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Semana Santa in Valencia
From March 24, 2013 to March 31, 2013





Semana Santa (Holy Week, Easter) is the second biggest fiesta in Valencia after Las Fallas. Ten days packed with colourful processions in the maritime district of Cabanyal. Although it is a world-wide celebration, Valencia has its unique features. It has the most colours in Spain - there are 28 brotherhoods participating, and each has their own uniform and regalia. Well worth seeing it live, but if you can't, you will see all those colours on display in the museum of  -
Museum of Semana Santa - Museum in Valencia, Spain
Museo de Semana Santa
 all of the uniforms, imagenes, and regalia. The screens will also run videos of all the processions for you to get a taste.
Museum of Semana Santa - Museum in Valencia, Spain
Museo de Semana Santa

What it is about: Holy Week in Valencia
In Detail: All of the 28 brotherhoods are represented with their uniforms, imagenes and regalia, plus the video projections of processions.

Presentation: uniforms, imagenes, regalia, photos, explanation boards, video.

The building: part of the old rice factory, where Museum of Rice is now stationed.
The One and Only Semana Santa Marinera of Valencia
What is a Semana Santa?
Semana Santa is a celebration of Easter - the death and resurrection of Christ. It usually starts with Palm Sunday - the commemoration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, then comes the Holy Week itself, ending with Good Friday and Easter Sunday (the Resurrection), followed by a week of Pascua - Easter holiday.

Although Spain is famous for sticking to its Catholic traditions with noise and colour, the full celebration of Semana Santa is actually a rare ritual. By far not all Catholic regions in the world celebrate it at full scope. In Spain only, many large cities will have a day off and a church mass, nothing else. If you find yourself a Semana Santa celebration, don't take it for granted. Especially in Valencia...

What is unique about Semana Santa in Valencia?
If you search the net for Valencian Semana Santa, you won't find much. It is still an undiscovered fiesta. Yet, it is a unique and a picturesque celebration that deserves fame.

Not that many places in the world celebrate the Holy Week at full scope. And each of these places have their own beautiful traditions. None of them are better or worse than others, but some of them are the same. Here, in Valencia, you will see things you will not see anywhere else in the world. And this is true of many other places where Semana Santa is celebrated.

Valencia itself doesn't celebrate Semana Santa, apart from taking holidays. But Valencia has its maritime district - Grao and Cabanyal. Only 150-100 years ago it was a separate town, beginning to get absorbed into Valencia. As a force of reaction, the town people united around their tradition of Semana Santa to resist losing their identity. These days, the majorly celebrated Semana Santa is still a focal point for the cultural identity of the maritime district. It is a blend of a religious tradition and a political movement.

For this reason Semana Santa in Valencia is called Semana Santa Marinera.

Lighter atmosphere
While Spain is famous for its solemn, tragic, heavily religious celebrations of the Semana Santa, Valencia offers a breath of lightness. While the Passions are celebrated with the same respect as everywhere else, the maritime district is buzzing with festive atmosphere for the whole two weeks. The streets are full of people socializing over the event - music bands, members of brotherhoods, residents, all effortlessly bringing a touch of carnival into religion.

Variety of Costumes
Semana Santa celebrations are organised by Catholic parishes, who often have their Brotherhoods of Semana Santa. These Brotherhoods usually dedicate themselves to commemorating one aspect of Passion of Christ - such as the flogging, the judgement, the crucifixion or the burial. Throughout Spain, all of the Brotherhoods in one location have one, maybe two, costume for all to wear on the celebrations.

In Valencia, there are 28 Brotherhoods who each have their own costume, standard, and sculpture of Christ's Passion. Such variety of Brotherhoods and colours is unknown anywhere else in Spain. It is said to be the most colourful celebration of Semana Santa in Spain.

Unique Brotherhoods
While most of the Brotherhoods wear the usual high-hat uniform, Valencia also has types Brotherhoods that you will not see in any other Semana Santa procession in Spain. These are the three Brotherhoods of Grenadiers (collectively called "armed brotherhoods"). You can read more about them in Gallery of the Uniforms of the Brotherhoods page.
General Outline of Events During Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia
The Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia is all about various processions. Each procession has its own time, rules, content and meaning. All togeher they develop the whole story of the Passions of Christ, and each procession is a little story in its own.

