Thursday, April 16, 2009

Semana Santa Procession

There were lots of events last week during Semana Santa, or Holy week, both on the mainland and here in Tenerife. The most well known have to be the solemn and religious processions through many of the towns all over Spain. The ones that are recommended here on the island are in La Laguna, the former capital and the religious center of Tenerife.

The two "best" are rumored to be the ‘Magna’ and ‘Silent’ processions which take place on Viernes Santo, or Good Friday. While we would have liked to see the Silent procession, it didn't begin until 9:00pm which is way past the boys bed time. So, we opted to see the Magna which started at 5:00pm instead. (an interesting note: there were other processions and events that started at 4:00am... yes, that's 4:00 in the morning!! I can't even imagine, but they are said to be very popular and also packed with people.)

We headed to La Laguna after a late lunch, and found a place to wait along the route in the "old quarter" of town. We could hear the procession before we saw it and so could the boys...

The Magna is said to be a poignant and incredible experience, a virtual snapshot into another century. Hooded fraternities parade silently though the streets, along with barefooted hooded monks, other "mourners," and floats depicting the crucifixion of Christ.

The use of the "nazareno," or penitential robe, for the brotherhoods in the processions can be somewhat "shocking" for those who associate this type of dress with intolerance. The garment consists of a tunic, a hood with conical tip (a "capirote") used to conceal the face of the wearer, and sometimes a cloak. The exact colors and forms of these robes depend on the particular procession and brotherhood.

The robes were widely used in the medieval period for penitents, who could demonstrate their penance while still masking their identity. (Note: these robes intentionally served as the basis for the traditional uniform for members of the Ku Klux Klan, ironically a very anti-Catholic organization.) Source.

So, was it poignant and incredible? Well, that's not how I would describe it. But it was impressive and memorable, and something we would highly recommend.

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