HOLY Week throngs Seville to overflowing. The devout no longer scourge themselves in public, sprinkling the pavements with their blood, but Spaniards flock from all Andalusia, from Madrid, and even from the northern provinces to the sunny city on the storied Guadalquivir. Hotel charges run from twelve dollars a day up to incredible figures; a mere bed in a lodging house costs its three dollars, four dollars, or five dollars a night, and fortunate are those who enjoy the hospitality of a private home.
The ceremonies opened Sunday morning with the procession of palms. We had been told by our cathedral guide the day before that this procession would take place at seven or half-past seven at the latest, and had asked the maid to call us at half-past six. As the chiming bells should have warned us, her knock was an hour tardy, but when, breakfastless and eager, we reached the cathedral a few minutes after eight, there was as yet no sign of a procession. Mass was being said in the Sagrario and in several chapels, and the morning light poured in through the rich-colored windows upon groups of kneeling figures before every shrine. The women wore black mantillas, for, although this most graceful of head-dresses is losing credit on the fashionable promenades of Seville, and is almost never seen in open carriages, Holy Week demands it of all the faithful.
We asked a white-robed young chorister when the procession would form. He answered with encouraging precision, ” In twenty minutes.” We roamed about for a half hour or more through those majestic spaces, beneath those soaring arches, aspiration wrought in stone, until by chance in that shifting multitude we came face to face with our guide of the day before. We asked how soon the procession would form. He said, ” In twenty minutes,” and we went home for coffee.
When we returned the procession was streaming out of the cathedral into the street of the Gran Capitan. It was simple and all the more attractive for that simplicity. The colors of standards and vestments were mainly purple and gold, and the long, yellow fronds of palm, blown by the fresh breeze from the river, gleamed brighter. than the sheen of candle or of mitre. Turning the corner, the procession, now facing the beautiful Giralda, entered by the ample Door of Pardon, still incrusted with its Arabic decorations, into the Court of Oranges, whose ripe fruit gave new touches of gold to the picture.
Venders of palm were stationed in every sheltered corner, selling their wares, more than twice the height of a man, at fifteen cents the frond, while boys, darting about with armfuls of olive, were glad to take a cent the branch, and not have the best of their leafy store filched from them by sly old women, more intent, like the rest of us, on getting a blessing than deserving it.
Through the multitude the glittering palms and purple robes swept on back into the cathedral, where the silent and remote archbishop, an image of gold in his splendid apparel, shed his benediction not only over the proud palms, but over every spray of ” little gray leaves,” like those of Gethsemane. These blessed palms, sprinkled with holy water and wafting strange fragrances of incense, would be carried home and kept in myriad balconies all the year through, to protect the house from “the all-dreaded thunder stone.”
That Sunday afternoon at five o’clock we were leaning out expectantly from our host’s best balcony. With the constant Spanish courtesy, he had betaken himself, with the children of the household, to a less commanding balcony below, and his eldest son had considerately withdrawn, accompanied by his fiancee, to a mere speck of a balcony above. This left a dozen of us, Spanish, English, and American, to enjoy as good a view as the city afforded of the processional tableaux.
The oblong Plaza de la Constitucion, the scene in days gone by of many a tournament, auto de ft, and bull-fight, is bounded on one side by the ornate Renaissance facade of the city hall, and on the other, in part, by the plain front of the court-house, before which criminals used to be done to death. Private dwellings, with their tiers of balconies, one of which had fallen to our happy lot, cross the wider end of the plaza, while the other opens into the brilliant street of Las Sierpes, too narrow for carriages, but boasting the gayest shop windows and merriest cafes of all the town.
