Publication Date

Spring 2004

Program Name

Spain: Cultural Landscapes and the Arts

Abstract

Semana Santa is an amazing social and religious phenomenon that takes place in Spain during the week before Easter. Various church based groups leave in procession every day to make their pilgrimage around the city. The processions consist of penitentes and nazarenos who wear the familiar pointed hat and hard linen robes tied around the waist by rope. Next comes the mantillas, women dressed up in all black with the traditional hair piece, carrying rosaries and candles as they accompany Jesus and the Virgen who are the stars of the procession. Normally each group has two platforms carried on the shoulders or necks of anywhere from 30 to 40 men, and in the recent years, women too. Each platform of Jesus tells a different part of the story of his Pasion and Death while those of the Virgen express the divine sorrow of her role as the mother of the Mesiah.

The multidimensional and complex nature of this week combines the religious with the festive, the historical with the theatral, the simbolic with the emotional and the comunal with the individual. Streets are closed down, everybody leaves their houses to gather in common spaces either to share their religious faith or to share a beer with friends. It is an amazing combination of various aspects which is unique only to Spain. For my project I have captured the images of this week in black and white. By developing the pictures myself I was able to pick and personalize each image to portray the exact message that I wanted. Through my pictures I have attempted to not only demonstrate those classic images that represent the Semana Santa but have also tried to show those tiny moments that normally no one pays attention to but that are those that really make and embody this great tradition.

Through my paper I have attempted to develop various important themes that come into play during this week. Starting with the history of how this ritual came to be, I also touch on the religious significance of the iconography and the symbolic importance as a carthartic process by which the people can deal with and process the hardships of their own life by projecting them onto the images and story of Jesus. Next I develop a sketch of how the world of these groups, the cofradías, function as social, religious and familial institutions. Touching on the politics and new development of women participation an analysis is drawn on the various aspects of these associations. At the end I deal with how the outside world experiences the Semana Santa, what are the new trends and discussions relating to this week. Overall, the information in this paper serves to add dimension to the photos and a deeper understanding of this phenomenon, where it has come from, what it stands for and where it is going.

Disciplines

Religion | Visual Studies

 
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