Seville Snapshots: Costaleros Practicing for Holy Week

The capataz knocks once. As if mechanically, the 40-off men beneath the wooden structure heave together, resting on their heels, hands gripping the wooden beams above their heads.

A second knock, and they launch into the air together.

On the third, the simulation float has rested on their shoulders, and they begin a coordinated dance down the street, walking in sync as they practice for their glorious penitence – Holy Week.

You all know that I paso de pasos (and the crowds, and the brass bands and even the torrijas), but the grueling pilgrimage from one’s church to the Cathedral and back fascinates me. No one bears the brunt more than the costaleros, who must pay for this prestigious position within their brotherhoods and seek penitence through their labor, carrying over 100 pounds for an average of eight hours.

In the weeks leading up to Viernes de Dolores, no less than 60 brotherhoods will crisscross the city to practice, placing cinderblocks on top of the metal float to simulate the large statue, each depicting the final moments of Jesus Christ’s life or of the weeping Virgin Mary. For ten days, Seville is full of religious fervor as the ornate pasos descend on the city center.

For an official route plan with approximate times, check here. You can use this to either catch the processions, or totally avoid them!

What are your Holy Week plans? Have you ever seen Semana Santa in Seville?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Pedro Meca Garcia says:

    i’ve seen those “procesiones” on TV a lot, and the more i see them the more i think that some people lose their minds……i do respect such a devoted love, but some people go beyond and even they lift up their children hoping that the poor child touches the Virgin, etc

    and which “procesion” is the best? la Macarena? la Esperanza de Triana? el Cristo del Gran Poder? what a name by the way!!

    and it is always a deep mistery to me why it does rain during most of the Procesiones year after year (which means people crying desperately)….sometimes i have even thought that rain is a punishment from God because of so much craziness.

    • I’m not a Holy Week fan, Pedro. I don’t see the point in standing in the streets for three hours to see a show that has been the same for centuries. People in Seville go big or go home in every respect, and especially so during Holy Week!

      No rain is forecasted for the next week…we’ll see if that holds up!

  2. I think it would be cool to see one of these processions in action one year but I’m with you Cat, not year after year. We actually saw some in Salamanca when my parents came to Spain and there were already a lot of people there. I do respect the amount of preparation and effort that goes into pulling it off, even though I’m not sure I really understand the why behind it. Not sure I’d want to go in Seville. I attended Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican once and that was already a lot of crazy to handle.

    Also can I be super immature and point out Easter falls on 4/20 this year? 😛
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    • Cat Gaa says:

      I’ve seen three, and it’s enough for me! The tradition and the culto and the salidas and that are worth it, particularly when you know the history or the little quirks (did you know that the two Esperanzas pass one another during the Madrugá and they actually bow to one another? Their cross-town rivalry is fierce, but they’re cool with one another).

      And, yes, light one up to resurrection, y’all!

  3. Ashley Duncan says:

    I’m totally with you.. except about the torrijas!! Yummm

  4. I went last year in both Sevilla and Granada, but have also seen countless random processions outside of Semana Santa too. Most of the time no one even knows why! While I’m not the biggest fan of the actual religion, I can really appreciate the art and tradition. Especially coming from a young, secular country (Australia) without a lot of history – for me this kind of thing is just incredible. While I’m missing both SS and the Feria this year I’ll be back in Spain for Corpus in Granada!

    • For me, the art and tradition is what has me interested in Semana Santa, but I’m not into the congestion on the streets and the jaleo. Haven’t attended Corpus before, but I know it’s big out near you!

  5. These guys look SO intense! I briefly saw a group one time in Barcelona, but they don’t really do big Semana Santa celebrations here. I’d love to see some more of the traditions like this one!

    Did you hear on the news that some places are having a hard time getting enough people to participate as costaleros? I heard that some smaller cities had to put wheels on the floats to help the small groups of costaleros out.
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    • The costalero problem does not happen in Seville, that’s for sure! I apparently offended one of my students, a nazareno, when I told him I prefer to travel during Semana Santa! To me, it’s almost strange to not have an entire week with six-eight floats a day, and anywhere outside of Andalusia, it seems a bit foreign!

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