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Semana Santa in Madrid

Easter religious procession in Madrid, Spain

The Easter celebrations in Madrid during Semana Santa, or Holy Week, are obviously focussed mostly around several different religious processions, although anybody who has seen the fervent worship that goes on with the processions in Seville at this time will discover the more sombre character of the Madrileños. But if you want to know what to do in Madrid at Easter, please read on.

This is wonderful time for a weekend break or Easter holiday in Spain, the temperatures being moderate to warm, and with the interesting activities described below to occupy your time.

The celebration of the Passion of Christ is one of the most important traditions in Spain, and Madrid is no exception. Although, as ever, the Spaniards tend to use these traditional occasions more to go out and have fun than to actually rejoice in the religious origins of the events.

Since the 15th century Madrid has celebrated the events described in the New Testament regarding the death, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ with traditional "pasos". These are basically religious icons, taken from their normal resting places in churches around the city and paraded through the streets on the shoulders of the "costaleros", normally young men who feel deeply privileged to struggle under the immense weight of religious statues, balancing sometimes precariously aboard heavy platforms. In Madrid there are around 20 of these religious processions over the days before Easter Sunday.

Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday)

Palm Sunday initiates the Easter week with 2 traditional processions in Madrid. The icon of "Cristo de la Fé y del Perdón", an 18th century statue by Luis Salvador Carmona, and the religious statue of "Santa María Inmaculada Madre de la Iglesia", leave the Basílica Pontificia de San Miguel church located at San Justo, 4 in the evening and parade through the surrounding streets. Some locals will purchase palm branches and laurel or bay leaves as a remembrance of Christ's triumphant entrance in to the city of Jerusalem.

Miércoles Santo (Holy Wednesday)

By this mid-week point, the fact that Easter is well under way is truly noticeable in the city. In the evening, normally around 7.30pm, Madrid's Archbishop takes part in the Vía Crucis, or Stations of the Resurrection. A little later the brotherhood of the "Cruzados de la Fe" retrieves their Christ icon (Santísimo Cristo de la Fe) from his resting place in their headquarters (Atocha, 87) and venerates his image with a besapié (his foot is kissed).

In the old historic part of Madrid, the Madrid of the Austrias, the San Jerónimo el Real church in Calle Ruiz de Alarcón, 19 is the starting point for a procession involving the Brotherhood of "Nuestro Padre Jesús de la Salud y María Santísima de las Angustias"

Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday)

Jesus el Pobre, MadridPerhaps one of the most spectacular moments of Easter weeks occurs on Holy Thursday. This takes place at Calle Toledo, 37, at around 7.30 to 8pm at the Colegiata de San Isidro. The religious images of the Virgin Maria Santísima de la Esperanza and Jesús del Gran Poder are brought out of the church by the "costaleros" and through the main door. To do this, they have to get down almost on their knees to slowly make their way through, an immense effort which is noisily rewarded with much applause and shouts of encouragement from the watching crowds.

The processions of Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, El Pobre, and María Santísima del Dulce Nombre leave Church of San Pedro in Calle Nuncio at around 7pm, and the image "El Divino Cautivo" is paraded from the Colegio Calasancio in Calle General Díaz Porlier, 58.

Viernes Santo (Good Friday)

Good Friday brings perhaps the most emblematic religious procession for Madrid, that of Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, which leaves the Basílica del Cristo de Medinaceli in the Plaza de Jesús at around 7pm and parades central streets including the Puerta de Sol and Plaza Cibeles.

The "Procesión del Silencio" or Procession of Silence starts from the Church of Santísimo Cristo de la Fé in Calle Atocha 87 and the Ayuntamiento or City Hall organises its own procession called the Santo Entierro which leaves the Parish Church of Santa Cruz in Atocha, 6 with the image of Lignum Crucis.

Sábado Santo (Holy Saturday)

The procession of "Nuestra Señora de la Soledad" leaves the Corpus Christi Monastery at around 4:30pm.

Domingo Santo (Easter Sunday)

The main event on Easter Sunday takes place at mid-day in the Plaza Mayor. This is the "Tamborada del Domingo de Resurección", whereby whichever Brotherhood has been chosen for the year, assembles dozens of drums of all shapes and sizes and beats out a constant rhythm which almost shakes the timbers of the nearby houses. This represents the earth tremors that were supposed to have occurred when Christ died on the cross.

Please note that the times mentioned are approximate and may change

Top photo courtesy of almadrid on Flickr



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