Holy Week in Malaga: THE Guide to Semana Santa or Easter in Southern Spain!

Parade of people wearing pink, purple and red tall masks during Holy Week at Malaga

Thinking about the perfect destination for your Easter holidays? Have you ever heard about Semana Santa or Holy Week in Spain?

Well, if you want to discover this unique, ancient festival in Christian calendar, you need to come to Malaga! Why? So many reasons, that you will discover by reading our Ultimate Guide to Holy Week in Malaga, where I will try to answer aaaall your questions

Important Notice: Unfortunately, all 2020 Holy Week or Semana Santa events have been suspended due to the Coronavirus Outbreak Lockdown, not only in Málaga, but also in the rest of Spain. Anyway, as Holy Week events and processions are every year the same, you can keep on reading this post and start learning for your 2021 Easter Holidays in Malaga.

What is Holy Week or Semana Santa about?

Holy Week is the last week of Lent and it celebrates the Passion of Jesus Christ

During this period, many processions are held by brotherhoods (cofradías) all along the city; they carry wooden sculptures and extravagant thrones (tronos or pasos) representing the events of the Passion of Christ.

When is Holy Week in 2020?

Since this event depends on the lunar cycle, the official date changes every year. 

This year 2020, Holy Week or Semana Santa will get started on 5th April and will end on 12th April.

If you are interested in coming in Malaga during this period, or in any other, don’t miss the chance to experience one of our tours; discover the historical center of this beautiful city, its food, its traditions, its culture and, of course, all about Holy Week in Malaga.

For more info click here👇👇👇

Where and How is Holy Week celebrated?

As a religious celebration, it is an important event celebrated on any country with a big Christian Catholic community. From Guatemala, Perú, Italy or Israel to Spain, Easter Week is celebrated in different ways. As you may have noticed by reading my articles about other festivities, Spain has its own way to celebrate festivals and Easter or Holy Week is not an exception!

So let’s take a closer look at it, focusing in the Easter celebrations of Malaga, one of the most famous and well-known images of Semana Santa in Spain:

Holy Week in Malaga: How is it and why is it so special?

Jesus doll in holy week

For over 500 years, Holy Week celebrations have been constantly present in the religious and popular feeling of people from Malaga.

Every year, the Passion Week in Málaga takes out to the streets a real festival for all senses: processional thrones carrying images that sway all along the entire route, thousands of penitents lighting and giving colour with their candles and robes, processional marches, as well as aromas of incense and flowers filling the air as the processions pass by and thousands of people crowded to see and applaud their favorite tronos.

Images from the Passion on huge ornate “tronos” (floats or thrones) some weighing more than 5.000 kilos and carried by more than 250 members, shape the processions that go through the streets with penitents dressed in long purple robes, often with pointed hats, followed by women in black carrying candles.

Drums and trumpets play solemn music and occasionally someone spontaneously sings a mournful saeta  (flamenco verses sung at the processions) dedicated to the floats as it makes its way slowly round the streets.

Holy or Easter Week in Malaga: Who is who? Main characters and features!

1. Nazareno or “penitent”

A characteristic common with the rest of the Holy Week in Spain is the usage of the nazareno or penitential robe for some of the participants in the processions. This garment consists of a tunic, a hood with conical tip (capirote) used to conceal the face of the wearer, and sometimes a cloak.These nazarenos carry processional candles and they go before the thrones.

– Interesting fact: Do Spanish Holy Week penitents have anything to do with Ku Klux Klan?

NOOT AT ALL! Traditionally, capirotes were used during the times of the Spanish Inquisition: as a punishment, people condemned by the Tribunal were obliged to wear a yellow robe – sacobendito, aka blessed robe – that covered their chest and back. They also had to wear a paper-made cone on their heads with different signs on it, alluding to the type of crime they had committed.

Later, nazarenos started to use them during Spanish Easter processions to symbolize their status as penitents while the Ku Klux Klan’s official uniform was only created in 1915 by William J. Simmons, who re-established the KKK. According to some sources, Simmons possibly decided to adopt the cone-shaped hat in order to copy the outfit present in D.W. Griffith’s classic film, ‘Birth of a Nation’. Others say that he copied it from the “Hermandad de Los Negritos”, an ancient Holy Week Brotherhood from Sevilla.

2. Emblem

The majority of the brotherhoods carry a significant number of insignia in the procession that are carried by nazarenos:

  • Cross guide (the so-called Cruz de Guía – Guiding Cross) is carried at the beginning of each procession and is responsible for guiding it.
  • Banner (the so-called Guión) is an emblem of the cofradía in the form of folded flag, that carries in the center embroidered in thread of gold and silk, the shield of the brotherhood.
  • Senatus is the name with which it is known to an emblem that serves to recall the time of the Roman Empire in which the Passion of Jesus Christ passes. It bears the letters SPQR, which is an acronym for the Latin expression Senatus Populus Que Romanus (Senate and people of Rome).
  • Book of Rules (in Spanish Libro de Reglas) is a book that contains the norms and rules of the Brotherhood.

3. Mantilla

In Spanish Holy Week, tradition and modernity often mix up. Mantillas can also take selfies! 😉

Some processions are accompanied by women wearing a black dress, a sign of mourning and pains, accompanied by a mantilla, lace or silk veil or shawl worn over the head and back. The peineta, similar in appearance to a large comb, is used to hold up the mantilla

4. Acolyte

Before the throne are placed a group of six or eight acolytes dressed in vestments, many of them wearing dalmatics; the ceroferarios who carries the ciriales or processional candlestick; and the thurifers who carries the thurible where incense is burned and it is dispersed.

