Holy Week in south Spain

The Warmowski family accidently gets a front row seat to traditional processions

By Tiffany Warmowski

Editor’s Note: Some of the photos in this article show people in costumes that resemble the outfits of the American terrorist group the KKK. The organizations and activities in these photos are not related in any way to the KKK. Read on to learn more.

Tiffany and Steve Warmowski knew that Europe commemorated Holy Week differently than in the United States, but she didn’t expect a front row seat when she and her husband booked Hostal Almanzor in Cordoba months ago for their family’s trip to the south of Spain.

The Andalusia region is where Semana Santa (Holy Week) is celebrated in the most dramatic way. They chose Cordoba because it was central and a train ride away from day trips to Seville and Granada.

When they arrived in Cordoba, they expected to have to leave their hotel room, at the very least, to see the floats and processions and other rituals they’d heard and read about. However, when people started lining the streets around 7 p.m., they knew they were in for a treat.

The Warmowskis’ second floor corner room had two balconies that provided an amazing vantage point of the beautiful and moving nightly processions. All three nights they were in Cordoba — Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday — had processions.

Also, “night” doesn’t mean meal time, or evening. The processions started between 10 or 10:30 p.m. and went until 1 or 1:30 a.m.

The devotion of the Spanish people to this nightly event was evident. Brotherhood groups (Cofradías) organize the processions (pasos) and participate in them. Each float (paso) has at least 150 people walking in front and behind it.

Devotees (penitentes or nazarenos) walk in front of the float wearing robes and many wear the cone-shaped hats (capirote). These participants are traditionally doing public penance, with some even walking barefoot. Historically, they cover their faces with because they are ashamed of their sin, and their tall hats are to be closer to God and attract His attention and receive forgiveness.

There is a band behind each float. They play mournful songs that evoke the emotion of the scene on the float. The whole experience is amplified by the very narrow streets, completely filled with the procession and the spectators.

As a tourist, it was wonderful to have a glimpse into a holiday celebration that clearly means so much to the Spanish people. Whether religious or not, watching and participating in this tradition is clearly part of Spanish culture.

The Warmowskis were long-time residents of Jacksonville who recently sold their home and are taking a year to travel. Their next stops include Albania, Italy, France, Sweden and the U.K. before settling in the Chicago area near family.

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