Semana Santa (Easter week)

The Easter week processions in Cartagena are the first to get underway in Spain, with the first taking place at 3.30 a.m. of Friday 23rd. Needless to say we missed that one.

But as well as being the first day of Holy Week, Friday was also the feast day of the patron saint of Cartagena – the Virgen de la Caridad. It is therefore the second public holiday this week, which is no doubt great for the locals, but a nightmare when you’re trying to plan a trip to the supermarket!

The first evidence of celebrations starting was a children’s marching band in one of the plazas.

And a wander up the the nearby church showed the huge frames that had been put in place where the later floral offerings to the patron saint would be added after the afternoons parade.

In the afternoon there was a parade with hundreds of people in regional costume, who were making their way to the church with their floral offerings.

And an hour later it was evident the impact their offerings were having.

The next procession of the day was the Processional Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross), which is a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion.

The final procession of the day, was at 9.00 at night, and given we weren’t going to go, I’m glad we did.

So here are the basics – skip to the photos if you’re not interested in this but.

There are four brotherhoods or Cofradia’s with the most famous being the Californios, who wear red and the Marrajos in deep purple and there is a deep rivalry between the two.

Each Cofradía has its own headquarters which is usually a church or chapel although the larger Cofradía also have substantial hq buildings. It is here that they store the sculptured Pasos, which are scenes or images of Christ, statues and ‘tronos’ or thrones on which the statues are carried. Each Cofradía has its own Pasos, statues and tronos.

Some of the tronos are on wheels but the majority are carried on the shoulders of the members, who are known collectively as the Nazarenos.

The Nazarenos all wear distinctively coloured robes and carry extravagantly embroidered standard bearing their insignia.

The robes go back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition when those convicted of heresy against the church were forced to wear robes bearing symbols and inscriptions as a mark of their shame, making them easily identifiable and reviled as having sinned against the church. They were also forced to wear a hat, which has evolved into the capirote, which is the tall, pointy hat.

Participation In the parades is an act of penitence, so it’s normal to walk in silence, faces covered, and in Cartagena the penitents walk with military precision in perfect lines.

So enough of the history lesson. Last nights procession was organised by the Cofradía California and whilst I haven’t been able to find out the significance of the different coloured robes I am assuming that each represents a different town within the brotherhood.

So here are a few photos and once I’ve sorted through all of them I’ll add some to the gallery.

So with another 21 processions going on over the next 8 days there’s certainly plenty to choose from, so watch this space!

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