5. Throne and Sculpture

The thrones, in other places called pasos, are enormous platforms where are located the sculptures that depict different scenes from the gospels related to the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of Virgin Mary. Each brotherhood usually exhibit two thrones, the first one would be a sculpted scene of the Passion, or image of Christ; and the second an image of the Virgin Mary, known as a dolorosa.

The structure of the thrones, known as cajillo, is richly carved in wood, silver, bronze or nickel silver and some gilt with gold leaf. In each of the corners of the cajillo there is a lantern to illuminate the sculptural group. The sculptures located at the top of the throne, often life-size or somewhat smaller, are the central axis of each brotherhood.

Holy Week in Malaga: Main Events and Eastern Processions day by day

Nazarenos carrying throne during Holy Week procession

During Holy Week, 42 brotherhoods (cofradías) make 45 processions through the streets of Málaga, showing realistic wooden sculptures narrating scenes of the events of the Passion of Christ, or images of the Virgin Mary showing sorrow.

Since Holy week is a religious event, you might expect a silent and solemn celebration… well, I can ensure you that in Malaga, we are quite far from that. Starting from the morning to the late night, you will attend a charming representation of people’s devotion: suggestive processions, enchanting music and traditional dances.

Holy Week in Malaga was declared “Fiesta of International Tourist Interest of Spain in 1965by the General Secretariat of Tourism of the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade of the Government of Spain 🏆🏆🏆

Processions start on Palm Sunday and continue until Easter Sunday, with the most dramatic and solemn on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Let’s have a look at what Holy Week in Malaga has to offer day by day:

Palm Sunday 🌴

The parades get started and streets get crowded. This is the first day and also the one where more brotherhoods process.

Antonio Banderas, since he is native of Malaga, is used to join this procession as a member of the “Real Cofradías Fusionaras” ! 🤩🌟🤩🌟

Holy Monday 💃

The longest procession of the week take place this day. Among all the brotherhoods processing you can find:

  1. “The Captive” (El Cautivo): Probably the most well-known brotherhood in Malaga and with a massive following – Passes by the main ‘Tribuna’ area at 8:05 pm
  2. “The Promises” (Las Promesas), in penitence behind the thrones, praying for they whishes to become true.
  3. “The Gypsies” (Los Gitanos), showing their devotion by singing and dancing Flamenco.
  4. “The Students” (Los Estudiantes), this brotherhood is joined by most of the students of University of Malaga.

Holy Tuesday 🌹

Statue of Mary Virgin in sorrow, Holy Week in Malaga

Let your eyes be delighted by the mantle of roses of the “Virgin of The Penas”! It is made by gardeners of the Town Council and it’s one of the most fascinating religious figure of the parade.

Holy Wednesday 🗽

Did you know that in the 18th century some prisoners escaped from their cells in Malaga to make their own parade during the Holy Week? What is amazing about this fact is that eventually they voluntary came back to the prison. This act impressed the king that decided to set one of them free!

Nowadays this tradition still persists and you can be there to attend this act of benevolence on this day 🔥

Maundy Thursday 🎖️

On this day, there is a unique procession with some special guests: Legionnaire troops!

The Spanish Legion parades the image of Christ of the Good Death together with the Legion’s own military band and Honor guard on Maundy Thursday, very popular among tourists, locals, and military veterans. They land in the port and then make their way through the city.

Good Friday 🕯️

Since these processions remember the path of God to his death, they are usually held by funeral court. The atmosphere is more solemn and quiet than all the other days.

During the last procession, held by “Servite Order” (Orden de Servitas), the city lights turned off as the thrones pass by.

Easter Sunday 🐣

During the last day the Resurrection processions are held by all the brotherhoods. The gowns, whose colours are black and purple during all pre-Easter period, now turn white and green.

2020 Official Route of Holy Week Processions in Malaga

holy week in Malaga beautiful place

Every day you can attend different processions, almost every hour!

The starting point of each processions is different for every brotherhood, as they leave from the temple or the house where their thrones are held and then they get to the main streets where the official route get started. 

The official route, known as “Tribuna” is about 850 meters and cover the following places:

  • Alameda Principal
  • Larios roundabout
  • Marqués de Larios street
  • Constitution square
  • Granada Street

Eventually all the brotherhood take their way to their origin temples or, in some cases, they get inside the Cathedral.

Best places to watch Malaga Easter Processions

You can decide either to follow the processions or to seat and watch them. As to the latter, if you want to have a good view you can reserve a private seat along the Official Route or Tribuna, or even renting a balcony!

A free option is to sit in the “Rostrum of the poor”, a long staircase located at the end of Carreteria Street.

Holy Week in Malaga: practicalities

How can I get to and around Malaga at Easter time?

The processions disrupt the traffic and many roads are cut off temporarily while the processions pass. This added to the metro works makes bringing your car in Malaga even more of a nightmare. Use public transport wherever possible.

Easter in Malaga city centre is extremely crowded and making your way round the streets can be difficult. If you want to cross the Alameda Principal or Calle Larios, look for the designated crossings.

What happens if it rains?

If heavy rain is forecast or it starts to rain hard during a procession then the procession is usually called off. Showers of rain will delay a procession, sometimes for a few hours.

To sum up, Holy week in Malaga is a celebration you should watch and enjoy at least once in your life. Obviously, Malaga has so much to offer in every season! So, come and see yourself! Also, if you want to know much more about Andalusia, don’t forget to take a look at my blog!

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