Holy Week in Madrid

If you visit Madrid during Holy Week (“Semana Santa”), you will discover one of the most emotive celebrations in Spain. Although the Spanish Constitution provides that Spain is a secular country, religion is lived in a very inte nse way.

church-of-san-isidro

Church of San Isidro

For centuries, the Catholic Church had great influence in the country, what sometimes led to serious social conflicts. You must not forget the enormous power of the Spanish Inquisition, which was abolished in 1834 by Queen María Victoria. Today the Catholic Church still has some power in certain areas (eg, the Catholic Church enjoys some tax exemptions), which is difficult to imagine in other European countries. During Holy Week, churches across the country are decked out and the polychrome wooden sculptures are decorated with candles, colorful flowers etc. to take part in the processions (“procesiones”) along with thousands of devotees.

Usually these processions are accompanied by music bands and “nazarenos” (men dressed in long robes, whose faces are covered by a veil draped over a tall cone shaped hat, known as “capirote”).  “Costaleros” are other main protagonists in this emblematic celebration.  They carry the weight of the float (“pasos”) on their shoulders and neck. You can imagine the great physical conditions required to support a weight of approximately 50-100 kilos per person during several hours. The most important processions take place on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and commemorate the death of Jesus. Finally, on Easter Sunday hundreds of people gather in Plaza Mayor Square to beat drums and bass drums (“tamborrada”). The celebration of Holy Week also has its influence on food. On Good Friday “madrileños” eat a delicious stew of chickpeas with cod (“potaje”). Other typical dishes during Holy Week are “Soldaditos de Pavia” (crunchy pieces of battered cod) and “torrijas” (typical sweets).

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