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HOT Tradition - Santa Calls

The imagery is instantly recognisable, the backdrop unmistakeably Andalusian; yet what makes Semana Santa such a dazzlying solemn, striking and important event? Hot properties magazine takes a look at Málaga's unique and revered holy week to find out more...

Under brilliant blue skies they come: a thronging mass of observers - some devoutly religious, some ostensibly so, others not at all - to the edge of the procession route, straining for a glimpse of the passing spectacle of tronos (thrones) each one carried slowly by its 200 or so portadores. Weighed down by these impossibly ornate floats bearing the images of Christ and The Virgin Mary, the portadores' rhythmic tempo sways in time with a heartbeat; the penitentes (penitents) and nazarenos (Nazarenes) acting as conduits for the amassed crowd's collective solemnity, while a gentle applause breaks out amid the flashes of colour, gusts of incense, and snatches of traditional song that fill the air.

Spain's stout catholic backbone ensures that holy week resists commercialisation and retains its original meaning.

Welcome to Semana Santa - Holy Week - Málaga style. This spectacular celebration takes place in the centre of Málaga, with processions beginning on Palm Sunday and continuing until Easter Sunday, with Holy Thursday and Good Friday providing the most dramatic and beguiling spectacles. Less solemn than its Andalusian counterparts, Málaga's Semana Santa is a celebration of the life of Christ, condensed into a week's worth of colour, cheer, song and rich imagery. The tangible warmth of the approaching summer, combined with the beautiful surroundings - the main processions weave their way through Málaga's picturesque Old Town - and the presence, whenever filming permits, of local-boy-done-very-good, Antonio Banderas, make Semana Santa one of the region's most eagerly-anticipated events.

STRIKING AND ICONIC The cone-shaped hat serves two purposes; acting as a disguise, while symbolically bringing the wearer closer to the heavens.

While most of the secular western world sees Easter as a time for mass chocolate consumption and imaginary bunnies, Spain's stout Catholic backbone ensures that Holy Week resists commercialisation and retains its original meaning. At the heart of the procession are Malaga's devoted Cofradias - or Brotherhoods -created in the 16th Century during the aftermath of the emergence of Protestantism and dedicated to the continuation of Catholicism's doctrines and values.

SACRED SCULPTURES Religious imagery plays as big a part today as it did 500 years ago.

These Cofradias split themselves into three distinct groups (Penitentes, De Gloria and Sacramentales), the former participating in Málaga's Holy Week. Dressed impeccably in their robes and capes, it's their capirotes that are the most striking and iconic. This cone-shaped pointy hat may look slightly sinister (especially since its latter-day adoption by the I. KKK), but it serves two benign purposes - acting as a disguise, while symbolically bringing the wearer closer to the heavens; like hundreds of portable church spires piercing the warm Spring air.

Carrying hundreds of candles, some Penitents and Nazarenes walk barefooted, with shackles and chains as a penance. Their brief suffering is, however, nothing compared to that endured by the portadores charged with carrying the massive floats along the procession route. Some are blindfolded to increase their suffering, while all must share the burden of the weight of Christ or The Virgin Mary pressing down on them with every step. Both symbolically and physically overwhelming, it explains why Antonio Banderas rarely misses his chance to participate as a portador. 

RAINING PETALS The balconies of many private houses are decorated with embroidered shawls, and petals rain down on the floats.

Ordinarily, the sight of an A-list movie star participating (nay, suffering) through a public procession would draw impressive crowds. Yet this is not the reason why Málaga's Semana Santa is so popular with Spaniards and tourists both religious and secular: it is the fact that an entire city comes together to experience an age-old spectacle that remains as mournful, solemn and joyous as ever... particularly the post-procession parties that follow immediately afterwards!

THIS SPECTACULAR CELEBRATION TAKES PLACE IN THE CENTRE OF MÁLAGA WITH PROCESSIONS BEGINNING ON PALM SUNDAY AND CONTINUING UNTIL EASTER SUNDAY.

Please note: Every effort was made to check the accuracy of the information contained within our archived HOT Properties Magazine articles at the time of originally going to press, but may well have been superseded over the ensuing years. They are now made available as historical archival information only. The said information has not been reviewed subsequently for present day accuracy nor has it been updated and we expressly disclaim any duty or obligation to do so. VIVA cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions, nor for the authenticity of any claims or statements made by third parties. We therefore strongly recommend that readers of these archived articles make their own thorough checks before entering into any kind of transaction. Prices were correct at the time of publication but may now vary due to circumstances beyond our control. The views and opinions of editorial contributors do not necessarily reflect those of VIVA .

HOT Properties Magazine Issue 87 - 2010

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