WHAT IS SEMANA SANTA (HOLY WEEK)?
Easter week in Málaga (in Spanish: Semana Santa ) is one of the most important cultural events of the year. This centuries old tradition is a key part of the identity of the city. Holy Week is a highlight on the calendar of every Malagueño.
The week is marked by between 5 and 10 elaborate processions that take place every day. The processions start and end from their brotherhood buildings or churches. Then they weave their way around the streets of the historical city.
When is holy week?
It starts on Palm Sunday and ends the following Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. So, if you want to keep up you’ll need to find an itinerary. This shows the timetables and specific times of when each procession will pass certain points of the city. You can pick up an itinerary at the tourist office. As well, many local stores such as bakeries and pharmacies have them. And, at MALAGA BIKE, of course!
What do the processions look like?
Check out this video to get a feel for the Semana Santa of Malaga:
What is the origin of the Semana Santa processions?
The majority of Spain as we know it today lived under muslim rule for eight centuries. There was just a small part in the north of Spain that remained in Christian hands. During the eight centuries the muslims were here, the Christians were always trying to regain control of the territory. The Christian Conquest was brought to its fruition in 1492 in Granada by the Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel.
After eight centuries of muslim rule, one of the monarchs’ first priorities was to christianise the population. With most people being illiterate, they decided that images of the Easter story was the best way to educate the population. Therefore, the elaborate thrones that are carried through the streets show the story of what happened to Jesus Christ during the Easter Week. Each image of Christ carried on the thrones portrays one part of the story of the Passion. So for example, the very first throne on Palm Sunday shows Christ on the donkey entering Jerusalem. There are other thrones that show Christ carrying the cross, Christ being crucified, Christ being taken down from the cross, etc. The images of the virgin are always portrayed in a regal manner, like a queen, usually wearing a long hand embroidered cloak and a crown.
The thrones are accompanied by marching bands playing eerie music which becomes more sombre as the week progresses. There are also hundreds of other ‘penitents’ called Nazarenos walking with the thrones, dressed in long tunics and tall pointy hats. The material covers the whole head, with just two eye-holes cut out to see where they are going. It can be quite a shock for first time visitors. Naturally, the first thought that comes to their heads is the KKK. However, we assure you, it has absolutely nothing to do with that at all. The hats are worn as a sign of penitence. Each brotherhoods nazarenos wear different coloured tunics. Therefore, each procession is a different splash of colour passing through the streets. There are also people swinging incense burners along the route. The air is filled with the smell of incense combined with the scent of the orange trees in blossom at this time of year. Semana Santa is really a feast for the senses.
When are the processions?
There are processions every day from Palm Sunday to Googd Friday and then one procession on the Day of the Resurrection-Easter Sunday.
The processions start around 3 p.m. and some finish as late as 4 o’clock in the morning!
Therefore, if you need to do things in the city centre from Monday to Friday (other than watch processions), you HAVE to do everything in the mornings. Because in the afternoons it’s show-time!
With between 5 and 10 processions happening every day, they literally take over the streets. It can be very difficult to move around the city. Besides, most businesses close in the afternoons. Thursday and Friday are public holidays so all shops close on those days.
What are some ‘must-see’ processions?
Palm Sunday: According to the tradition, you have to wear brand new clothes for the occasion. You’ll see kids around the city waving palms when the very first procession of the week ‒La Pollinica‒ passes by.
Holy Monday: On Monday you can see the most popular procession in the city, El Cautivo, a.k.a. the Lord of Malaga. Its iconic image is everywhere in the city. Thousands of Malagueños walk behind the procession for the whole route.
Maundy Thursday: One of the most spectacular moments for the locals is the procession of Mena. Members of the Legion, an elite division of the Spanish Army are the participants and protagonists of this procession. The soldiers disembark in the port of Málaga the morning of the procession. They do their unique fast march from the port and through the city. Thousands of the locals turn out to see their arrival.
Good Friday: This day the brotherhoods grieve the death of Jesus. Don’t miss the solemn Servitas procession which starts around midnight. The street lights are turned off as the procession goes by.
What else can I do in Malaga during Easter Week?
If all this can be a little bit overwhelming, maybe you want to get away from all the frenzy at some point. Then why not rent a bike from MALAGA BIKE and cycle away from the centre? Head out east or west along the coast to relax. Enjoy the beaches and chiringuitos of Malaga, which are usually quiet at this time of the year. Discover Pedregalejo, a charming fishermans neighbourhood just 4 km east from the city centre. (And please- don’t even think of taking your bike into the city centre- you will never get out!)
Experiencing the Semana Santa of Malaga is truly an unforgettable experience. Ask our friendly MALAGA BIKE staff for information on the processions when you rent your bike.