous 18th C sculptor Francisco Salzillo

For many people being a ser cofrade (a brother in a brotherhood) is both a privilege and a responsibility to be virtuous throughout the year. Brothers must keep the traditions of the brotherhood, and involve themselves in charitable works. There is also constant work to enhance the pasos, e.g. a new canopy, a re-gilded crown, a new sash for the Virgin Mary. And there are the penances such as humility or patience. Equally some brotherhoods publish children stores and colouring books to collect money for their charitable works, others have craft and artisan groups. 

There are more of less three different types of cofradías - penitential, devotional to the Sacrament, and those offering to the glory of a particular saint. Some experts say that they have their origins in trade, professional, institutional and artistic/craft groups of the Middle Ages. The Semana Santa is the ideal moment for each brother to affirm or re-affirm their faith. They will do penance (nazareno), they will participate in the processions (acólito), they will help carry one of the pasos (hermanos de cargo), or they will play in the band (normally the bands are not part of the brotherhood but have built an association with them over the years). 

Throughout Spain you will see the participants with their penitential robes (nazareno) consisting of a tunic and a hood with a conical top (capirote) sometimes concealing the face of the wearer (and including sometimes a cloak). The nazarenos will often be carrying processional candles or wooden crosses, and a few may walk the streets barefoot. I understand that the tunic and hood have their origins in Sevilla, with the pointed hood evoking a penance to the heavens (a bit like the cypress tree in cemeteries). Today you must be careful to look at the details to know who is who. Colour emblems can help, and those actually doing a penance will usually have a straw belt and may walk barefoot, others may carry a wooden cross. They will also have a hood that completely covers their face, leaving just two holes for their eyes. 

Also there are different “levels” within the brotherhoods. Some will carry candles (nazareno de fila and nazarenos de luz), others crosses (nazarenos con cruz), some will carry insignia (nazarenos portador), yet other will carry decorative poles (manigueteros), and finally you have the guardamantos who are there to protect the canopy and the most delicate parts of the statues in the pasos


Some of the nazarenos will also be carrying together magnificent pasos or floats with sculptures depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. They are called costaleros, and the capataz is in charge. Costaleros is an Andalusian expression and describes the person who carries on their shoulder and neck a part of the load of a pasos. The word might derive from the seventh vertebra cervical on which the load is born, or more likely the “costal” or stuffed cloth used to pad and protect the shoulder. The costaleros also have sticks that are used to support the pasos when they are standing still. In some cases it is said that brothers will help out other brotherhoods in lifting the biggest pasos. I understand that there are a variety of ways to carry and walk with a pasos, each having it advantages and disadvantages (e.g. the weight on the neck, on the legs, on the back, etc., and how to deal with slopes, etc.). Some of the biggest pasos need up to 60 people to lift them, and the capataz is the foreman or boss of the group. He ensures that they all lift together, walk in rhythm, stop at the same time, and turn at the right time.

We are now going to look at the specific processions in Murcia day-by-day


Viernes de Dolores: 11 April

Procesión de la Venerable Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo del Amparo y María Santísima de los Dolores

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de San Nicolás de Bari. 

One of the pasos weighs 1,400 kg. 

FE (4)
Colegio Capuchinos, Procesión de la Fe

Sabado de Pasión: 12 April
Procesión de la Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo de la Fe

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de San Francisco de Asís.

This confradía was created by a group of teachers in 1999.

Sabado de Pasión: 12 April 

Procesión de la Muy Ilustre y Venerable Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo de la Caridad

Salida de la Iglesia de Santa Catalina.


Domingo de Ramos: 13 April

Procesión de la Pontificia, Real y Venerable Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo de la Esperanza y María Santísima de los Dolores y del Santo Cielo por la Salvación de las Almas

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de San Pedro Apóstol.

This is one of the earlier brotherhoods dating back to the 17th C.


Lunes Santo: 14 April
Procesión de la Real, Ilustre y Muy Noble Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo del Perdón

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de San Antolín Mártir.

Originally founded in 1600, they were re-founded in 1897. This procession includes 11 hermandades and 9 or sometimes 10 pasos.

Nazarenos de la Salud

Martes Santo: 15 April
Procesión de la Pontificia, Real, Hospitalaria y Primitiva Asociación del Stmo. Cristo de la Salud

Salida de la Iglesia de San Juan de Dios.

Originally founded in 1540, it was re-founded by students with support from the local hospital in 1957.


Martes Santo: 15 April

Procesión de la Hermandad de Esclavos de Ntro. Padre Jesús del Rescate y María Stma. de la Esperanza

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de San Juan Bautista.


Miércoles Santo: 16 April
Procesión de la Real, Muy Ilustre, Venerable y Antiquísima Archicofradía de la Preciosísima Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora del Carmen.


Jueves Santo: 17 April
Procesión de La Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo del Refugio Procesión del Silencio.  

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de San Lorenzo Mártir.

There is no talking between members during the procession. 

