Semana Santa in Seville – Knowing When to Stop Work

I never had any intention of hanging round for Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Seville last year. I was all set to leave town for the week so I could keep working. Thankfully, I changed my mind.

It was with good reason that I was considering bailing. Firstly, I’m not religious, and Holy Week sounded like it might be. Secondly, I’d heard it would be packed, which sounded quite stress-inducing. But thirdly and most importantly of all, it was clearly going to be a distraction from my main aim.

I just wanted to get carry on getting work done.

However in the end, the thought of missing my chance (and just maybe the only one I’ll get) to see this famous spectacle proved too much. After all, what’s the point of spending time in a place like Seville, and then missing the best it has to offer? Sometimes you’ve just got to take the hit and stop working.

Holy Week

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is the week leading up to Easter, and Seville in particular is renowned for its celebrations. They consist mainly of processions that criss-cross the cobbled streets of what is Europe’s third-largest historical centre.

Centuries-old pasos (platforms bearing biblical characters) are paraded through the street carried by teams of men called costaleros. Hidden under a skirt of fabric, there can be as many as fifty of them per paso, and they carry it in shifts on a journey that commonly takes around ten hours.

Semana Santa in Seville - Costaleros preparing to take the strain

Semana Santa in Seville – Costaleros preparing to take the strain and lift a multi-ton paso.

But what makes Semana Santa so impressive isn’t just the visual spectacle of these gilded or silver-plated pasos lurching rhythmically forwards, it’s the trumpets wailing out their doleful lament; the hooded nazarenos filing solemnly bearing candles and crosses; the teasing scent of candle wax and incense.

It’s also the different emotional impact the processions can have under differing circumstances. The pasos pass through sweeping plazas and down intimate side streets. They’re heralded in full musical pomp, else observed in immaculate silence. They advance boldly onwards in blazing daylight and blessed darkness alike.

All put together, it was one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never regretted that time off – something I hope to remember any time I’m tempted to put my writing before everything else.

Have you ever missed out one something great just so you could do a bunch more hours work on something? No? How about leaving a place just when the biggest party in town is about to get started? Still no? Well how about dropping something heavy on your foot? Surely you must have done that?


  1. sue Langdon

    I enjoyed this Neil. Seville is somewhere I intend to visit in the future.
    I think there is something very passionate about local festivals that transcends any personal beliefs. The emotion comes through. We experienced something similar in a Greek religious festival in a small village in Rhodes.
    Anyway, Rick Stein fired my interest in Seville when he toured the tapas bars and cooked up some fish dishes. He experienced the dancing in the flamenco bars which looked amazing.
    Good luck with your book ‘dancing feat’ I read the introduction which I found informative and entertaining.
    P.S. Has anybody ever stopped you and asked you if you are the actor Paul McGann? You look like him. ; )

    • Neil

      Thanks Sue! Seville is a wonderful city. Good to visit but also a very liveable – felt like I was living the dream there at times. Didn’t go to much flamenco, but certainly loved the food and the lifestyle in general. I’ve been told I look like Paul McGann before, but I’ve yet to be stopped in the street for it! 🙂

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