The plaza, always animated, fairly rippled with excitement this Palm Sunday afternoon. The grand stand, erected in front of the city hall, was filled, although many of the camp-chairs and benches placed in thick-set rows on the farther side of the line of march were not yet rented. Thursday and Friday are the days that draw the multitudes. The crowd was bright with uniforms, most conspicuous being the spruce white-edged, three-cornered hats and dark-blue, red-faced coats of the civil guard. Venders of peanuts, peanut candy, macaroons, caramels, and all manner of dulces swung their baskets from one sweet-toothed Spaniard to another, while wisely the water-seller went in their wake, with the artistic yellow jar over his shoulder. One young pedler was doing a flourishing business in crabs, the customers receiving these delicacies in outstretched pocket handkerchiefs.
Busy as our eyes were kept, we were able to lend ear to the explanations of our Spanish friends, who told us that the church dignitaries, after the procession of palms, took no official part in the shows of Passion Week, although many of the clergy belonged, as individuals, to the religious brotherhoods concerned. The church reserves its street displays for Corpus Christi. These brotherhoods, societies of ancient origin, and connected with some church or chapel, own dramatic properties often of great intrinsic value and considerable antiquity.
For days before Holy Week one may see the members busy in the churches at the task of arranging groups of sacred figures, vested as richly as possible in garments of silk and velvet, with ornaments of jewels and gold, on platforms so heavy that twenty-five men, at the least, are needed to carry each. These litters are escorted through the principal streets and squares of the city by their respective societies, each brotherhood having its distinctive dress. It is customary for every cofradia to present two pageants the first in honor of Christ ; the second, and more important, in honor of Mary, to whom chivalrous Spain has always rendered supreme homage; but sometimes the two tableaux are combined into one.
After long watching and waiting we saw, far down Las Sierpes, the coming of the first procession. A line of police marched in advance to clear the road. Then appeared a loosely ordered company of fantastic figures in blue capes and blue peaked caps, absurdly high and reaching down to the shoulder, with holes cut for the eyes. From beneath the capes flowed white frocks, and the gloves and sandals were white. These ” Nazarenes,” who looked like a survival of the Carnival, conducted in silence a litter upon which was erected an image of the crucified Christ, with face uplifted as if in prayer.
The pageant halted before the doors of the city hall to greet the Alcalde, who rose from his red velvet chair and bared his head. Men uncovered, and people stood all along the route, but acclamations were reserved for Our Lady of the Star. Her attendant troop was dressed like the preceding, with a star embroidered in white on the shoulder of the blue tunic. Her litter was ablaze with candles and laden with flowers ; her outsweeping train was upborne by four little pages, and a brass band followed her with unceasing music.
Sunset colors were in the sky before the procession of the second brotherhood arrived. At last, far down the Sierpes, the dusk was dotted with the gleam of many tapers, and above these, most impressive in the dim distance, glimmered a white figure high upon the cross. As the pageant drew near, waves of incense rolled out upon the air. The crash of trumpets and deep boom of drums announced that Our Lady of the Angels was advancing upon the same platform with her Son, for music in these Passion Week processions is always a sign of the presence of the Virgin. The brothers of this retinue wore black, save that their peaked caps were purple.
As twilight gathered, a company of strange dark shapes bore past in solemn hush the Most Holy Christ of the Waters. The Saviour hung upon the cross, an angel receiving in a golden cup the blood from his wounded side. Then her great banner of white and blue heralded the approach of Our Lady of the Utter Grief, who passed with her accustomed pomp of lights and music, holding to her eyes a handkerchief said to be of the most exquisite lace.
Night had fallen when, at eight o’clock, a maid left on vigil called us all from the dinner table to see the beautiful procession of white-robed figures conducting Our Father Jesus of the Silence. The figure of Christ, resplendent in gold and purple, stood before Herod, whose mail-clad soldiers guarded the prisoner. The Roman costumes were so well copied, and all the postures and groupings so startlingly natural, that vivas went up all along the crowded square. As the banner of the Virgin saluted the Alcalde, her attendants let fall their long white trains, which swept out quite six yards behind, reaching from one brother to the next and yielding a wonderfully fine effect in the slow march. Our Lady of the Bitterness, toward whom leaned the tender look of St. John, was robed in superb brocade, so precious that her train, which stood stiffly out behind, was guarded by a soldier with drawn sword.
