Semana Santa Processions

November 30, 2008 by  
Filed under What is Semana Santa

All male or all female brotherhoods organize and walk in the processions. The brotherhoods (los hermandades) were originally called cofradías and are religious organizations.  It is thought that the carriers (cucuruchos) participated solely as a form of penance.  Today, while there is some degree of social status involved, the principal motivation seems to be that of devotion by the carriers.

“There is a Holy Vigil (velacióne) before each procession.  Holy Vigils generally take place at the church the day before that Church’s procession.  The vigils are organized by a brotherhood, and there are different brotherhoods for each sculpture that will appear in the processions.”

“The sculpture is moved near the church altar in front of a huge decorative paper backdrop.  A carpet is constructed in front of the sculpture.  Around the carpet is a garden scene (huerto) that includes fruit and vegetables, bread, candles, flowers, and the native seed pod – the corozo.”

In the evening, a funeral-march band plays. Outside the church, larges crowds form, and a carnival atmosphere develops.  You find traditional foods and drinks–even games in some instances. 

 Leaving from each respective church, the processions follow predetermined routes through the streets of Antigua before returning to the church several hours later.  The procession carriers wear purple robes worn until Good Friday. Then, they wear black robes signifying mourning.

“Processions generally begin with incense carriers and the brotherhood’s banner, followed by the carriers and the float (anda).”  Carriers will carry the float for a block, and then a new group will take over.  Turns are determined by carriers’ shoulder height to ensure that the float is balanced.  This is extremely important as floats can weigh as much as 7,000 pounds.

 “A block behind the main float, women carry a smaller float with a figure of the Virgin Mary.  The women wear white in their procession before Good Friday.  Following behind are a funeral-march band and two additional floats carrying the sculptures of San Juan and Mary Magdalene.”


In Antigua, staging points for processions include La Merced, San Felipe, San Jose Cathedral, and the road along San Francisco and Escuela de Cristo churches—the largest on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Some processions start as early as 2 AM or 5 AM. The processions consist of andas with statues of Christ carried by hundreds of purple-robed men. At 3:00 AM on Good Friday, preparations begin for the mock trial and sentencing of Christ. Participants dress as Roman soldiers, Pontius Pilate, and other participants in the drama. At 7:00 AM, the sculpture of Christ carrying His crucifix is moved through the carpeted main streets of Antigua on the shoulders of His worshipers until early afternoon, when the image is replaced by another of Christ being laid to rest.
Black crepe paper adorns the city as thousands of people, burning incense and dressed in black, crowd city plazas and streets. A spectacular procession is led by a man bearing the crucifix, with hundreds of followers carrying black banners and standards engraved with the final words of Jesus and the pronouncements of God. Life-like images representing archangels, Stations of the Cross, Cavalry, apostles, and many others are part of the silent procession through the streets of Antigua.


Holy Saturday continues with other funeral processions led by the image of the Virgin Mary (virgen dolorosa), followed by countless women dressed in black who commemorate the Virgin’s moments of sorrow at Christ’s side. The processions move slowly through Antigua’s cobblestone streets, the feet of the bearers cushioned by the alfombras, which are destroyed as the procession passes over. Finally, Easter Sunday is a time of rejoicing, with early processions through the streets of Antigua celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Firecrackers are heard throughout the city, and masses are held in all the churches.


Following these processions, Easter Sunday is a time of rejoicing, with early processions through the streets celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. Firecrackers can be heard throughout the city, while masses are held in the local churches.



Thanks for quotes and information on Semana Santa processions from (which acknowledges “Culture and Customs of Guatemala, Lent and Holy Week in Antigua” as a source).


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