This is just a general outline of events. Each day is covered in more detail - see Main menu of Semana Santa Marinera.

The Holy Week in Valencia is a week and a half.

The Warm-Up
The festivities start a week before Good Friday, 4 days before the official start of the Holy Week:

The opening procession of Retreta to invite people to celebrate.

Friday of Pain
Several processions to commemorate the Pain of the Mother who lost her Son.

Saturday of Passion
Several processions as a taster to what is to come - the suffering of Christ.

Palm Sunday
A very busy and happy day with lots of big processions to commemorate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.

Then starts the Holy Week itself:

The Holy Week - before Good Friday
Holy Monday and Tuesday
Numerous general religious processions on the streets. Many imagenes get moved from church/museum to the homes of Brotherhoods.

Holy Wednesday
A very interesting day with many curious and unique processions, mainly aimed at contemplating remorse and world peace.

Holy Thursday
Jesus is about to be captured. First there will be an Act of Prophecy - a colourful large procession involving all Brotherhoods, which will finally announce the coming of Passions. Then, at night, several Processions of Silence - tragic walks mourning the capture of Jesus.

Holy Week - The 3 Days
Good Friday
Jesus is judged, beaten and crucified. In the morning, many processions will walk the Via Crucis - the Path of the Cross. It is a symbolic walk in Jesus' footsteps to the top of Golgotha.

Later in the evening, the biggest and most spectacular procession of the whole Holy Week - the Procession of the Holy Burial. All Brotherhoods come out together in full colour and with imagenes to tell the story of Passion and to mourn the death of Christ.

Holy Saturday
This is a quiet day but there will still be a few minor processions in the evening.

Easter Sunday
Jesus is Alive. In the morning many processions will have Parades of Glory and celebrate the Encounter of Mother with Son. Later in the day, a colourful huge Parade of Resurrection involving all Brotherhoods.

Easter Monday
A quiet day off
Hotspot Locations of Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia
The whole maritime district will be buzzing for the two weeks of Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia. Many, many processions going back and forth on small unknown streets, and big processions in the well-known locations.

It is impossible to tell you the exact routes, there are too many of them. But there are 5 hotspot locations, where every single procession will pass at one point or another. Those are the ones you need to know to be able to enjoy every procession you fancy.

Apart from checking the locations on Multimap.com, you can see our general map of the hotspots with main procession routes.

1. Calle de la Reina
It is the main street of the maritime street and it has incredible architecture (there have even been studies on it by Japanese historians), especially along the northern length. By far not all smaller processions will end up here, but the street is excellent for watching the three big events. It's length gives you an excellent perspective and the number of people make it a festival.

Then, there are the 4 parishes of the maritime district:

2. The Temple
Brotherhoods in the parish: 9
The real name is Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mar (the Church of Holy Mary of the Sea) but the locals refer to it as "the maritime Cathedral" or simply "the Temple". As you have guessed, the church is the religious centre of the district, with all major events congregating here. It is a stunning building both inside and outside - the best preserved Rennaisance church in Valencia, with rich ornament of pure gold. In front of the church is a cosy square where the members of processions will socialize before starting - a nice buzz to mingle in. Located on Avenida del Puerto, right at the end.

3. Iglesia de los Angeles
Brotherhoods in the parish: 9
This is the religious focus of the Northern part of the maritime district. Neo-classical church with a colonial feel in front of a cosy square. The second busiest place in the district during the Semana Santa. Located on Plaza de los Angeles.

4. Iglesia del Rosario
Brotherhoods in the parish: 5
This cute church is a short walk from the Temple, in front of a just as cute a square. The neo-classical interior is also amazing, very recently restored. The Rosario square is great for a more intimate, cosy feel to the processions. Located on Plaza del Rosario.

5. Iglesia San Rafael
Brotherhoods in the Parish: 5
Probably the least known church in the district, it is also the least active hotspot during the Semana Santa, and only marginally enters into the 5 hotspots. There won't be that many processions around here. However, it is worth a visit - the doll-house-castle architecture is stunning and impossible to classify. Like many houses on the calle la Reina, this church is a work of art. Located on la Reina, as it is crossed by Avenida Mediterraneo.