This closed the ceremonies of Palm Sunday, and the throng, catching one from another the blithe, sweet Andalusian melodies, went singing softly through the darkness on their various ways.
After Palm Sunday a secular quiet fell upon Seville, not broken until Wednesday. At five o’clock this March after-noon it was still so hot that few people were rash enough to move about without the shelter of parasols. Sevillian priests, sombre-robed as they were, sauntered cheerily across the plaza under sunshades of the gayest hues, orange, green, azure, red, and usually all at once, but the shamefaced Englishmen flapped up broad umbrellas of an uncompromising black. There was a breezy flutter of fans on the grand stand, the water-sellers had to fill their jars again and again, and the multitude of smokers, puffing at their paper cigarettes to cool themselves, really brought on a premature twilight.
It was nearly seven before a score of gendarmes, marching abreast, cleared the way for the procession. Then appeared, in the usual guise, some twenty feet apart, two files of those strange shapes, with high, peaked caps, whose visors descended to the breast, slowly advancing, with an interval of about six feet from man to man. Their caps and frocks were black, but the long capes glowed a vivid red. They carried the customary lighted tapers, so tall that, when rested on the ground, they reach to the shoulder. Midway between the files walked a cross-bearer, followed by a Nazarene, who uplifted the standard of St. Andrew’s Cross in red on a black ground. Bearers of other insignia of the order preceded the great litter, on which, under a golden palm tree, was represented by life-size effigies the arrest of Christ among His Disciples, St. Andrew having the foremost place. The second pageant presented by this brotherhood was accompanied by bevies of white-robed boys swinging censers and chanting anthems. Then came, in effulgence of light, the Most Holy Virgin, escorted, as if she were the earthly Queen of Spain, by a detachment of the Civil Guard, whose white trimmings and gold belts gleamed in the candle rays.
The remaining three cofradias that had part in the Wednesday ceremonies exhibited but one pageant each. A troop in black and gold conducted a Calvary, with Mary Mother and Mary Magdalene both kneeling at the foot of the cross, robed in the richest velvet. Figures in white, with stripes of red, came after, with a yet more costly Calvary. The well-carved crucifix rose from a gilded mound, and Our Mother of Healing wore a gold crown of exceeding price. But the third Calvary, all wrought in black and gold, the colors of the brotherhood, which were repeated in standard and costume, won the plaudits of the evening. Here Longinus, the Roman centurion, mounted on a spirited horse, was in the act of piercing with his lance the Saviour’s side. Amid vivas and bravos this Passion picture passed, like its predecessors, in clouds of incense and peals of solemn music.
On Thursday the wearing of black was almost universal. We rummaged our shawl straps for some poor equivalent of the Spanish black silks and black mantillas. The Civil Guard was more superb than ever in full-dress uniform, with red vests and white trousers. No sound of wheels was suffered within the city limits, and late arrivals had to commit their luggage to a porter and follow him on foot.
At three o’clock, in the Sagrario of the cathedral, the archbishop washed the feet of thirteen old paupers, who sat in two confronting rows, looking neat as wax and happy as honey, each dressed in a brand-new suit, with a long-fringed damask towel over his shoulder. Their old blood had been warmed by the archbishop’s own wine, for they had just come from luncheon in the ecclesiastical palace, where they had been served by the highest dignitaries of the church and the proudest nobles of the city. The function of foot washing was not taken too seriously. The fat canons smiled good-humoredly on their archbishop, as his group of attend-ants lowered him to his knees and lifted him again before every old man in turn, and the acolytes nudged one another with boyish mirth over the rheumatic, embarrassed efforts of the beneficiaries to put on their stockings.
A Franciscan friar mounted the pulpit, however, and turned the congregation, thickly sprinkled with English visitors, serious enough by a succinct and fiery sermon, saying, in a nutshell, that love is the glory of the religious life, but is the fruit only of Catholicism, for nowhere, though one searches the world over, can there be found a work of mercy hospital, asylum, endowed school, charity of any sort or kind due to Protestantism. And the old paupers, glancing down at their new suits and feeling the glow of their banquet, were glad to the tips of their purified toes that their lots had been cast in Catholic Spain.
