no. 2   april - june 2004

The Celebration of Holy Week in Southern Spain and the Carmelite Connection
Holy Week With the Hermandades


Above: A "paso" (scene from the Passion) and two "Nazarenos" on a street of Seville, Spain during Holy Week. The pasos are carried on the shoulders of "costaleros", hidden underneath. Below: One of the Nazarenos carries the shield of the Carmelite Order in the procession. (CITOC photos)

In Andalucia, the "Hermandades" (Confraternities or Brotherhoods) continue to have major cultural importance—because of their large number as well as for their sociological role and meaning. They are primarily associations for religious cult and to honor, either in churches or in the street processions, the Blessed Sacrament, a particular moment in the Passion of Jesus, the cross as the central symbol of Christianity, Mary as mother or suffering, or a particular saint.

Throughout the centuries, these associations have also provided help to the needy as well in order to obtain spiritual benefits.

The Brotherhoods that process in the streets during Holy Week are called the "Confraternities of Nazarenos" or "Brotherhoods of Penance." Some "Hermandades" in Seville, the center of this popular form of religious expression in Spain, were founded as recently as the 1950’s. Most date back to the 1500s. "El Silencio" was founded in 1340 and today numbers some 850 Nazarenos, the anonymous members of a confraternity identifiable by their distinctive robes and covered faces. A few of the confraternities have as many as 2,000 Nazarenos but most number from 700-1,000 members.

Right: A crowd of several thousand gathered to watch the procession leave St. Peter’s Church in Seville. People often wait hours and then fall silent as the church doors open. Many of the processions are followed live on radio and tv, with the stations switching from town to town to give updates. Left: Volunteers gently cleaning the gold covered baroque paso in the Carmelite church in Jerez before the start of the procession through the streets. (CITOC photos)

The Carmelites and the Confraternities

The Carmelites today continue to have connections with the confraternities in Jerez, Osuna, Antequera (in the Ancient Church of the Carmelites), and in Granada. In Seville, the Carmelites founded several of the brotherhoods.

In the 1500’s, the Quinta Angustia was affiliated to the "Casa Grande del Carmen" in Seville. Now in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, the Confraternity continues its street procession each Holy Thursday with some 480 Nazarenos and 46 costaleros carrying the paso at any one time. The figure of Christ is the creation of Pedro Roldán in 1659. The figure of Mary was completed by Vicente Rodríquez-Caso in 1934.

Other Confraternities established by the Carmelites in Seville include the Solidad de San Lorenzo, La Penas de San Vicente, and Las Siete Palabras.

San Lorenzo, dating to the XVI century, has 700 Nazarenos and holds a procession on Holy Saturday. It was established by the Dominicans but moved to the Carmelite monastery in 1575 where it remained for two centuries. The figures date from the end of the 16th century and is carried by 41 costaleros.

The procession of Las Penas, on Monday of Holy Week, has two "pasos" or scenes, 600 Nazarenos and takes about five hours to complete.

On Wednesday of Holy Week, Las Siete Palabras, founded in the XVI by the Carmelites, makes its procession with three different scenes. Some 500 Nazarenos participate in the six hour procession.

Six processions begin in the early morning hours of Good Friday, the first leaving its home church 30 minutes past midnight. Another seven processions are held in the late afternoon and into the night. On other days as many as nine processions will move through the various neighborhoods of Seville in a massive mixture of lay led religious piety and civic pride.

Sr. Purificación Muñoz Aranda, O. Carm.
Carmelite Embroiderer of the Antequera Confraternities

The elegant embroidery of the confraternities in southern Spain is closely connected to the enclosed monasteries in southern Spain. One of these monasteries is the Carmelite monastery of the Incarnacion in Antequera, Spain, where Sr. Purificación Muñoz Aranda has worked hard for the local confraternities, especially in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Sr. Purificación is a native of Cuevas Bajas. She heard her vocational call at the age of 22, entering the Antequera monastery, where she has remained since 1945.

Together with her vocation of prayer and contemplation, Sr. Purificación began creating clothing for the religious statues in the monastery. She developed the skill she learned from her mother. "I remember how my mother dressed the statues of our little town in the time between the wars, when the churches were being destroyed. From that came my gift to embroider which I was really able to develop in the monastery of Antequera."

There is a long list of works she has completed for the confraternities. The Confraternity of José Villalón Ramírez gave her the job of sewing the green velvet cope of Our Lady that is still used today in the procession of the Virgen de la Consolacíon y Esperanza (Virgin of Consolation and Hope). "I remember Don José had us sew the cloak. He asked that we do it little by little because there was little money for such things. So from 1972 until 1986 we were sewing the cloak."

Sr. Purificación and her sisters in the monastery took some of the old and gave it new life.

"How well I remember those years! It was the mid 1980’s, when one of the members of the confraternity came and asked that we use the embroidery of the canopy that the Muñoz Rojas family had made. It had deteriorated greatly but we fixed it to the new velvet one that has been used on Monday of Holy Week since 1987. Those were years of close relations with the confraternities which I dearly love."

"For Tuesday of Holy Week, I embroidered the long red velvet tunic that is in the "Virgen de la Piedad" procession with gold. I also embroidered the shield of the confraternity on the cape, which was sewn by the religious of Santa Cantalina. I also made the tunic of the president of the Confraternity of José Luis Vidaurreta at his personal request. Of course, he has a prominent place in the procession of the "Virgen de la Paz" (Our Lady of Peace)."

She has also embroidered the standards for the village of Archidona (a village near Antequera) and has made a countless number of clothes for the small imagines around Antequera, especially for those in her monastery.

Sr. Purificación and her work was featured in a book produced by the Confraternity to commemorate this year’s Holy Week. It read "Here is a small homage to a woman, a religious, whose let her prayer be the embroidering for our Marian images."

Above: Nazarenos come in all sizes (CITOC photo)



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