Religious Festivals in Andalusia

Discover some of the religious celebrations from the 20th century

By Andalusian Archives

Archivos de Andalucía

Grupo de mujeres ataviadas de trajes típicos en una remolque delante de una ermita. Imagen de romería. (1970-10-07)Andalusian Archives

Festivals and folklore express the shared culture of a community, encompassing its historic and sociocultural traditions and the ways these are expressed publicly.

The exhibition will see various documents—safeguarded in our archives—put on display. These are pictorial testimonies compiling some of the most important religious festivals celebrated in Andalusia throughout the 20th century, such as pilgrimages, Holy Week, and Corpus Christi.

Celebrations of the Corpus Christi of GranadaAndalusian Archives

Religious festivals

Spain no longer has an official religion, but the Catholic tradition is deeply rooted in its cultural and social life, and, in particular, in the way in which its communities express their celebrations and festivals.

These include Semana Santa, Corpus Christi, and some of Andalusia's most important pilgrimages. The long tradition and large popular following of these festivals make them good examples of expressions of popular Catholicism in Spain.

Romería del Quintillo (1930) by Fernando Carmona DíazAndalusian Archives


Pilgrimages are among the most commonly celebrated cultural and religious events in Andalusia, with some of them dating back to the Middle Ages.

These pilgrimages are usually undertaken on foot, on horseback, or by wagon to a sanctuary or hermitage where a statue of the Virgin Mary or a saint is venerated. They are held on a particular day of the year and take the form of a procession.

Drummer and Dancers Leading the Procession of the Virgin of La Rábida (1975-04-05/1975-04-05)Andalusian Archives

They are religious and social events, some of which have been declared Festivals of Tourist and Cultural Interest as a result of their combination of religious, folkloric, and cultural elements.

The image shown here is a snapshot of the Pilgrimage of the Virgin of La Rábida, the patron saint of Sanlúcar de Guadiana, Huelva. A statue of the Virgin is carried on the shoulders of residents and there are dancers from the town.

The Dance of the Virgin of La Rábida (also known as the dance of the flowers) was designated a Spanish Point of Cultural Interest in 2011.

Procession of the Virgin of El Rocío in Her Village (Approximate data 1970)Andalusian Archives

The pilgrimage of the Virgin of El Rocío

The pilgrimage of El Rocío, commonly known simply as "El Rocío," is one of the best-known pilgrimages in Spain, attracting enormous crowds.

Every year on Whit Monday (the Monday after Pentecost), over a million people gather around the hermitage housing the statue of the Virgin of El Rocío, located in the village of the same name. People travel from all over Spain and from abroad.

Members of the ER 77 comedy club raising the club's flag in front of the facade of a vineyard belonging to González Byass en Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz) (1930) by Fernando Carmona DíazAndalusian Archives

Pilgrims arrive on foot, on horseback, or in carriages, traveling large distances to reach the village. In the early hours of Whit Monday, the inhabitants of Almonte carry out a tradition called "saltar la reja." They "jump the gate" of the hermitage and remove the statue of the Virgin of El Rocío (also known as the "Paloma Blanca," or white dove; and the "Reina de las Marismas," or queen of the marshlands). They then begin their procession around the village, stopping off at its various confraternities.

This photograph, taken in 1970, shows the procession of the Virgin of El Rocio around the village.

Feast of Corpus Christi and Day of the Province in Ronda (1960)Andalusian Archives

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi is one of the most important Catholic feast days. Its origins are medieval and it takes place once a year, 60 days after Easter Sunday, in exaltation of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a sacrament involving the consecration of bread and wine (in memory of the death and resurrection of Jesus) which are distributed among the faithful, just as Jesus did during his last supper with the disciples.

The significance of the feast of Corpus Christi is such that it is celebrated throughout Spain. Some of the celebrations in particular towns and villages are considered to be of socio-religious importance and have been designated as festivals of National Tourist Interest in Spain.

They include the Corpus Christi celebrations in La Puebla del Río (Seville) and Zahara de la Sierra (Cádiz).

This brochure, from our archives, is a promotional leaflet dated 1960 for the Corpus Christi festivities and the "Día de la Provincia" (Day of the Province), celebrated in Ronda (Málaga). It shows how the religious feast was combined with a secular festival.

