Semana Santa – The Holy Week in Marbella


Easter is almost upon us, which means Marbella is getting ready to enter its most passionate time of year. The streets will be filled with fanfare as marching bands serenade the sacred processions. Whether a visitor or a resident, it is quite an experience to witness the culmination of centuries old symbolism as this city expresses and celebrates its Catholic heritage through camaraderie, music, rituals and religious exhibits.

Nazareno in Semana Santa Marbella

Article by Sophie Gatward-Wicks

Much like in the rest of Andalucía, Easter on the Costa del Sol carries a deep sense of tradition intertwined with reverence. Celebrated in every village, town and city across Spain, this time of year presents a cultural opportunity for contemplation and introspection, inviting individuals to embrace the chance for personal growth, positive change and spiritual connection. From the solemn processions that wind through the streets to the intricate religious iconography adorning churches, each element of Semana Santa mirrors the deep-rooted faith and devotion of the local community.

Statue of Jesus Christ carrying his cross in a holy week procession in Marbella
Statue of Jesus Christ carrying his cross in a holy week procession in Marbella

Hermandad (Brotherhood)

Organised by brotherhoods, these world-famous processions each have their own distinctive robes and rituals. Members of these brotherhoods may join if it is in their family tradition, or out of affinity for their local parish church. It is considered a great honour to participate in these processions, which are guided by the senior member of the brotherhood and parade from the church on a planned route through the streets, traditionally heading towards a cathedral, and then back to their church again.

The religious floats and statues that accompany them all serve to depict a specific moment in time, portraying the events described in the Bible during the Passion of Christ, marking his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his crucifixion and resurrection. The hand-crafted statues and artistic sculptures were all made by highly skilled artisans, some of them taking months or even years to create and can date as far back as the 17th century. The sculptures can weigh an impressive 2,000 – 5,000 kilos, which is an extreme effort for the brotherhood to carry for hours on end through often narrow streets. This suffering actually plays a part in the reflection of Christ’s own suffering.

Nazareno in Semana Santa Marbella

The Hooded Robes of the Brotherhoods

The penitential robes and pointed hoods of the ¨Nazarenos’’ (Nazarenes),  worn by the brotherhoods during these processions, were originally designed to conceal the identity of the wearer, which represents penitents too shamed by the crucifixion to show their faces. Historically, these types of hooded robes were worn by those who had been singled out by the Church for violating doctrine, and were a form of humiliation. Later it was adopted by Catholic brotherhoods as a voluntary disguise of flagellants — people who flagellate themselves as penance for their sins.

This attire bears unfortunate resemblance to the robes and pointed hoods worn by the members of the Klu Klux Klan, who actually stole this design from European religious traditions. The KKK took note of the effect that these processions had on the public, and wanted to emulate the feeling of ceremony and significance held by this medieval Catholic display of brotherhood. In 1865, these traditions were seen in Spanish America, and it is believed that the Ku Klux Klan simply copied the aesthetics, which in Spain, date as far back as the Spanish Inquisition.

Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation in the Old Town of Marbella
Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation in the Old Town of Marbella

Marbella’s Processions

Saturday 23rd of March 2024 will be the initiation of the Semana Santa celebrations, the day before Palm Sunday. The ceremonies will last until the following weekend, ending Sunday 31st of March 2024. Starting things off will be the procession known as La Nueva Hermandad de Nuestra Señora de la Amargura y San Antonio de Padua (The New Brotherhood of Our Lady of Bitterness and Saint Anthony of Padua), which will be departing from the Parish Church in the Plaza de La Iglesia in Marbella’s Old Town. Marbella’s full Semana Santa 2024 program.

This is a holiday dating back to the 16th century, when hundreds of years ago it was decided that Easter processions would be the best way to honour the story of Christ’s last moments on earth. 

Whether you are religious, or hold differing beliefs as the Spanish locals, the historic value of these rituals are if nothing else, as interesting as they are impressive, and a great excuse to get out and be part of the cultural landscape and artistic heritage that is Semana Santa in Marbella.

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