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Legends, traditions and curious facts


Legends, traditions and curious facts

Easter is special in more than one way. Many of the local legends and traditions associated with Easter are woven into the history of Málaga’s confraternities.

The Jesús El Rico Confraternity releases a man from prison

Jesús El RicoEvery year, on Holy Wednesday, a man is released from prison by the members of the Jesús El Rico religious Confraternity.

This tradition is rooted in a royal ordinance by King Charles III, following the plague that decimated the population in 1756, as a result of which there were no Easter processions in 1759, as there were no healthy adults who could carry the religious figures.

Most inmates had escaped the plague, which meant they could carry the figure of Jesus El Rico. The asked for permission to do so and, when the authorities refused, they mutinied, broke out, came to the church, removed the figure of Jesús El Rico from the chapel and brought it to the areas most severely affected by the plague.

Following the procession, they brought the image back to the church and returned to prison. Not a single one of them took advantage and fled. Eventually, the plague subsided, and many saw this as a miracle. Impressed, the King issued an ordinance whereby one of the prisoners would be released every year in Easter. The royal decree was ratified by Juan Carlos I soon after he became king.

So now, every year, the Confraternity of Jesús El Rico has the approval of the King to release an inmate with the help of the Special Corps of Penal Institutions of the Province of Málaga and the President of the Provincial Court. They choose the inmates who meet the behaviour requirements and social reintegration prospects to be released. Three candidates are submitted to the Council of Ministers just before Easter. The selected candidate is announced to the prison governor. The prisoner is then called before the governor and the confraternity members to listen to the Decree of Release.

Cristo de la Sangre [Jesus Christ of Blood]

Cristo de la SangreMálaga is a city facing the sea, so it is only natural that its folk lore includes fishermen legends. One of them tells us the story of a fishing boat carried off the coast by the waves with several fishermen aboard.

They fought hard to control the boat and reach the mainland, but to no avail. In the throes of a storm, surrounded by terrifying waves, they prayed for their souls. Suddenly, a ray of light made it through the clouds, a pool of water emerged from the waves and a figure of Christ on the Cross appeared in it.

The sailors moved toward Him and grabbed the figure, only to realise that blood was pouring out of His side. Eventually, the storm died down and the men reached firm ground, carrying the figure with them. The figure of Christ on the Cross with a bleeding wound on His side, known as Cristo de la Sangre (Jesus Christ of Blood) was kept at the Church of La Merced, and the Confraternity of Cristo de la Sangre was established later.




In the old days, there was a particularly infamous bandit known as “El Zamarrilla”. Once, when he was on the run, he came to a shrine and hid under the mantle of Our Lady of Sorrows. Feeling safe, he came out and cut a white rose for the Virgin Mary. When he pinned the flower to Her chest using his own knife, the rose turned crimson red.

In fear, El Zamarrilla fell to his knees, praying for forgiveness for having led such an ungodly life. He stayed in the shrine, became a hermit and only came to town once in a while to visit his beloved Mary. On his deathbed, he looked up, saw the Virgin Mary and how the rose She held in Her hands turned white. Our Lady of Sorrows was kept in the shrine, now known as Ermita de Zamarrilla. She still bears a red rose on Her chest, pinned with a knife. The rose is replaced by a white specimen on Good Friday, to tell everyone that Mary has forgiven men for the death of Her Son.


The Spanish Legion and the Confraternity of Mena

Cristo de MenaThe Confraternity of Mena and the Spanish Legion became intertwined in 1928, when the authorities of the two organisations reached an agreement for the Cristo de la Buena Muerte (Jesus Christ of Good Death), whose image is watched by the Brethren of Mena, to become the Patron of Spanish legionnaires.

Since 1931, the legionnaires have kept watch of the Cristo de la Buena Muerte in the Chapel of Santo Domingo every year from Palm Sunday to Holy Wednesday.

In the morning on Maundy Thursday, the legionnaires land in the Port of Málaga and march to the Fray Alonso de Santo Tomás forecourt, where they meet the Christ and carry Him to His float.


Lenten Fridays and Monte Calvario 

Next to the Shrine of La Victoria, just off Amargura Street, a hill leads to a shrine known among locals as Monte Calvario. On Lenten Fridays, people meet here to go through the Stations of the Cross, commemorating Jesus’ journey up Mount Golgotha (Calvary). The itinerary begins at the Church of San Lázaro.

Each participant in the devotion carries 14 stones – one for each sin. As they reach each station, they leave a stone there, as a way of cleansing their sins by way of repentance. The Stations of the Cross lead to the Shrine of El Calvario, home to the Confraternity of Viernes Santo (Good Friday).Junto al Santuario de la Victoria, y partiendo de la calle Amargura, nace un pequeño monte que culmina en una ermita, y al que los malagueños llaman el Monte Calvario. Todos los Viernes de Cuaresma se organiza un Vía Crucis que, partiendo desde la iglesia de San Lázaro, recorre en catorce estaciones la subida al Gólgota.


Fusionadas, the longest-standing confraternity

Las FusionadasMálaga’s longest-standing confraternity – the Archconfraternity of Vera+Cruz – was established in 1505. It has been part of a group of merged confraternities known as Reales Cofradías Fusionadas since 1891. The group originally comprised four confraternities: Nuestro Padre Jesús de Azotes y Columna, Santísimo Cristo de la Exaltación, Santísimo Cristo de Ánimas de Ciegos, and Archicofradía de la Santa Vera+Cruz y Sangre

The Reales Cofradías Fusionadas have been granted the title of Primitive Confraternities of the City.



Confraternity of Estudiantes

EstudiantesThe Confraternity of Students has in the University of Málaga its Honorary Elder Sister. Both institutions are closely related.

On Holy Monday, the representatives of the University of Málaga take part in the procession on behalf of the university community, singing the popular graduation hymn “Gaudeamus igitur”.





Virgen de las Penas [Our Lady of Sorrows] and her florer-covered mantle

Virgen de las penasEvery year, the Virgen de las Penas wears a special mantle on Holy Tuesday, made with natural flowers by the workers of the City of Málaga’s Department of Parks and Gardens.

Back in the post-war years, in the 1940s and 1950s, the shortage of supplies forced the confraternities to make do with what they had in hand. And they resorted to flowers. They were often used for floats, canopies (as in the case of La Esperanza) and mantles, like the one covering Our Lady of Sorrows – a temporary habit that became a permanent tradition.