By six o’clock the squares and streets along the processional route were thronged again, although our Spanish friends assured us that the numbers were less than usual. The war feeling kept the Americans and, to some extent, the English away, while many of the Spanish of the provinces, who were accustomed to take their annual outing in Seville during the Semana Santa, were held at home this year by poverty or mourning.
The first two pageants of the afternoon, those of the bull-fighters and the cigarette-makers, were awaited with especial eagerness. For these Seville brotherhoods, more than thirty in all, still maintain something of the mediaeval structure of the guilds. Just as in England and France, from the eleventh to the fifteenth century, or thereabouts, organized companies of craftsmen used to present in Passion Week successive scenes from the life of Christ, these Spanish cofradias today maintain such general lines of division in performing a similar function. Yet any Catholic Sevillian may, if he chooses, secure admission to any of these societies, irrespective of his occupation. The young caballero who chanced to be our prime source of information this Thursday afternoon was himself of a prominent family, a protege of the archbishop, and a student of law, yet he belonged to the brotherhood of Fruit Venders, although his devotion seemed a little languid, and he had excused himself on this occasion from the long march in the breathless Nazarene garb.
Not all the brothers feel bound to perform this penitential service every Passion Week, and, indeed, not all the brotherhoods. Several of the most elaborate pageants were missing from the ranks this year. Such omissions are not as disastrous to the processional effect as they would have been in England, for example, some six centuries ago. Then the gilded and tapestried platforms, set on wheels, which the processions conducted through the streets, were really stages, and at the halting places the best actors of each guild played upon its particular platform an appointed scene from the sacred drama. The sequence of events was duly observed, and the spectator, standing in market-place or at street corner, while one theatre after another rolled by him, saw acted out with much finery of wardrobe and ingenuity of machinery, with tragic dialogue and declamation, relieved by comic interludes, all the Bible story, from the revolt of Lucifer to the Day of Judgment. But modern Spain, abandoning the acting and recitation and substituting puppets for living men, has let slip the dramatic sequence, so that a few pageants less means only so much abatement in the general splendor of the spectacle.
The bullfighters of Andalusia are eminently religious and are said, likewise, to be remarkable for their domestic virtues. All their manly fury is launched against the bull, and they have only gentleness left for wives and children. I have heard no better argument for the bull ring. At all events, these toreros, marching soberly in black, with yellow belts, escorted with well-ordered solemnity an image of the crucified Christ, followed by a queenly effigy of Our Lady of Refuge, erect behind terraced ranks of candles on a flower-strewn litter, under a costly canopy of black velvet embroidered with gold. The cigarette-makers came after with their two pageants, Christ fastened to the pillar, and Our Lady of Victory.
It was, as usual, the second upon which the main expense had been lavished. A great company of acolytes, richly clad and swinging censers of pure silver, went in advance of the Virgin, and three bands of music followed her with continuous acclaim, while a regiment of soldiers attended as a guard of honor. Immediately in front of the paso went, surrounded by officers and aides, General Ochando, his head uncovered and his breast glittering with decorations, for the young king of Spain is a member of this cofradia, and had sent the distinguished military governor of the Provinces, who has a palace in Seville, to represent him. Especial enthusiasm was called out by this image of Mary, for the cigarette-makers had just presented her with a new mantle at a cost of nine thousand dollars. The brothers were willingly aided by the seven thousand women who work in the immense tobacco factory, the average contribution of each donor being two centimos (two-fifths of a cent) a week during the preceding year. No wonder that the Virgin seemed to stand proudly upon her silvered pedestal, her gorgeous new mantle streaming out until it almost touched the head of a white-vested girl who walked barefoot close behind the litter, so fulfilling a vow made in extremity of illness.
