Living La Semana Santa in Andalusia

Holy Week in Spain is the annual commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods and fraternities that perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter.

From “Holy Week in Spain”, Wikipedia.

The Semana Santa (Holy Week) is celebrated throughout Spain with varying degrees of intensity, but nowhere as earnestly and spectacularly as in the southern regions of the country, in particular in Andalusia.

The region’s capital, Seville, is famous for being the home of dozens of brotherhoods that parade endlessly through the city in the days leading up to Easter, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.

Consider that each procession is composed of the hundreds (sometimes more than a thousand) members of each brotherhood, two or three huge and lavishly decorated carts (“pasos“) that are carried on the shoulders of a few dozen bearers (“costaleros“) who have to take turns every so often, stopping the advance of the whole thing, and one or two marching bands. Consider also that three or more brotherhoods can be walking across the city at the same time for hours on end and that they attract huge crowds of onlookers, both locals and tourists, and you will understand why it is sometimes impossible to move across the city, even on foot.

The local authorities will erect stands along the main street leading to the Cathedral, but you can only get a seat there by reserving months or even years in advance. Getting a good shot of a procession, therefore, involves some careful planning and a bit of luck. Indeed, we had our best moment by sheer chance when, on Good Friday night, we found a table at a restaurant on a narrow side street, in the city center. What we didn’t know was that a procession would pass right in front of the place just as we were finishing our dinner. We could access the balconies on the first floor and get an excellent and unobstructed view of the whole procession from above. The food wasn’t great, but the view was priceless!

We had another great moment on the morning of Easter Sunday, when we admired the last procession entering the courtyard of the amazing Mezquita-Catedral of Córdoba through its majestic main gate.

While cities become quite chaotic and crowded during the Semana Santa, the whole affair is an experience to be had at least once in a lifetime, especially at night, when the atmosphere becomes mysterious and spiritual, when the nazarenos carry candles and the streets become covered with wax. Just be sure to carry some fast lenses and a camera with good low-light capabilities.

Bonus tip: use the largest aperture on your lens and select a shutter speed fast enough to avoid any camera shake and motion blur, then set the ISO accordingly. You can use auto-ISO, if your camera has it. Always remember that a noisy picture is better than a blurry picture, so don’t be afraid of using high ISO values.

Here are some of the images from this trip. Click on any of them to view it larger. All images were taken with the Fujifilm X100s and X-E2 cameras, with an assortment of lenses.

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Comments 5

  1. My Mum and dad live in Mollina, Spain and although I did not get to visit when there was a special event on – I loved photographing the streets in the local towns – and also El Torcal ( How I wish I was a millionaire so I could go back and explore that place ( not enough time and my parents weren’t up to climbing!)

  2. I spent a month traveling through Andalucia a couple years ago and fell in love with it. So much so that we have decided to find a little place to live part of the year after my hubby retires. I watched Semana Santa and its a mysterious, and very photogenic and vibrant celebration.

  3. I spent Semana Santa in Querataro in Mexico and witnessed a very similar “Procession del Silencio” – it was fascinating for me in many ways, especially as a non-believer. I definitely agree that it’s a once in a lifetime experience, you captured some really fantastic images too

  4. It looks like a great event to attend with great photo opportunities. I love your pictures. Thanks for sharing photo tips!

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