Celebrations of the Corpus Christi of GranadaAndalusian Archives

Corpus Christi in Granada

The city of Granada puts on a packed schedule of secular and religious activities organized around the feast of Corpus Christi, and the whole city is decorated for the festivities. The activities include plays, concerts, shows, parades, and the city's fair, which runs from the Monday before Corpus Christi right through to the Sunday after it.

On the Thursday of the Corpus Christi festivities, the residents of Granada fill the streets to watch the solemn procession of the Gothic monstrance that was a gift of Isabella I from Castile in 1501.

The image shows a detail from the temporary structures that are traditionally erected for the 500-year-old celebration.

The Sculptor Antonio León Ortega (1965)Andalusian Archives

Semana Santa

During Semana Santa, Christians commemorate the Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The reformist movement in Andalusia during the late 15th and early 16th centuries led to the emergence of confraternities and religious brotherhoods, which spread throughout Spain. Today, one of the roles performed by members of these organizations is to carry the religious statues during the processions that take place throughout Semana Santa.

The main purpose of the confraternities and religious brotherhoods is to support and comfort their members in difficult times. They have traditionally been responsible for providing support for burials, almshouses, hospitals, and other types of care and relief.

Canopy procession of the Virgin of Los Ángeles de la Hermandad de los Negritos (1905-05-23)Andalusian Archives

Saeta, Manuel Torre

Every year during Semana Santa, Christians across the world hold processions, taking to the streets to express their faith.

This photograph, taken in 1905, shows a float with a canopy and a statue of the Virgin of the Angels, belonging to the Sevillian Los Negritos Confraternity. The confraternity's name refers to the people who founded it in the early modern period, who were mainly African slaves.

Procession of Cristo de la Hermandad de las Cigarreras passing the inner street of the Seville Tobacco Factory (1905-04-13) by Informaciones fotográficas DUBOIS. Fábrica de Tabacos de SevillaAndalusian Archives

Semana Santa in Seville

The main event of Semana Santa is the penance procession, which traditionally took place with just a parish cross, rather than elaborate floats or statues.

In the early 17th century, the confraternities and religious brotherhoods agreed to carry statues on floats during the processions. The processions took place throughout the streets of Seville, with the penance procession heading towards the cathedral.

This was the catalyst for the re-emergence of religious imagery, with renowned sculptors such as Martínez Montañez and Pedro Roldán being commissioned to produce the statues. They sculpted wooden statues of images previously depicted on canvases or banners.

Our Father Jesus of the Great Power in a plain tunic, possibly called “the white tunic.” (1905-03-22)Andalusian Archives

Saeta, autor desconocido

The photograph shows the float of Nuestro Padre Jesús del Gran Poder (Our Father Jesus of the Great Power), a statue that is revered by the people of Seville. He is dressed in a plain tunic made from silver lamé fabric, which may be the so-called "blanca" (white tunic) in which he was dressed for the "Madrugada" (dawn) procession of 1908.

The sculptor responsible for this statue was unknown until 1930, when the historian Sancho Corbacho discovered evidence revealing it to be the work of the sculptor Juan de Mesa in 1620.

Procession of the Virgin of Victoria de la Hermandad de las Cigarreras, presided by the monarch Alfonso XIII (1930-04-17) by Informaciones fotográficas DUBOIS. Fábrica de Tabacos de SevillaAndalusian Archives

This photograph, taken in 1930, shows the float of the Virgin of the Victory belonging to the Cigarreras Confraternity, presided over by Alfonso XIII of Spain.

The king, who held the position of "Hermano Mayor" (the most senior elder in the confraternity) presided over the procession through the streets of Seville on more than one occasion. He granted the confraternity the privilege of carrying the purple banner of Castile in front of the float bearing the Virgin Mary.

Credits: Story

Religious Festivals in Andalusia

Organized by:
Ministry of Culture of the Regional Government of Andalusia

Curator: Gema Herrera Vázquez
Text: Ana Melero Casado and Gema Herrera Vázquez
Directorate General of Historical and Documentary Heritage
Photographs: Provincial Historical Archives of Granada, Huelva, Málaga and Sevilla and General Archive of Andalusia
Selection of audios conserved in the Andalusian Center of Documentation of Flamenco
Digital design: Charo Andreu Abrio. Directorate General of Cultural Innovation and Museums

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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