I've come across this video of the King watching the Virgin of el Rocío.
I realize that the Holy Week (Semana Santa
) processions are one of those Spanish traditions almost impossible to understand outside Spain (and even on parts of Spain).
They are a very old tradition (some of the oldest hermandades
-brotherhoods- dates from the Middle Ages) and are celebrated through all Spain, although in every city they have a quite different character and way of celebrating. The processions in Castile are much more restrained and penitential, and the images or sculptures (some of them real old art masterpieces) are much more sober and austere. In Andalusia, on the contrary, the images and the 'thrones' or pasos
are incredibly luxury, the sculptures wear rich clothes and lots of flowers and the celebrations are full of music. Among all the Spanish cities, the most famous Holy Week is the one from Seville.
The processions usually features two pasos
, one of them representing Christ or some alegorical scene of his passion or death, and the other one despicting a grieving Virgin Mary (that one usually is covered by a baldachin called palio
). The pasos are carried by costaleros
(literally "sack men", for their distinctive - and functional - headdress), supporting the beams upon their shoulders and necks, lift, move and lower the paso
. As they are all inside the structure and hidden from the external view by a curtain, the paso
seems to move by itself. On the outside an overseer (capataz
), guides the team by voice, and/or through a ceremonial hammer el llamador
(caller) attached to the paso
The processions are organized by hermandades
, religious brotherhoods. Members precede the pasos
dressed in penitential robes with capirotes
, (tall, pointed hoods with eye-holes).The capirotes
were designed so the faithful could repent in anonymity, without being recognised as self-confessed sinners.
In the beggining of this video, you can see and hear a man singing a flamenco-style song. That song is called saeta
(arrow), and it's a grieving song dedicated to the Christ or the Virgin. They are sung as the processions pass on, often from a balcony, and the singer is sometimes hired by the brotherhood, but anyone can start singing from his own balcony or the street and the parade will stop to receive the song.
The saetas can be improvised by the singer, so the man in the video added a last mention to Felipe in his song, that's why he looks so pleased after it. He finished the song saying "even the King of Spain himself comes to greet you" to the Virgin.
After the song, you can see Felipe was allowed to beat the hammer for a levantá
(the 'upping') of the throne, the moment when the bearers fastly up the paso after being stopped and before continuing the parade again. And you can hear the overseer giving the order by their most famous quote: "¡al cielo con ella!"
('up her to the sky!')