The Brotherhoods of Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia
What is a Brotherhood of Semana Santa?
The Brotherhoods (hermandad, corporacion, cofradia) are associations of members of the parish who organise themselves to celebrate Semana Santa with processions. Every Brotherhood dedicates itself to a certain scene, e.g. the burial of Christ, the taking of Christ’s body off the cross, the flogging of Christ by Roman soldiers, the judgement of Christ by Pilate, etc. As such, they also perform specific functions during the Semana Santa. For example, the Brotherhood of Death and Resurrection of the Lord will be the one to first announce resurrection on Saturday midnight. And the three grenadier Brotherhoods dedicated to the Virgin will take to the streets on Friday of Pain – the day commemorating the Pain of the Mother.

Put together in one procession, they develop the whole story of the Passion before your eyes, in a sequence of frames.

There are 28 Brotherhoods in 4 parishes of the maritime district of Valencia. All 28 Brotherhoods have their own distinct uniforms and regalia. Such variety is unseen anywhere else in Spain.

You can see the gallery of all 28 uniforms in Valencia

The regalia of a Brotherhood
Example: Hermandad de Buena Muerte

The Brotherhood of Holy Death. This Brotherhood was formed by the legendary Legionaires - the top Spanish special forces, nicknamed "death's boyfriends" for always doing a mission impossible. All of the members are either serving or retired soldiers of the regiment and their families. They have dedicated themselves to the very moment of death of Christ on the Cross. Perhaps because it is the most relevant image in their profession.

There are 4 elements of identity for every brotherhood:

The uniform worn in processions. The hats are worn only for three days – from Holy Thursday to Holy Saturday. They are a symbol of mourning for the Passions of Christ. They are not worn before Thursday since Christ had not been captured yet, and they are taken off on Sunday in the joy of Resurrection. The Brotherhood of Holy Death chose colours that resemble their military uniform.

The emblem. This is the emblem of the Brotherhood and it is used whenever an emblem is applicable. In particular, you will see it on the costumes and on the walking staffs of the members. This Brotherhood has combined the graphic image of their imagen (see below) Christ of Holy Death with the emblem of Spanish Legion - crossed rifle and crossbow.

The standard. This is the flag of the Brotherhood, it is always carried at the head of any procession. Sorry, but an image of the standard of the Brotherhood of Holy Death is not available. You are viewing the standard of the Corporacion de Sayones Brotherhood.

The imagen. This is the heart of the Brotherhood – a high float that carries a sculpture depicting a scene from Christ’s Passion, the scene the Brotherhood is dedicated to. The sacred imagen of this Brotherhood is Christ of Holy Death - Jesus on the Cross at the moment of His death. This Brotherhood doesn't put the imagen on a float and instead carries it on their shoulders as a sign of deeper respect.

There are 28 Brotherhoods in 4 parishes of the maritime district of Valencia. All 28 Brotherhoods have their own distinct uniforms and regalia. Such variety is unseen anywhere else in Spain.

You can see the gallery of all 28 uniforms in Valencia



Why such variety?
In most Spanish locations, the Brotherhoods are a medieval tradition that survived to the present day. In Valencia, however, the story is different.

In reality, all Valencian Brotherhoods are fairly young – from the end of XIX century onwards. Their creation was as much of a political move as a religious one. The maritime district of Grao and Cabanal used to be a town of its own in the end of the XIX century, when Valencia began the moves to incorporate it into the city. The religious customs of Semana Santa served as a rally point to unite the residents of the district. The strength of unity that the Brotherhoods eventually provided has given the maritime district a degree of autonomy from the city. Today, the Brotherhoods will include many of the influential citizens of the maritime community. There are even Semana Santa Brotherhoods that do not have any visible presence and exist only behind closed doors.

You could say that apart from their religious function, the Brotherhoods are also economic and political syndicates. So they kept forming, and as a result the maritime district of Valencia now has the most diverse range of Semana Santa Brotherhoods in Spain.

This is not to say that Semana Santa is about politics. Not at all - you will see how deeply the residents throw themselves into the emotion of the celebration. On the contrary: the political aspect has given the maritime district extra motivation to preserve their tradition and develop their celebrations creatively.
What is a Semana Santa Procession
The actual schedule of processions is in the menu of Semana Santa

A procession is a traditional Catholic way to tell the story of Christ on the streets, for all people to see.

A Semana Santa procession in Valencia is not a formless mob of followers. It is a precisely structured piece, full of rules and symbolism.

