Spain is renowned for its Semana Santa, or Holy Week, traditions. This is the week leading up to Easter Sunday, and there are many celebrations and processions throughout the week.
I flew to Seville really early on Friday morning with two other girls from my program. Getting to the airport was hectic because of the general strike the day before, and now everyone was scrambling to get to their destinations after the delay. We made it and went to our hostel without much confusion, but couldn’t check in because it was super early. We left our luggage and walked around, going to the cathedral first. I’d seen sooo many cathedrals by that point, but I’m glad we didn’t skip this one: it is the largest Gothic cathedral and the fourth-largest church in the world! It also hosts the tomb of Chris Columbus, which was really cool.
Later that night in our hostel, I learned from another traveler that some of the Semana Santa sculptures (statues, floats, whatever you’d like to call them) were on display in La Iglesia Colegial del Salvador. It was amazing to see all of the work and intricate details that go into every float:
The church itself is very beautiful too, as you can see in the background of the photos. It’s definitely worth a visit in its own right.
Due to pre-arranged plans to go to Morocco during our week off from school, I missed most of the festivities – but not all of them! We lucked out that we returned to Seville on Good Friday, and there were processions lasting until near midnight. We checked into our hostel, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and ran off to the Triana area. There was already a huge crowd gathered, and we stood outside the church where the procession would be ending. The event wasn’t as somber as I’d imagined it would be — there was some chatter and a lot of camera flashes and lenses clicking away, which ruined the ambiance a bit but I was also guilty of taking photos…
Then there were the statues. Many strong men (called costaleros) carry the heavy floats slowly, and you could tell they were struggling under the weight. Additionally, they’re HUGE. One that we saw barely cleared the entrance of the church; the men were moving very carefully to make sure that they would not ruin the sculpture, and in the crowd we were silent, holding our breath in suspense. It seemed they were going to make it through – almost! – but then we heard the slightest scraping sound and it was like a collective groan was audible.
This was a really special experience, one of the highlights of my time in Spain. I’d love to repeat it one day, and spend the whole week watching processions especially now that I know more about the history of Semana Santa. Andalusia is undoubtedly one of my favorite provinces in the country and I hope to be back someday.
If you’re thinking about going to Seville for Semana Santa, which I definitely recommend, you can read more info and itineraries here.