Black and white were the banners and costumes of the third procession, very effective through the deepening dusk. Their leading pageant was a Gethsemane, famous for the beauty of the carving. Christ is represented in prayer before an angel, who bears in one hand the cross and in the other the cup of bitterness, while Peter, James, and John are sleeping near their Master. These Passion groups are, with a few exceptions of still earlier date, works of the seventeenth century, the glorious period of Spanish art, the day of Murillo and Velazquez. The most and best are from the hand of the Sevillian Montanes, of chief repute in the Spanish school of polychrome sculpture, but this Gethsemane was carved by his imitator, Roldan, whose daughter, La Roldana, is accredited with the figure of the angel and with the reliefs that adorn the pedestal.
Another Virgin, who, like all the rest, seemed a scintillation of gold and jewels, swept by, and a new troop of Nazarenes, this time in purple and white, passed with two august pageants, the Descent from the Cross and the Fifth Anguish of Mary. Then came two files of ash-colored figures, who marshalled, between their rows of starry tapers, each taper bending toward its opposite, a vivid presentation of the Crowning with Thorns; and, after this, their Mary of the Valley, noted for the gracious sweetness of her countenance. This image is held to be one of Montanes’s masterpieces in wood-carving.
Five processions had now passed, with their two pageants each, and the hour was late, but we could not leave the balcony for anything so commonplace as dinner. Far down the street of Las Sierpes waved a river of lights, announcing the advent of the most ancient of all the Sevillian brotherhoods, Jesus of the Passion. The crowded plaza rose in reverence as the Crucifixion pas() was borne by, and Our Lady of Mercy, too magnificent for her name, was greeted with rapturous out-cries.
Just how and when and where something in the way of food was taken, I hardly know, but as this, the last of the Thursday evening processions, passed in music out of the plaza, a few of us made speed by a deserted side street to the cathedral. We were too late for the Miserere, which was just closing in that surprising hubbub, the stamping of feet and beating of canes and chairs against the floor, by which Spanish piety is wont to ” punish Judas.” But we took our station near by the entrance to the Royal Chapel, wherein had been erected the grand Holy Week monument, in white and gold, shaped like a temple, and shining with innumerable silver lamps and taper lights. Within this monument the Host, commonly spoken of in Spain as Su Majestad, had been solemnly placed the night before, much as the mediaeval church used to lay the crucifix, with requiems, under the High Altar on Good Friday, and joyously bring it forth again Easter morning. But Spanish Catholicism is strangely indifferent to dates, burying the Host on Wednesday and celebrating the Resurrection Saturday.
All day long the Royal Chapel had been filled with relays upon relays of kneeling worshippers, and the hush there had been so profound that the hum of the tourist-haunted nave and the tumult of the streets seemed faint and foreign to the hearing, like sounds a universe away. Before this chapel entrance all the pageants, as they were borne in silence through the cathedral, paused and did homage to the Host. Having outstripped the procession, we had arrived in season to witness three of these salutations. The Nazarenes, in passing, fell upon their knees in the light of the great, gleaming monument, and each of the heavy platforms was slowly swung about so that it faced this symbol of Christ’s sepulchre.
Yet there was something besides devotion in the cathedral. As the crowd pressed close, we felt, more than once, a fumbling at our pockets, and the little artist lost her purse. The rest of us comforted her by saying over and over that she ought to have known better than to bring it, and by severally relating how cautious we had been on our own accounts.
It was hard upon eleven when we returned to the house, but the streets were all alive with people. I went to the balcony at midnight, and again at the stroke of one, and both times looked down upon a plaza crossed and recrossed in all directions by talkative, eager groups. Many of these restless promenaders had been able to get no lodgings, and were walking to keep warm. The pressure upon the hotels was so great that one desperate stranger this Thursday night paid twenty dollars for a cot from ten o’clock till two, and private hospitality was taxed to a degree that nothing but Spanish courtesy and good-nature could ever haste endured. In the house which harbored us, for instance, we were all fitted in as compactly as the pieces of a puzzle, when the unexpected friends began to arrive.