All processions are different in content, depending on their purpose. There is no single rule that applies always, but there are some general elements:

Every procession is opened by a formation containing the standard (flag) of the Brotherhood. There can be several standards in a procession. If several Brotherhoods form the procession, it is divided into segments.
Then uniformed members of the Brotherhood will form the shell of the procession - they will usually be at all edges. The hats are worn as a sign of mourning, only when it is appropriate to grieve for the suffering of Christ.

Some processions will have biblical characters in the middle, usually carrying symbols.

The heart of the procession, the very core is the imagen - a sacred sculpture of a Biblical scene, elevated on a high stand, to which the Brotherhood is dedicated. The imagen also gives the meaning to the procession, it can act as the main actor of the stage. For example the Encounter of Mouther and Son Resurrected on Easter Sunday is a ritual of two imagenes brought close together - one of Mary and one of Jesus.

There is always a musical band in a procession, usually percussion and wind. It can range anywhere from a single solemn drum in the Procession of Silence to something like the photo on the left.

Children are usually included in the processions too, often having their own little part of space.

Some processions invite any willing followers to tail at the back with torches and/or candles.

What kind of processions are there
There are various kinds of Semana Santa processions, each having their own meaning, purpose and rules:

This procession announces the coming festivities on the first day of the celebrations.

Palm processions
Occur on Palm Sunday (1 week before the Easter Sunday) and commemorate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. They are jubilant, happy processions with lots of palm leaves, images of Jesus on the donkey. The members of Brotherhoods don't wear hats.

A general religious procession. These processions move the sacred imagenes from museum/church to the home of the Brotherhood, as a preparation for Easter processions. They usually happen over the few days before Good Friday. After the Easter there are "reverse" translados.

Processions of Silence
These take place the night before Good Friday to mourn for the capture of Christ in the gardens of Gethsemany. They are silent, tragic processions late at night, the faces are covered and the only music is a solemn drum.

Via Crucis
On the morning of Good Friday many processions will walk in the footsteps of Christ to Golgotha carrying imagenes of His Passion, commemorating His whole path with 14 stations.

Procession of Glory / Encounter with Mother
These take place on Sunday of Resurrection, celebrating the Easter Sunday. They are jubilant processions with no faces covered, usually carrying imagenes of Jesus and Mary, and including an encounter of those imagenes.

General Processions / Collective Acts
They are the most spectacular processions of the Semana Santa as they involve all of the Brotherhoods together, in full colours. These are the highlight of the Semana Santa. There are 3 general processions: Act of Prophecy, The Procession of the Holy Burial and the Parade of Resurrection - on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday respectively.

Why the Ku Klux Klan Hats?
If someone who doesn't know anything about the Semana Santa in Spain sees this picture, there is only one reaction to be expected: "Ku Klux Klan??"

It is a very unfortunate confusion of the imagery. Some people are interested in how the KKK came to use these costumes, so we decided to write a word on that.

It appears that there is no connection whatsoever. The KKK were not in any way affiliated to the Nazareno tradition of Roman Catholic, which has used this costume for many centuries. The costume itself does not carry any message.

They chose it simply for the visual effect. Apart from having a Christian connotation and white colour symbolising white race, the costume makes a ghost-like figure and provides disguise, which is exactly how the KKK wanted to appear. It is possible that some of the more imaginative and intellectual members of the Klan (without pointing fingers), familiar with Easter celebrations in Spain, were inspired by the image this costume would create and suggested it to the Klan's more moronic members.

The origins of the pointed hat in Spanish tradition are unknown, but the face is covered as a sign of mourning for the death of Christ.

On Easter Sunday the hats are taken off in the jubilation for the resurrection of Jesus.

There are 3 big events that you should not miss

Act of Prophecy - Holy Thursday (5th April, evening)
Procession of the Holy Burial - Good Friday (6th April, evening)
Parade of Resurrection - Easter Sunday (8th April, afternoon)
Act of Prophecy - 5th April
Acto de Profecia
Semana Santa Marinera, Valencia

This is one of the three "collective acts" of Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia - meaning a procession involving all Brotherhoods, not just one or two.

What is the message
While the retreta on 29th March is an announcement of the entire Holy Week, the Act of Prophecy is an announcement of the imminent three days of Passion - the nucleus of Holy Week.

