Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a huge deal in our neighborhood of Valencia. We live in the Maritime district, and it is the hub of festivities at this time of year. (Find some background and previous pictures here.)
In past years I’ve missed many of the happenings because we were in Germany visiting Liebling and Chiquito at Easter. This year I feel like I missed out because the weather was cold and stormy for much of the time, and we struggled to motivate ourselves to brave the elements. Still, despite strong winds and plenty of rain (which appears not to have heard that it’s supposed to stay mainly in the plain), we saw and heard a fair amount.
Once the bells started clanging in the nearby church, or the drums started up, we knew we’d be able to find a procession somewhere close. Because they happened at night, getting reasonable pictures was difficult. Creating a comprehensive sense of what it’s really like to be in the middle of things was beyond me, but I’ll share a couple of videos that can help.
The first is quite short and gives a few little glimpses (using the Lacrimosa movement of Mozart’s Requiem in D minor as soundtrack, completely unlike the marching bands that actually accompany the processions). The second is longer, and you can give it a try if you’re interested in getting more of a feel for what goes on.
This longer video is in Valenciano, so you can hear what it sounds like. If you want the Castellano, find it here. There’s not an English version available, but it’s mostly about the visuals, anyway.
If you watched a few minutes of either video, you’re bound to have some questions. Jesus is generally recognizable, but who are these other people? From the guide that lists the 69(!) processions, I also learned that the various biblical figures carry items or wear particular costume pieces to help identify them. For example, Claudia Procula (Pontius Pilate’s wife) carries a harp.
If a man is carrying keys, you know it’s Peter (though he could also be carrying a rooster–haven’t seen that yet). Keys hanging from the waist mean a woman of the Sanhedrin. Keys on a plate would signal Martha, whose other option is to carry a basket filled with foods typical of Palestine, like dates or figs. Keys carried along with a sign of crucifixion on a plate (?) means it’s Mary of Clopas. Not confused yet, are you?
A perfume jar could signal Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, or Joseph of Arimathea. Judith wears a head covering held with one hand, her other hand carrying a knife or sword. Her maid may accompany her, carrying a head on a plate or in a sack. If the woman with the head on a plate is veiled, then you know it’s Salome.
I guess because the Jews of the New Testament looked down on the Samaritans as low class losers, the image in my mind is of a more humble people, but this Samaritana could definitely afford someone skilled to give her a fancy hairdo:
In addition to the many biblical figures, processions also included brass bands, church dignitaries, and hooded figures from the various brotherhoods. And I’m searching for the right word to describe the other members of the processions—they’re like wagons, but generally human-powered. “Floats” doesn’t quite capture it, conjuring as it does American parade platforms covered in tissue paper flowers and prom queens. Learning what to call them is on my list to accomplish before next year at this time. Meanwhile, I’ll call them wagons, and hope someone will comment to set me straight.
Our pictures of the wagons from the processions aren’t great given lighting conditions, but we did take some pictures of them in their “garage,” the Museo de Semana Santa Marinera a few blocks from us on Rosario Street. I’ll include a few of the night shots to give you a sense of the experience, followed by indoor shots of the wagons at home.
There are lots of other interesting things at the museo, including the various guild costumes with accompanying crucifixes, as well as other costumes and smaller display cases.
There’s a lot about Valencia’s celebrations around Easter that I don’t yet understand. I guess we’ll see how much progress I make between now and next Semana Santa Marinera.
[Images: El Guapo and Yours Truly, plus a few from semanasantamarinera.org]