On Wednesday there appeared from the far north a man and wife, acquaintances of ten years back. Our host and hostess greeted this surprise party with Andalusian sunshine in their faces, and yielded up their own room. Thursday morning there walked gayly in one of the son’s university classmates from Madrid. Don Pepe embraced him like a brother, and surrendered the sofa, which was all he had left to give. And this Thursday midnight, as a crowning touch, three more chums of college days came clattering at the bell. Their welcome was as cordial as if the household were pining for society. The tired maids, laughing gleefully over the predicament, contributed their own mattresses and pillows, and made up beds on the study floor, where Don Pepe camped out with his comrades, to rise with a headache that lasted for days after.
By two o’clock I had taken my station on the balcony for an all-night vigil. The most of the family bore me company for the cogent reason that they had nowhere to sleep, but the other guests of the house held out for only an hour or two, and then went blinking to their repose. My memory of the night is strangely divided between the dreamlike, unearthly pomps and splendors streaming through the square below and the kindly, cheery people who came and went about me. The senora, still fresh and charming, although she has wept the deaths of fourteen out of her nineteen children, was merrily relating, with weary head against her husband’s shoulder, her almost insuperable difficulties in the way of furnishing her table. The milkman roundly declared that if she wanted a double quantity of the precious fluid (and goat’s milk at that), she must make it up with water. There was no meat to be had in the Catholic city during these holy days, and even her baker had forsaken his oven and gone off to see the sights. And the black-bearded senor, who, like his wife, had not been in bed for forty odd hours, laughed at her and comforted her, puffed harder than ever at his cigarette, and roguishly quoted the saying, “-He whom God loves has a house in Seville.”
By two o’clock the seats on the grand stand were filling fast, the plaza hummed with excitement, the balconies re-sounded with song and laughter, and the strong electric lights in front of the city hall cast a hard, white brilliance over all the scene. The frying of calientes, an Andalusian version of twisted doughnuts, was in savory progress here and there on the outskirts of the throng, and our ever thoughtful hostess did not fail to keep her balcony well supplied with these crisp dainties.
The twinkling of taper lights, so warm and yellow under those pallid globes of electric glare, appeared while people were still hurrying to their places; but hundreds upon hundreds of black and gold figures had paced by before the first of their pasos came into view. For these processions of the dawn, de madrugada, call out great numbers of the devout, who would thus keep the last watch with their Lord. The clocks struck three as the leading pageant, a very ancient image of Christ, bearing a silver-mounted cross of tortoise-shell, halted before the Alcalde. A white banner wrought with gold heralded the Virgin, who rose, in glistening attire, from a golden lake of lights.
The wealthy cofradia of San Lorenzo followed in their costly habits of black velvet. They, too, conducted a pageant of Christ bearing His cross, one of the most beautiful groups of Montanes, the pedestal adorned with angels in relief. To the Christ, falling on the Via Dolorosa, the brotherhood, with the usual disregard of historic propriety, had given a royal mantle of ermine, embroidered with gold and pearls. A large company of black-clad women, carrying candles, walked behind the Paso, on their penitential march of some eight hours. Many of them were ladies delicately bred, whose diamonds sparkled on the breast of the approaching Mary. For the Sevillian senoras are accustomed to lend their most valuable gems to their favorite Virgins for the Semana Santa, and San Lorenzo’s Lady of Grief is said to have worn this night the worth of millions. She passed amid a great attendant throng, in such clouds of incense that the eye could barely catch the shimmer of her silver pedestal,, the gleam of the golden broideries that almost hid the velvet of her mantle, and the flashes and jets of light that shot from the incredible treasure of jewels that she wore.
The third troop of Nazarenes, robed in white and violet, bore, for banner a white cross upon a violet ground. Their Christ-pageant pictured Pilate in his judgment seat in the act of condemning the Son of God to death. Jesus, guarded by armed soldiers, calmly confronts the troubled judge, at whose knee wait two little pages with a basin of water and towels.
