OSUNA, WHERE EAST MEETS WEST
The origins and evolution of Osuna’s Easter celebrations have been decisively influenced by the town’s privileged location halfway between Seville and Granada. The Easter Week events organized here today are the result of a series of circumstances associated at times with Western Andalusian tendencies and at times with Eastern Andalusian tendencies. It is quite common, for example, for some brotherhoods to carry their pasos in procession in the Osuna style, the bearers taking the weight on their shoulders inside the platform, whereas others use the crossbeam method more typical of Seville.
Osuna’s commemoration of Christ’s Passion begins in Lent with a series of cultural events, pregones (proclamations) and saeta singing competitions. When this forty day period comes to an end, attention in Easter Week proper shifts to the daily processions. All of these processions follow the official itinerary and parade before the municipal authorities, their shoulder-borne pasos moving through the town’s picturesque, narrow streets with a distinctive swaying movement. In the first of them, El Dulce Nombre (The Sweet Name), which sets off after the palm processions, children dressed as Nazarenes accompany pasos depicting El Niño Perdido (Jesus Lost in the Temple), Jesús Entrando en Jerusalén (Jesus entering Jerusalem) and La Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Helpless) with candles, olive branches and palm leaves. On Monday the protagonist is the Cofradía del Cristo de la Humildad (Brotherhood of Christ of Humility), as it conducts its own special Via Crucis from the church of San Pedro to that of El Carmen. And the following day it is the turn of the three pasos which make up the procession of Vera Cruz (The True Cross), the oldest brotherhood currently taking part in Osuna’s Easter celebrations. On Wednesday the image of Cristo de la Misericordia (Christ of Mercy) makes its way along the steep streets around the town’s palaces in deferential silence, while on Thursday there are two processions: Jesús Caído (Christ Fallen), which starts out from the Collegiate Church, and La Paciencia (Patience), which sets out from the Carmelite church.
But the busiest day of all is undoubtedly Good Friday. At daybreak Jesús Nazarene (Jesus the Nazarene) gets under way, escorted by a multitude of penitents many of whom are Osuna born emigrants who have returned specifically to attend the Easter processions. Next is the Dolorosa (image of the Virgin Mary in mourning) of the Servite Order. The two images meet on the esplanade in front of the Collegiate Church and then, after a while, they set off on the way back to their respective temples. The afternoon is a time of great contrasts, exemplified by the crashing drums of La Paz (Peace) and the soft, refined orchestra and choir music of Las Angustias (Distress). Everything draws to an end on Saturday, when prior to La Resurrección (The Resurrection), Osuna’s streets are occupied simultaneously by the urn of Cristo Difunto (Christ Deceased), the triumphant “Canina” and the canopied paso of La Soledad (Solitude).
As in most towns and villages in the province of Seville, Osuna’s first penitential processions were organized in the middle of the 16th century by male members of the Franciscan Order, mendicant friars with a great sense of catechetic and didactic purpose. The first brotherhoods were those of Vera Cruz (The True Cross) (1545) and Cristo de la Sangre (Christ of Blood), both of which were founded in the monastery of San Francisco.
Brotherhoods with a History
Apart from the two mentioned above, many of Osuna’s other brotherhoods – Las Angustias (Distress) (1580), Jesús Nazareno (Jesus Nazarene) (1635), Dulce Nombre (The Sweet Name) (1640), Humildad (Humility) (1720), Dolores (Sorrow) (1730), Jesús Caído (Christ Fallen) (1705), Misericordia (Mercy)(1623), Santo Entierro (The Holy Burial) and La Paz (Peace) – can also look back over long, event-filled histories.
Osuna has two allegorical pasos which allude to Resurrection and Death, respectively. El Niño Jesús Perdido (Jesus the Child Lost in the Temple), a reference to when Jesus was found among the doctors in the temple of Jerusalem, is taken out in procession on Palm Sunday with an image of the triumphant Jesus holding the world in his hand and bestowing a blessing.
And the allegory of El Triunfo de la Santa Cruz (The Triumph of the Holy Cross), popularly known as La Canina, shows a skeleton sitting on the world with a scythe in its hand pensively contemplating the triumph of Christ’s Cross over Death.
The Osuna Style
Many of Osuna’s religious brotherhoods have a distinctive manner of carrying their mysteries and pasos in their processions. This is the “Osuna style”, a technique once widespread in other villages in the area. It differs from other styles in that the frames of the pasos are carried on the bearers’ shoulders, with lifting beams parallel to the sides of the platform rather than arranged transversely beneath it.
The Seven Words of Christ
For more than fifty years, the Hermandad de la Vera-Cruz (Brotherhood of the True Cross) has organized an annual Pregón de la Siete Palabras (Proclamation of the Seven Words) at Lent. The same brotherhood also organizes the prestigious “Carmen Torres saeta singing competition”. Now in its twenty sixth year, this is one of the most highly anticipated events in the period leading up to Easter in Osuna.
Osuna’s processions exhibit not only religious fervour but also an immense artistic heritage. Processional images include Gothic sculptures (the Cristo de la Vera Cruz) and Baroque works by some of the finest craftsmen from Seville and Granada such as Juan de Mesa (Cristo de la Misericordia), José de Mora (Virgen de los Dolores, the Servite Order), Luisa Roldán (Jesús Nazareno) and Vicente de Tena.