This procession has 11 pasos. 


Jueves Santo: 17 April

Procesión de la Real, Muy Illustre, Venerable y Antiquísima Archicofradía de la Preciosísima Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo Procesíon de la Soledad. 

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora del Carmen.

This is the same cofradía as for Miércoles Santo, but with different colours and only 3 pasos.



Viernes Santo: 18 April
Procesión de los Salzillos de la Real y Muy Ilustre Cofradía de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno

Salida de la Iglesia Primitiva de Nuestro Padre Jesús.



Viernes Santo: 18 April
Procesión de la Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo de la Misericordia

Salida de la Iglesia de San Antolín. 


Viernes Santo: 18 April
Procesión de la Real, Muy Ilustre y Venerable Cofradía de Servitas de María Stma. de las Angustias

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de San Bartolomé. 

Sábado Santo- Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo Yacente y Nuestra Señora de la Luz en su Soledad © Nacho García 19/4/2014

Sábado Santo: 19 April
Procesión de la Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo Yacente y Nuestra Señora de la Luz en su Soledad

Salida de la Iglesia de San Juan de Dios.

A confradía founded in 1982, and known for its simplicity.


Sábado Santo: 19 April
Procesión de la Muy Ilustre y Venerable Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo de la Caridad Procesión del Rosario en sus Misterios Dolorosos.

Salida de la Iglesia de Santa Catalina.

This procession has but one pasos. 


Domingo de Resurrección: 20 April

Procesión de la Real y Muy Ilustre Archicofradía de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo Resucitado

Salida de la Iglesia Parroquial de Santa Eulalia.

This procession has 11 pasos.



Domingo de Resurrección: 20 April

Pasos y Hermandades

I have tried to collect together photographs of each of the processions through Mercia. However the Web is full of photographs falsely attributed to one or other contrarias in one or other Spanish town, so if you spot any mistakes please write me at 

The celebrations and processions in Murcia are performed by 15 cofradias (composed of different hermandades), who are responsible for carrying 93 different pasos. Each procession has its nazarenos penitentes (penitents), its costaleros (responsible for carrying the pasos), and its mayordomos (stewards). Specific to Murcia many costaleros and mayordomos will not cover their faces and they will wear the capuz, a kind of short hood rather than the tall conical hat found throughout the rest of Spain. Sometimes you can see two black silk ribbons hanging from the hat, originally used to knot the hat the under the chin. Also quite specific to Murcia is that some have a belt around the waist, pulling the tunic up to near the knees. You can also see under this “skirt” a white lace starched Baroque-like petticoat that makes the “skirt” swell out. Another unusual feature is that they will have shoes made of woven reeds, and embroidered stockings. The mayordomos will also have white lace cuffs and collars. It is said that this style of dress harks back to the servants working in the aristocratic farms in the huerto. The nazarenos penitentes (penitents) will have the pointed cone hat, their faces covered, long tunics, bare feet or open sandals, and will be carrying crosses, lanterns or candles.

We have mentioned the hermandades, each with their pasos. It is said that the origins of these militias brotherhoods dated from 1265 in Andalusia. They defended their towns and villages against Islamic rebels, and could well have been inspired by a kind of Islamic peace-keeping force called the Shurta. Later as they gained more legitimacy they started to act with the corregidores to collect taxes, act as judges, and resolve administrative problems. They also protected roads and pilgrims. As you can well imagine these brotherhoods could also undermine the local authorities and would have required some checks and controls to limit their powers (their immunities were reduced in 1485). It was Isabella and Ferdinand (the Catholic Monarchs) who during the War of the Castilian Succession (1474-1479) established a centrally organised Santa Hermandad, with themselves as its head. The original hermandades dished out a kind of rough-and-ready justice until they were finally suppressed in 1835.

It is often mentioned that the nazarenos hand out candy, cakes or even eggs, but to be honest I never saw this happen. It is said that originally the processions were quite long affairs and the penitents would carry some food, which they might share with people on the street. Oddly enough I saw a couple of Spanish ladies with small plastic bags and they were saying that that were going to catch all the candy and sweets. But nothing happened, which is a shame because it sounds like a nice tradition. On the other hand I did see a couple of the banner holders, etc. giving something (maybe money) to photographers to ensure that they got into the local press. And the occasional nazareno gave a kind of pray post-card to some of the young children in the crowd.

Another well known feature of the processions in Murcia is the musical accompaniment, which is called la burla. This translates as mockery, trick, or jest which seems a bit odd. I have also been told that this musical accompaniment was originally reserved for the Wednesdays and Fridays and has its origins in the heraldic-style trumpeting played on entering Jerusalem. They say that the idea emerged in the 17th C, and today any procession of a sculpture of Salzillo should have a musical accompaniment. In any case they follow the pasos with Christ carrying the cross or being taken down from the cross, and play funeral marches.

So much for generalities, on the next pages we will look in detail at two different processions.  © Bernard Smith 2017-18