And now came one of the most gorgeous features of the Holy Week processions a legion of Roman soldiers, attired as never Roman soldiers were, in gold greaves and crimson tunics, with towering snow-white plumes. But a splendid show they made as, marching to drum and fife, they filed down Las Sierpes and stretched ” in never ending line ” across the plaza. Our most Holy Mary of Hope, who followed, wearing a fair white tunic and a gold-embroidered mantle of green, the color of the hopeful season, drowned the memory of that stern military music in a silver concert of flutes.
After this sumptuous display, the fourth band of Nazarenes, gliding through the plaza between night and day in their garb of black and white, could arouse but little enthusiasm, although their Crucifixion was one of the most artistic, and their Lady of the Presentation had her poorest garment of fine satin.
A pearly lustre was stealing through the sky, and the chill in the air was thinning the rows of spectators on the grand stand, when mysterious, dim-white shapes, like ghosts, bore by in utter silence a pageant of Christ fainting beneath the burden of the cross. But soon the clamor of drums and fifes ushered in another long array of Roman soldiers, a rainbow host in red and pink and blue, crimson plumes alternating with white, and golden shields with silver. The electric lights, globed high overhead, took one look at this fantastic cavalcade and went out with a gasp.
It was now clear day. Canaries began to sing in their cages, and parrots to scream for chocolate. Sleepy-eyed servant-maids appeared on the balconies, and market women, leading green-laden donkeys, peered forth from the side steets into the square. The morning light made havoc with the glamour of the pageants. Something frank and practical in the sunshine stripped those candle-lighted litters of their dignity. Busy people dodged through the procession lines, and one Nazarene after another might be seen slipping out of the ranks and hurrying awkwardly, in his cumbersome dress, with the half-burned taper under his arm, to the refuge of his own mosquito-netting and orange tree. The tired crowd grew critical and irreverent, and openly railed upon the Virgin of this ghostly cofradia because her velvet mantle was comparatively plain. ” Bah ! how poor it is ! Are we to sit here all the night for such stingy shows as that ? ”
But the last brotherhood in the madrugada processions had, with their white frocks and blue caps and capes, suited them-selves to the colors of the day. The stumbling children, blind with sleep, whom fathers were already leading off the square, turned back for a drowsy gaze at the resplendent tunic of the Christ in the Via Dolorosa Paso, a tunic claimed to be the richest of all the garments worn by the effigies of Jesus. So lovely was this trooping company in their tints of sky and cloud, bearing a great blue banner and a shining ivory cross, that they brought order and decorum with them.
The division that escorted the Virgin marched on with especial steadiness, not a peaked cap drooping, nor a boyish acolyte faltering under the weight of his tall gilded censer. This most Holy Mary of Anguish, whose litter and canopy were all of white and gold, swept by in triumphal peals of music while the clocks were striking six. In some mental confusion, I said good night to the people I left on the balcony, and good morning to the people I met on the stairs, and ate my breakfast before I went to bed.
It seemed as if human nature could bear no more ; the eyes ached with seeing, and phantasmal processions went sweeping through our dreams; yet Friday afternoon at five o’clock found our balcony, like all the rest, full to overflowing. Some twenty thousand people were massed in the plaza, and it was estimated that over one hundred thousand waited along the line of march. Our Spanish entertainers, still unrefreshed by any chance for sleep, were as gayly and punctiliously attentive to their guests as ever, from our gallant host, who presented the ladies with fragrant bouquets of roses and orange blossoms, to the little pet of the household, who at the most engrossing moments in the ceremonial would slip away from her privileged stand on a footstool against the railing to summon any member of the party who might be missing the spectacle.
The Spanish colors floated out from city hall and court-house, but the great concourse below was all in hues of mourning, the black mantillas often falling over dresses of plain purple. The senoritas in the balconies had substituted knots of black ribbon for the customary flowers in the hair. Jet trimmings abounded, and the waving fans were black.
