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History of Holy Week

History of Holy Week

History of Holy Week

Traditional Easter processions were first celebrated in Málaga after the Catholic Monarchs entered the city in 1487. After centuries of Muslim influence, Málaga's inhabitants' conversion to Catholicism and the arrival of new settlers, mostly from Castile, brought a new religious dimension to the city's expression. However, the Council of Trent (16th century) and the subsequent Counter-Reformation would have the most influence on the way in which the Passion and Death of Christ was celebrated in Málaga.

The Church promoted the worship of images. Though it served as a distinctive sign of the Catholic creed, it was also used to catechise the people. Therefore, Málaga witnessed a large number of brotherhoods and sisterhoods being founded during this period. At that time, the thrones left their respective temples, the images were carried on small platforms by eight or ten men and the procession was made up of "brothers of light" (the equivalent of today's Nazarenes) and "brothers of blood" or discipliners who, whipping each other throughout the penitential procession, impressed the public who gathered to witness such a grim spectacle.

Semana Santa - Historia

The arrival of the Enlightenment (18th century) brought about a changing society. The Enlightenment considered the brotherhoods to be heirs to religious obscurantism and superstition. This new way of approaching popular religiosity would lead the rulers to take measures and dictate rules aimed at promoting public order and restraint, free of exaggeration, during the processions. Furthermore, the 19th century did not start well for the brotherhoods of Málaga. Napoleon's invasion of the city caused the brotherhood's heritage to suffer continuous looting and a large part of what had been treasured until then fell into the hands of foreigners.

After the War of Independence, however, a new event took its toll on the confraternity structures. The ecclesiastical confiscation proposed by Mendizábal in 1835 eliminated many convents and led many confraternities to consider new temples in which to house their images and from where they could go out at Easter.

The economic crisis that broke out at the beginning of the 20th century in Málaga also affected the brotherhoods. In 1921, the delicate economic situation prevented a good number of brotherhoods from carrying out their annual penitential processions, which led to the foundation of the Málaga Easter Brotherhoods Association (Agrupación de Cofradías de Semana Santa de Málaga). It was from then on that our Easter began to grow in popularity. New brotherhoods, which had been in decline in previous centuries, returned to prominence, new fraternities were founded and the promotion of winter tourism, which Málaga was already enjoying at that time, was a stimulus for the city's tourism. The processions were an added attraction for the tourists of the time and became (as they are today) an important source of income for the city.

This golden age was unfortunately cut short for political and social reasons. On the night of 11th to 12th May 1931, with the Second Republic having just been declared, uncontrolled groups of anarchists broke into the city's churches and engaged in the mass destruction of everything they found in them, thus destroying our city's centuries-old devotional heritage. Following this incident, the processions were suspended, although in 1935 some brotherhoods took to the streets (they would henceforth be known as "the brave ones"), risking what little heritage they had managed to gather at the time. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War brought a new wave of destruction that once again destroyed almost everything that had been salvaged from the previous upheavals.

Dulce Nombre - Semana Santa

The post-war period was hard for everyone, and, of course, for the brotherhoods. The social and political circumstances of the conflict also played a part in the recovery of the heritage. The victors promoted this celebration as a triumph over the enemies of the Catholic faith, magnifying and politicising something as popular as the processions in the early years. As a result, the presence of military forces increased considerably, although it had already been important in previous centuries. At the same time, relationships between the brotherhoods and the clergy were not always smooth, and an Episcopal decree prohibited thrones from being set up in the churches due to the inconvenience they caused to religious worship on those days. As the size of the thrones was no longer dependent on the measurements of any door, they could grow freely; in this way, the thrones of Málaga began to increase in size and ended up becoming one of their most notable characteristics even today.

The arrival of democracy in the 1970s would also see the emergence of young brotherhoods that would settle some of the generational arguments by creating new brotherhoods, with a new vision of Easter. The most important thing now is not so much the lavishness of the processional displays, but to be able to leave the churches where the brotherhood in question is based and to make a penitential procession in the Cathedral, something which the Bishopric allowed the Málaga brotherhoods to do freely from 1988 onwards (until then only the brotherhoods of Viñeros and Pasión had this privilege).

As a result, Málaga in the 1980s, 1990s and early years of the 21st century saw the coexistence of two forms of Easter processions. Alongside the post-war style (large thrones, opulence and luxury in the processional processions), there is also the processionism that began to develop at the end of the 1970s in the new brotherhoods (a more austere penitential spirit and greater importance given to the penitential station). At present, although both styles maintain their respective styles, common traits can be observed in all the brotherhoods as their designs are gradually being refined.

However, the brotherhoods still have a clear variety of styles; something that defines the true essence of our Easter and sets it apart from the rest of Andalusia. This is a great reason to visit our city and enjoy this celebration, which for the people of Málaga undoubtedly marks the beginning of spring.