The official course of events
In fact, the Grenadiers will not be present, so there will be 25 out of 28 Brotherhoods. The procession won't include many of the usual elements - there will be no imagenes, or biblical characters. Rather, each brotherhood will only have uniformed members and the music band. They will walk energetically throughout the district, visiting each of the 4 churches. The procession will be led by representatives of all Brotherhoods who will stop the procession at every church, go in and visit the Holy monument on display, before proceeding to the next one.
What you will see
It is a great spectacle of colours - for you to see every Brotherhood's unform and hear lots of traditional Spanish march music. However, this is all, and it will resemble more of a military parade than a religious procession. It is the least impressive procession of all 3. The atmosphere is great - energetic, joyful, last chance for the crowds and the members of the procession to laugh before Christ dies.

Officially, the procession takes 2 hours from first group leaving to last group arriving. If you are on one spot and the procession goes past you, it will take 35-40 min.

5th April (2007), Holy Thursday, 20.00 pm start, arrive a bit early to enjoy the social buzz on the square.

Starting at the Temple, a short loop round the Temple to Cristo del Grao and Ernesto Anastasio, then right to Francisco Cubells, left to calle Rosario, a stop-over in the Rosario Square to visit the Rosario church, then back on calle Rosario until Avenida Mediterraneo, turning right and down the avenida until the church of San Rafael on calle Reina, then up to the parallel calle Barraca, and finally a left onto Pintor Fernandis and Almenara to arrive to the last church of Angeles on Plaza de los Angeles.
The Procession of the Holy Burial - 6th April
La Procession del Santo Entierro
Semana Santa Marinera, Valencia
This is the most spectacular of the three "collective acts" of Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia - meaning a procession involving all Brotherhoods, not just one or two. It is the absolute highlight of the Semana Santa, so don't miss it.

What it the message
This is a procession of mourning for the death of Christ. It does resemble a grotesque funeral procession. The imagenes will recount the story of His Passions.

What you will see
The full tragedy of Christ's martyrdom is spilled onto the streets of Valencia. Tragic slow steps, mounrnful music, no smiles, torches and candles, all of the hats are on, faces are covered. Some people will walk barefoot.

All 28 of the Brotherhoods will take to the streets in the richest procession of Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia. The uniformed members of Brotherhood will surround various biblical characters and their imagen, followed by a music band. This is your chance to see all of the Brotherhoods in their full glory, and all of the imagenes, many of which are true works of art.

Officially, the procession takes 5 hours from first group leaving to last group arriving. If you are on one spot and the procession goes past you, it will take 3.5 hours.

Good Friday, 6th Apr (2007) 18.30 pm start

Leaving from Plaza de los Angeles, then via Pedro Maza to calle Remota, and all the way down until calle de la Reina. After the whole length of calle de la Reina, the procession will go up Doctor Domingo, then turn onto Avenida del Puerto, swing by the Temple onto Cristo del Grau, down Francisco Cubells and finally the length of calle Rosario.

The Parade of Resurrection - 8th April
Desfile de Resureccion
Semana Santa Marinera, Valencia
This is one of the three "collective acts" of Semana Santa Marinera in Valencia - meaning a procession involving all Brotherhoods, not just one or two.

What it the message
Christ is resurrected and it is time for everyone to rejoice.

What you will see
On Easter Sunday the mood sharply swings to the carnival. All of the Brotherhoods will uncover their faces and energetically walk through the district similing and waving. The music will change from tragic to jubilant, there will be more colours than ever, shower of flower petals and flowers thrown into the crowd. If you can, you can join the Spanish in shouting "guapa!" ("hey, pretty!") to catch a flower.

The imagenes will not be participating since there is no more need to remind the crowd of the Passion.

Officially, the procession takes 2 hours from first group leaving to last group arriving. If you are on one spot and the procession goes past you, it will take 1 hour.

Easter Sunday, 8th April (2007), 1 pm start

Leaving from Avenida Mediterraneo, down calle Escalante, up Pintor Fernandez to the Plaza de los Angeles, then via Pedro Maza to calle Remota, and all the way down until calle de la Reina. After the whole length of calle de la Reina, the procession will go up Doctor Domingo, then turn onto Avenida del Puerto, swing by the Temple onto Cristo del Grau , down Francisco Cubells and finally the length of calle Rosario.

With so many Brotherhoods, each having their own customs and functions, there are many more small and intimate processions that you can enjoy every day of the Holy Week


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