ALCALÁ LA REAL, PASSION IN THE FORM OF PREGONES
Easter Week in Alcalá draws together past and present, ritual and tradition. What makes it truly authentic is the way it merges together religious devotion and popular revelry in processions incorporating scenes from the Passion, living dioramas and pregones (proclamations) and culminating in the early hours of Good Friday, when Christ’s Passion is dramatized in the streets of the town’s historic centre in a number of pasos, each with its corresponding pregón (proclamation): Simón Cirineo (Simon of Cyrene), Ecce-Homo, Los Reos (The Prisoners), La Venta de Judas (Judas’ Betrayal), La Lanzada (The Spear Thrust), El Lavatorio de Pilatos (Pilate Washing his Hands).
On Palm Sunday and Holy Tuesday the younger brotherhoods take to the streets. These include La Entrada de Jesús en Jerusalén y Virgen de Estrella (Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem – known as La Borriquita, or “the Little Donkey” – and Our Lady of the Star) and Jesús en la Oración en el Huerto y Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza (Jesus Praying in Gethsemane and Our Lady of Hope). One particularly beautiful and moving event is the Via Crucis of El Cristo de la Salud (Christ of Good Health), which takes place in and around the Fortaleza de la Mota castle complex on Holy Wednesday.
On Maundy Thursday there are processions by the Muy Antigua Hermandad del Señor de la Humildad y María Santísima de los Dolores (Very Ancient Brotherhood of Our Lord of Humility and Most Holy Mary of Sorrows), which dates back to the 17th century; the Hermandad de los Apóstoles y Discípulos (Brotherhood of Apostles and Disciples), which includes a representation of the Last Supper complete with sacrificial table; and the Hermandad del Señor del Ecce-Homo (Brotherhood of Our Lord Ecce Homo), with its image of Christ Flagellated.
On the morning of Good Friday it is the turn of the Real Cofradía del Dulce Nombre de Jesús y Santa Caridad (Royal Brotherhood of the Sweet Name of Jesus and Holy Charity), with images of Jesus Nazarene, St. Veronica, St. John and the Mother of God of the Rosary. In this spectacular procession a leading role is played by Ecce Homo, El Apostolado (The Apostles) and El Gallardete de Nuestro Padre Jesús (The Pennant of Our Father Jesus)
The afternoon processions are: the Santísimo Cristo de la Salud y la Virgen de las Angustias (Most Holy Christ of Good Health and Our Lady of Distress), with a stunning representation of Christ Crucified and a remarkably graceful throne and canopy on the paso of the Virgin. The meeting of the two images is very moving. In the early hours of Holy Saturday, the images of Cristo Yacente (Christ Reclining) and Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude) imbue the night with a solemn silence broken only by the sound of the penitents’ drums and dragging chains.
On Easter Sunday, the Brotherhoods unite to accompany the image of Cristo Resucitado (Christ Resurrected) as it leaves the church of El Salvador.
The origins of Pasos Mímicos
Pasos mímicos, or living dioramas, are a combination of two traditions: on the one hand the autos sacramentales and mystery plays performed to celebrate Corpus Christi and on the other the ingenios, festive religious representations of biblical episodes and Christ’s life, Passion and death, performed in churches up until the 18th century by local guilds as a way of disseminating Catholic doctrine. These performances became so noisy that they were moved outside the churches and organized using wooden boards as stages. Over time, the tradition evolved into the pasoswe now see being carried through the streets and squares of Andalusia’s cities and towns at Easter.
These figures, whose job it is to announce and comment on the progress of the pasos, wear unostentatious black suits with purple trimmings, neck-scarves and broad-brimmed hats with violet bands. Their pregones, or proclamations, are a mixture of poetry and prose delivered in a melodic, monodic tone of voice. At set points along the route the pregoneros narrate episodes from the Gospels as a simple, popular interpretation of the mysteries being depicted in the procession.
Apart from the penitents wearing the distinctive robes corresponding to each brotherhood, Easter Week in Alcala is also characterized by a number of other unique figures all of whom wear face masks. They include:
- The Apostles, who all have flowered stoles and purples robes except for Judas Iscariot, known locally as “Juillas”, who wears red and has a two-faced mask.
- Simon of Cyrene, with a dark coloured costume, baggy pants, a purple trimmed doublet and shirt and a mask with an expression of innocence.
- The Good Thief, Dismas, and the Bad Thief, Gestas. Dismas’ white robes and hood and Gestas’ yellow attire are reminiscent of the clothing worn by prisoners sentenced to punishment by the Inquisition.
- The executioner escorting them wears a cape, a black mask, a green doublet and red trousers. In his hands he carries a sling, which he flicks back and forth, recalling the Flagellation of Christ.
- The sayones, or soldiers, are dressed in the costumes of 17th century executioners and carry military equipment. Some of them display symbols of Christ’s Passion while others make up a drum and bugle band.
- The Jews, who also act as soldiers. Their costumes are full of details that have been incorporated gradually over time. Their Roman helmets, for example, are plumed with flowers and ribbons, and they have masks. Their uniforms are those of the Spanish infantry of the 16th and 17th centuries and they are armed with swords and pikes.
- Longinus and el Lazarillo. These figures are dressed similarly to the soldiers described above, but also carry a long lance for use during their performance.
Cradle of sculptors
Alcalá la Real is the birthplace of Pablo de Rojas and Juan Martínez Montañés, master sculptors who in the 16th and 17th centuries were the leading exponents of the Granada and Seville schools of sculpture respectively. Between them they were responsible for some of the most emblematic works of the Proto-Baroque and early Baroque periods in Spain and Latin America.