Scribbler in Seville

Purple passion: Las Cigarreras on Jueves Santo

semana santa, las cigarreras, Jueves Santo

The Cruz de Guia leads the procession, as Las Cigarreras cross the Puente San Telmo.

mantillas, Sevilla, Jueves Santo

Three ladies looking very guapa with their mantillas – only worn on Jueves Santo.

This year, Semana Santa here in Seville was, yet again, adversely affected by the weather.

The processions which fill the city with statues, hooded penitents, incense, and devotion during Holy Week, were curtailed by rain, as so often happens – some vicious downpours which caused pasos (floats) to hurriedly leave their set route and seek shelter in the nearest church. The co-ordination needed for up to nine processions making their way through the city’s narrow streets at the same time, and then making unscheduled stops to avoid their figures being damaged by moisture (one Jesus was even seen sporting a raincoat), must be incredibly complicated.

The high point of the week, for many, is La Madruga’, when (arguably) the most important hermandades El Silencio, Jesus del Gran Poder, La Esperanza of Triana and La Macarena, come out on early Friday morning. This year, their return to their temples was affected by a heavy downpour, resulting in headlines such as “Madrugada Rota“. Some had to stay in the Cathedral until the skies calmed down, even until the following day.

Torre del Oro, Giralda, hermandad, Semana Santa

Nazarenos in their purple hoods, with two of Seville’s most famous Moorish landmarks behind them: the Torre del Oro (left) and the Giralda.

Earlier that day, however, on Thursday afternoon, the clouds broke and the sun shone through. Having been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, comparing three different reports, I noticed that all seemed to concur on the afternoon of Jueves Santo offering a brolly-free experience.

Las Cigarreras (formerly based at the chapel of the Tobacco Factory of Carmen fame, now the University of Seville, hence the name) were due to start crossing the San Telmo bridge, which crosses the river between Triana and Puerta Jerez, at 4pm. Since I find the narrow, packed streets of the centre somewhat claustrophobic, an open plaza giving onto the river was the ideal spot. There was even a raised area – the roundabout on Plaza de Cuba – from which to take photos, and sit down for a rest periodically (the processions take between 30 minutes and over an hour to go past). The view from here encompasses the Giralda, Torre del Oro, Palacio San Telmo and even one of the towers of Plaza de España.

nazareno, penitente, Semana Santa, Jueves Santo

Nazarenos, or penitentes, with their crosses.

penitente, semana santa, sevilla

Penitentes cross the bridge; some walk the route descalzo, without shoes.

The colours of this hermandad (brotherhood) are rich, shiny purple hoods over white gowns, which looked unexpectedly glamorous and glossy in the rare sunshine. Some of them carried black wooden crosses, as an act of penitence.

Jesus Atado, Semana santa, Jueves Santo

The Jesus paso of this procession shows him tied to a pillar while being whipped.

A desconsolate Jesus, en el Misterio de su Sagrada Flagelacion.

A desconsolate Jesus, en el Misterio de su Sagrada Flagelacion.

The Christ paso is one of the more sombre and graphic, and somehow more affecting that seeing the figure on a cross: Nuestro Padre Jesus Atado a la Columna (Our Father Jesus Tied to the Column). He’s surrounded by other figures – Roman guards and two other men, one of whom is wielding a whip. They all look extremely life-like, which is unnerving to say the least. This is a contemporary work – the Jesus was made in 1974, and the other figures just ten years ago.

Virgin, Semana Santa, Jueves Santo

The Virgin of the Cigarreras.

Every procession has two bands, some of which are only drums. This one had the full woodwind and brass complement.

Every procession has two bands, some of which may only play drums. This one had the full woodwind and brass complement.

The name of the hermandad is embroidered on band members' suits.

The name of the hermandad’s band is embroidered on members’ suits.

After some more nazarenos, the paso of the Virgin (also called palio), made her way across the plaza. She is Maria Santisima de la Victoria, and dates from the 17th century. After her came the band, and a surge of people followed the tail of the procession over the bridge towards Puerta Jerez.

virgin, Semana santa, Sevilla, Jueves Santo

The Virgin crosses Puente San Telmo, surrounded by her devotees.

This being Jueves Santo, I noticed that several women, of all ages, were wearing black outfits – elegant dresses with lace mantillas, veils which sit over peinetas (tall combs) on the back of their heads. The mantilla is also traditionally worn at bullfights, and – in white – at weddings, and while most Sevillanas wear theirs on Holy Thursday, some sport them on Friday too.

A lady wearing her mantilla.

A lady wearing her mantilla.

Jueves Santo, mantilla, Semana santa

Sevillanas of all ages dress up in their finest for Jueves Santo.

mantilla, Jueves Santo, Semana Santa

The señora in her sober, elegant dress, with the Virgin in her rich embroidered mantle.

After crossing the bridge, the column of nazarenos turned left onto the broad avenue Paseo de Cristobal Colon (normally buzzing with traffic, but closed off for this afternoon), passing the Torre del Oro on the left. Las Cigarreras is the only procession which takes this riverside route, next to the Guadalquivir, offering a wide, light space to enjoy the spectacle – people can even sit on the wall by the tower while they watch.

Seville's history provides extraordinary backdrops wherever you look - here the Torre del Oro.

Seville’s history provides extraordinary backdrops wherever you look – here the Torre del Oro; Las Cigarreras is the only procession which passes the Moorish tower.

Semana Santa, Jueves Santo, nazareno

Part of the intrigue (for me, at least) of these outfits is only being able to see the person’s eyes.

After this it was right turn into a narrow street, into the more typical Semana Santa setting, with people hanging out of their windows and balconies above to see the action. The strong red and yellow of the building made a great backdrop for this section of the procession.

Semana Santa, nazarenos, Jueves Santo, Sevilla

The hoods gleam in the bright afternoon sun.

Following the paso, she turned left into the street of the Atarazanas, and then right and up into the Arenal, at which point I took my leave.

One of the most approachable aspects of Semana Santa is that despite all the ceremony, silver staffs, and a certain degree of seriousness, like the rest of Spanish life, it’s a family affair. You see mini-nazarenos, monaguillos (altar boys), and even mini-mantillas. All ages take part – if too small to be in the procession itself, then by wearing their outfit – and it’s a way of introducing, and including, the next generation who may not go to Mass in this centuries-old tradition. For many, the rites of Semana Santa and being part of a cofradia (the association attached to a church, some of whose hermanos – members – wear the nazareno dress) are quite apart from attending actual services.

mantilla, Jueves Santo, Semana Santa, SEvilla

Even the youngest take on the sartorial traditions of Semana Santa.

For my own children, they don’t even take Religion lessons at school; I’m waiting until they’re older and can make up their own minds about which faith if any, they want to follow. They’ve got plenty of time to decide for themselves.

12 thoughts on “Purple passion: Las Cigarreras on Jueves Santo

  1. Carol Byrne

    Fascinating post Fiona – I loved the photographs. Our little Alpujarran village has one silent procession on Good Friday – quite a difference!

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      I love the pueblo processions too – we were in Cortes de la Frontera last year, and all six or so pasos were following each other down the narrow streets – quite a sight! I bet your silent procession is very atmospheric.

  2. Jessica of HolaYessica

    This is so fascinating. Barcelona doesn’t do that much for Semana Santa, so it’s so much fun seeing all the posts about the big celebrations in the south.

    I’m surprised how graphic and realistic the Jesus figures are. Pretty heavy stuff.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Glad you liked it, Jessica. Yup, the Christ figures are full-on – blood, thorns, nails, expressions of agony. I think the Catholic Church has always tried to scare the people into submission as much as anything else!

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