Spain has a long tradition of processions taking to the streets during Holy Week, otherwise known as Semana Santa. With Spring just around the corner and with it the year’s first week-long holiday, it’s the perfect opportunity to plan an escape. If you’re wanting to take advantage of the Easter holidays to experience the best of Spanish Holy Week, look no further: we’ve compiled a list of the nation’s most iconic processions.
7 unmissable Holy Week processions in Spain
General Procession of Valladolid
Get ready to experience a fantastic atmosphere on the streets of Valladolid during Holy Week 2023. This year’s events will take place from Sunday 2nd to 9th of April – Easter Sunday – with the official Proclamation constituting Holy Week’s opening ceremony in the city of Valladolid.
Holy Week processions in Valladolid create a veritable open air museum on the city’s streets. The majority of the traditional floats are centuries-old works of art that over the years have come to form part of the cultural heritage of Castilian Holy Week. Some of the floats are even kept for the rest of the year in Valladolid’s National Sculpture Museum.
Valladolid’s Holy Week is defined by a characteristic silence in its streets. Another characteristic feature is the impressive woodwork on display in the form of processional carvings, genuine works of art sculpted in wood.
The streets of Valladolid host many different processions throughout Holy Week. The majority of the city’s brotherhoods carry these sculptures during their own processions, referred to as “processions of the rule” , or during processional Stations of the Cross or recreations of parts of the Calvary, with the most notable of these being the Procession of the Encounter which takes place in Calle de la Amargura on Holy Tuesday. In this procession, Our Lady of Valladolid, or the Virgen of Anguish, one of Valladolid Holy Week’s oldest carvings takes to the streets to be reunited with her son, the Christ of the Calvary.
The best place to see all the General Procession’s impressive imagery is in the Plaza Mayor. Make sure to get there early to get a good view.
La Madrugá, Seville
Holy Week in Seville is one of the most atmospheric in Spain, also being one of the most famous and the most traditional. Although there are many unmissable events and processions that are worth experiencing in Seville, one of Holy Week’s most characteristic is the Madrugá – or “the early hours” – between Easter Thursday and Good Friday.
During this particular night six processions take to the streets, accompanied by their corresponding Nazarenes. The Brotherhood of Silence is the first to leave, with the last being the Brotherhood of Gypsies.
During Holy Week 2023 the “Madrugá de Sevilla” will take place on the night between the 6th and 7th of April 2023.
The Procession of the Brown Capes, Zamora
One of Castilla and Leon’s most iconic Holy Week celebrations takes place in Zamora. With this busy agenda confirming its popularity:
- On Holy Wednesday, the streets of Zamora are witness to the Brotherhood of the Holy Christ of the Injuries, or the “Silent Brotherhood”, and the Penitent Brotherhood of the Holy Christ of Shelter, or “The Brown Capes”.
- The morning of the 6th of April, Easter Thursday, is the moment to watch out for the Brotherhood of the Virgen of Hope. And in the afternoon, the procession of the “Disciplinary and Penitent” Brotherhood of the Holy Cross, with the Penitent Brotherhood of Jesus finishing off the day’s events.
- It’s an early start to Good Friday, with the Congregational Brotherhood of Jesus of Nazarene of the Masses taking to the streets at 5am.
- Easter Saturday in Zamora is dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude. A unique procession during which her hymn is sung with great feeling in the Plaza Mayor.
- Among the last of the processions on Easter Sunday, that led by the Brotherhood of the Holy Resurrection stands out above the rest. This procession celebrates the encounter between Jesus Resurrected and Our Lady in the Plaza Mayor.
Procession of the Christ of Mena, Malaga
One of Easter Thursday in Malaga’s most unmissable sights is the procession of the Christ of Mena, carried through the streets on the shoulders of the Knights of the Legion. Even more so factoring in a short break to try Malaga’s famed borrachuelos, a traditional pastry eaten during Holy Week.
Procession of The Masses, Cuenca
The procession of The Masses is the most emblematic of Cuenca’s Holy Week processions, starting this year on the 7th of April 2023. In fact, the procession’s official name is “The Calvary”.
This procession portrays the route to the crucifixion, with Nazarenes beating their sticks and drums and sounding their bugles until the end of the procession in the church itself.
Procession of Jesus of Medinaceli, Madrid
The procession of the Christ of Medinaceli (or of Jesus of Nazareth of Medinaceli) will take place on the 7th of April 2023, Good Friday. It attracts the largest number of worshippers and inspires the greatest devotion of all of Madrid’s Holy Week processions.
It’s also the ideal opportunity to admire the procession’s 17th century carving in all its glory, sculpted in the workshop of Juan de Mesa in Seville.
Palm Sunday Procession in Elche, Alicante
The Palm Sunday Procession in Elche takes place every year on its eponymous day. The first written records documenting the Palm Sunday Procession in Elche date back to the year 1371. It was declared a Festival of National Tourism Interest in 1988 and Festival of International Tourism Interest in 1997.
Since then, every year on Palm Sunday the city celebrates the Romería de las Palmeras, a pilgrimage marking the beginning of Holy Week in Elche. Each year a different brotherhood is chosen to hold the Borriquita Procession.