A hermandad might have several thousand cofrades (members, both men and now women in most hermandades) who parade the statues. First comes the Cruz de Guía (Guiding Cross) and the estandarte (insignia flag), then most of the cofrades dressed as nazarenos with tall pointed hoods (capirotes), walking two-by-two, often barefoot. The capirote is reminiscent of, but of distinct origin from, KKK hats. The colors differ among the hermandades. The origin is more of a dunce cap, symbolizing humility of the cofrades. In a hermandad with 2000 members, there might easily be more than a thousand nazarenos in this first group; they are subdivided further, each subgroup with its own standard. The nazarenos are followed by acolytes (acólitos), boys wearing church vestments and carrying candles and crosses and ornate staffs and incense.
Then comes the banda de musica (marching band), playing slow, usually minor-key marches, often with impressive cornet descants. The bands come in two types; a drum-and-bugle corps style band with an assortment of brass and percussion, or a marching wind orchestra that includes flutes, clarinets, saxophones, oboes, and bassoons, in addition to the brass and percussion. These are highly professional bands, hired by the cofradías, not just a collection of people from the hermandad who play instruments.
|Cristo leaving La Estrella on San Jacinto, Triana|
|Paso del Cristo La Estrella|
|Paso del Cristo de la Esperanza de Triana|
|María Santísima from La Estrella|
|Crowd watching María de La Estrella en Plaza Altozano|
|Paso de María leaving the chapel La Estrella on San Jacinto in Triana|
|Crown at the Madrugá procession from La Esperanza|
We stood to watch next to the ruins of La Castilla de San Jorge, which was the seat of the Spanish Inquisition at the time most of the Semana Santa pageantry was developing. We saw them return the next afternoon from our balcony as they processed down Pagés del Corro.
|Paso del Cristo de La Esperanza de Triana|
|María de La Esperanza de Triana|
|View from our balcony of María de La Esperanza returning on Pagés del Corro after the Madrugá|
The "performance" of Semana Santa is impressively well orchestrated, with a pre-printed guide that gives the time that each procession will be at each key intersection for the whole week, and a million people peacefully moving throughout the city, day and night, for a week. But to call it a "performance" isn't quite right, because this is so much a part of the Sevilla culture. I happen to be reading an historical novel by Francisco Robles called El Aguador de Sevilla, which is about the painter Diego Velázquez and the imaginario (sculptor) Juan Martínez Montañés, both from Sevilla. Montañés and the teacher of Velázquez (Francisco Pacheco) made some of the Cristos and Marías that are on the pasos in the 17th century. A character in the book, a cynical 21st century British art historian, watching one of the Semana Santa processions, confided to his friend "I am feeling something I have never experienced before, something that can only be when what happens is true, and not theater...". And so it is in Sevilla. I often saw people with tear-streaked faces as the Christ or María emerged from the chapel or passed by. People on smartphones in the crowd were sending and receiving photos and commentary among family and friends who were at other, simultaneous processions, so that everyone could experience as much of Semana Santa as possible, and stay in close contact with loved ones. This is real, and has been real for almost 500 years; an experience shared deeply across generations.