April 13, 2024

Palm Sunday, or “Domingo de Ramos” in Spanish, is the first day of Holy Week (“Semana Santa”) processions throughout Spain. This afternoon I caught the “Cristo de la Fe y del Perdón” procession of the San Miguel Church in Madrid, located very near the Plaza de la Villa and the plaza at which I watched it pass at a snail’s pace along with maybe a thousand others.

It started at 7pm, slowly leaving through the front doors of the Iglesia de San Miguel and turning right, and entering the Plaza de la Villa at about 7:30pm, heading north and hugging the left side of the plaza and passing in front of Madrid’s former city hall.

First, entering the Plaza de la Villa were the dozens of Nazarenos, the masked, pointy-hooded, full-length-gown-wearing church members leading the procession. Next came Jesus Christ on the cross, stopping directly in front of the old City Hall’s front door for a rest, take photos, and to re-light some of the candles on this windy day.

Following the cross, came the “penitentes“, the penitent ones. After them came more Nazarenos, leading the arrival of the Virgin Mary – and there she came up the narrow street, entering Madrid’s Plaza de la Villa.

For me, this is the most emotional part of any Holy Week procession. I’m not really religious, but was raised going to church. Still, there’s something about seeing the Virgin Mary sitting on her thrown with that single tear falling from her eye, under her protective canopy, dozens of tall candles at her front and countless flowers on both sides, all with solemn march music by the band following her, which gets you just a bit choked-up.

The spectators, nearly totally Spanish, were respectful, but not as quiet or emotional as I’ve seen in Seville Holy Week processions. There, you frequently see people crying, holding their hearts in their hands, totally quiet apart from the occasional shout of “¡Guapa!” by an enthusiastic observer. I did hear this shouted once as she passed through the Plaza de la Villa, but apart from that, people chatted casually, children ran around with other children – if they weren’t atop their father’s shoulders, and it was more a spectacle than a religious ceremony. I’m glad I attended, just as I did for the 2009 Domingo de Ramos Procession, standing in nearly the same place, in fact.

From the Plaza de la Villa it crossed the Calle Mayor, through the Plaza de Ramales, through the Plaza de Oriente, through the Plaza de Isabel II (a.k.a. “Plaza de Opera”), then winding back south through the streets of Madrid de los Austrias through the Plaza de San Miguel (where the market, by the same name, is located), and back to its church, the Iglesia de San Miguel.

I didn’t follow behind this first day’s Madrid Holy Week Procession as many others did, but instead found myself in a stalemate pedestrian traffic jam to leave the plaza, everyone moving in different directions and no one getting anywhere. Seeing the the Calle Mayor was full ahead of me, I did a 180º turn and headed back through the Plaza de la Villa, walked by the old City Hall’s front doors, and walked down by the Iglesia de San Miguel to see its exit ramp constructed for the “pasos” or floats which had just left through these doors and passed by me shortly before.

All-in-all, these Spanish Holy Week Processions really are a stunning experience. The ancient culture, which is/was religion in Spain, and tradition still finds its way towards cohesion with modern days. And many Spaniards take these traditions VERY seriously, even though they may only be exercised once a year. Personally, I look forward to Holy Week in Spain. It not only means emotional “Procesiones de Semana Santa“, but also “TORRIJAS“, the syrupy fried bread desserts which are only available this time of year.

LINK: 2012 Madrid Procession List, Times, and Procession Routes

Also Read: “Madrid: Domingo de Ramos Procession 2009“.

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