As Christians around the world mark the last few days of Lent, the Spanish town of Seville draws crowds of up to one million to witness the centuries old processions of Semana Santa. I've never been to Spain, but would love to see the Holy Week celebrations in Seville. During these eight days, 57 brotherhoods/fraternities process to the Cathedral of Seville carrying floats (two or more per brotherhood) representing the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
The brotherhoods go back as far as the 14th century and are generally connected to a parish or church and leave from there on their pilgrimage to the Cathedral. There are more than 60 processions in total, with many different routes, often through narrow streets with tight turns. Much practice is needed to successfully maneuver the giant floats which are adorned with flowers, fabric - and even candles - that sway and flicker as the float moves.
Some of the floats date to the 17th century and all are enormously heavy - many weighing more than two tons. They are carried through the streets of Seville on the backs of costaleros who are beneath the floats, hidden from sight. The processions may take up to eight hours and each costalero bears about 100+ pounds while shuffling along in the dark.
On Good Friday the processions begin at midnight and continue throughout the night with large crowds following. The Holy Week processions are so important that apartments overlooking the routes rent and sell for a premium.
So here's hoping I'll be in Seville next year - maybe I'll see you there. And, if you've attended the Semana Santa, I'd love to hear all about it!
For more photographs and a look behind the scenes, visit Spain on Line or Explore Seville or, our usual standby for info, Wikipedia.