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A Weekend of Semana Santa in Sevilla

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

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As we wind down from last weekend’s Easter celebrations, we can reflect on how lovely our Easter morning brunches and baskets full of candy from the Easter bunny are. However, many of us forget about the essential Holy Week leading up to Easter, each day celebrating Jesus and his journey to death and resurrection. In Spain, this Holy Week is infamously known as Semana Santa. Since Spain is a Catholic country, many schools and even workplaces find themselves on break to participate in the many religious processions of Semana Santa, which are said to date back to the 12th century. As a semi-religious 18-year-old university student at St. Andrews, I found the idea of traveling to experience Semana Santa quite appealing. I’ve heard stories about the extremely popular celebrations of Semana Santa in the Spanish city of Sevilla, a southern city known for its beautiful charm and orange trees. A three-hour flight to Sevilla from Scotland didn’t seem daunting, so I took the flight hoping to experience Semana Santa for a few days. Here’s how it went and what I learned. 

Arriving to Sevilla on Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, I was greeted by many red banners hanging from apartment balconies and streets lined with barricades. I also couldn’t help but notice the large groups of people crowding the streets. Having been to Sevilla only three weeks before Reading Week (St. Andrews’ equivalent to Spring Break), I was shocked at how many more people filled the city. As I explored the city for the day, I learned that these red banners marked the way for processions that would soon begin the next day – Palm Sunday. These processions of Holy Week began in the morning and lasted late into the night, often ending at 3 am. Processions occurred every day of Holy Week, each serving as a tribute to the Passion of Jesus Christ. On Palm Sunday, the processions were in celebration of Jesus’ arrival to Jerusalem on a donkey with hopes of celebrating Passover. 

I stepped out on Palm Sunday morning to the streets flooded with people. No matter the age, all the men were dressed in suits, and the women wore their best, most colorful outfits. It truly felt like Spanish Fashion Week. Purple, the color of Lent, adorned many of the outfits, whether in bracelet, ribbon, or pendant form. Almost every person sported a cross or pendant of a Saint around their neck. I attended Palm Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Sevilla, which was insanely awesome. Originally a mosque, the Cathedral of Sevilla is one of the most adored sites of Sevilla and one of the world’s largest cathedrals. The mass I attended was in Spanish, obviously, but it was full of Spanish people and people from various places worldwide. It seemed that after attending mass and awaiting the processions that began at 3 that afternoon, people spent their time popping in and out of churches that displayed pasos, which are the floats of the processions. Each Paso originally had an educational function and depicted an image from specific passages of the Bible. It was truly spectacular observing the immense detailing of gold and the precise emotions displayed on the statues of each Paso. Many of these pasos, I learned, are over 300 years old and can weigh up to a ton. 

The first procession I observed was a multiple-hour-long procession of Nazarenos, a piece of important culture to these processions. Nazarenos are people, in this case, people of Sevilla, who wear cone-shaped, hooded robes in many different colors. These hooded robes were a bit shocking initially, as I didn’t know exactly what they represented. After some research and befriending a Sevillan girl, I learned that the original cultural significance of Nazarenos was people who wished to repent for their sins without revealing their identity as sinners to their entire community. The varying colors, often purple and black, emphasize the mourning and repentance of this week, reflecting the significance and gravity of Holy Week. I also learned that Nazarenos, somewhere along the historical path, began giving out sweets to seem more friendly to people, as their significance holds no sinister meaning. In the first procession on Palm Sunday, hundreds of Nazarenos in white robes walked in parallel rows, handing out sweets and little cards picturing Jesus and Mother Mary. The first group of Nazarenos were mostly kids, ranging from little babies to teenagers, often accompanied by parents and family walking alongside them. It was an amazing reflection of Spain’s community and family scene – I was automatically in awe. Continuing the display of Nazarenos were men carrying crosses. Many of these men were barefoot, just as Jesus had been, which I found astonishing. The procession was coupled with music and ended at the Cathedral of Sevilla. The music I recently learned is La Saeta, a traditional religious song you will hear at certain points during processions. This song is performed acapella by some select person and is considered an immense honor to be chosen to do so.  

The last procession I attended before leaving Sevilla was on Tuesday night. After leaving a classically late Spanish dinner at 12 pm, I observed one last procession. Standing just on the edge of the procession line, I had an amazing view of the many Nazarenos, in black, green, and purple colors, and the Paso, which depicted Mother Mary surrounded by blazing candles. It was truly breathtaking. As the paso passed, silence fell onto the crowds of people. It was inexplicable to be surrounded by people all celebrating the same religious event, praising the same God, and feeling the communal Holy Spirit present. My words truly don’t do it justice. Semana Santa in Sevilla is genuinely a one-of-a-kind experience. 

While I was happy to experience this as a fellow Catholic, Semana Santa is a unique celebration, no matter your religion. The dedication, commitment, and passion held by those participating in the processions were astounding, and I hope to experience this week again one day. If you are ever considering visiting any city for Semana Santa, Sevilla is the place to be. 

Tricia Merone

St. Andrews '27

Tricia Merone is a first year French student at the University of St. Andrews and from New York. She has previously been a writer for her high school's newspaper in order to pursue her interest in writing outside of academics. Besides writing, Tricia loves reading, fashion and traveling, as well as any sort of exercise.