The coming procession, we were assured on every hand, would be the most solemn of all and the most sumptuous. The habits of the Nazarenes would be of satin, silk, and velvet. The images of Christ and the Virgin would be attired with all possible magnificence of damask and ermine, gold and jewels. Brotherhood would vie with brotherhood in splendor, and one prodigy of luxury would succeed another.
The leading company, whose far-trailing robes carpeted the street with fine black velvet, stood for the olive industry. This cofradia had been poor and unimportant for generations, but in recent years a devoted brother, a manufacturer of olive packing-barrels, had poured forth his accumulated fortune upon the society, with the result that their pasos are now second in ostentation and expense to none. The donor, long since too feeble to bear his taper in the line, lives in humble obscurity, but his old heart swells with joy this great day of the year when he sees, following the elaborate carving of the Crucifixion, the dazzling chariot of Our Lady of Solitude. Upon her mantle, which enjoys the proud distinction of being the very costliest of all, he has lavished twenty thousand dollars. Longer by a yard than any of the others, it was yet unable to find place for all the gold which the zealous Nazarene had given for it, and the residue was bestowed about the pedestal and canopy. The Paso is so heavy with gold that it requires a double force of men to carry it ; but each of these hidden bearers, getting air as best he can through a silver breathing-tube, is sure of a dollar for his recompense as well as two glasses of good wine.
All the adornment of the litter is of pure gold, and such wealth of jewels glinted from the Virgin’s glorious raiment that a triple force of Civil Guards was detailed for her protection. Her ardent worshipper has denied her nothing. The very columns that uphold her canopy are exquisite in carving, and it is his yearly pride to see that her clouds of incense are the thickest, and her train of musicians the most extended, in all that glittering line.
The second cofradia exhibited but a single pageant, relying for effect upon the beauty of the sculpture. The Mater Dolorosa was bowed in her desolation at the foot of the Holy Rood, from which hung only the white folds of the winding-sheet.
But the third brotherhood had bethought themselves to introduce, between their austere Crucifixion and their shining image of Mary, another preposterous parade of Roman soldiers flower-colored, plume-tossing, butterfly creatures far too bright, if not too good, “for human nature’s daily food.” One whiff from Caesar’s iron breast would have blown them away like soap bubbles.
The silversmiths trooped by in graver, more majestic state, their purple velvet habits girded with gold cords. Upon a gilded pedestal, wrought with high relief, was seen their Christ, bowed beneath a precious cross of tortoise-shell and silver. Our Lady of Expectation gleamed with gold and gems, and this haughty brotherhood received a full meed of applause.
Black from top to toe was the fifth procession. Their Jesus of the Via Dolorosa bent beneath a sombre cross of ebony embossed with gold, but the blithe young voices of the countless choir-boys, singing like birds before the dawn, ushered in a sun-bright image of Mary.
But something was amiss with the’ processional order. Where were the stately ranks of Montserrat? Alas and alas ! Scarcely had this aristocratic cofradia gone a hundred paces from their chapel when, in the narrow street of Murillo, a leaning candle touched the lace skirt of the Virgin and instantly all the front of the litter was in flames. It was hardly a matter of minutes. From the balconies above were dashed down pailfuls and pitcherfuls of water. The Nazarenes, wrenching away the blue velvet mantle wondrously embroidered in gold with castles, lions, and fleurs de lis, succeeded in rescuing a ragged half of it, and the Civil Guards, drawing their swords and forming a circle about the smoking litter, saved the jewels from robbery. Perhaps the other paso, too, Christ of the Conversion of the Penitent Thief, had some protecting influence. But in all this ado about her finery, the poor Virgin’s face, beloved for its winsome look, was completely burned away. In sorry plight Our Lady of Montserrat was hurried back to her chapel, and the swift rumor of the disaster sent a superstitious trouble through the city.
But more and more solemnly the taper-bearing troops of Nazarenes poured by with the culminating pictures of the Passion. These last three cofradias presented each a single pageant. An escort in dark purple conducted an impressive Descent from the Cross. The Virgin, her crowned head bowed in anguish, clasps the drooping body of Christ to her heart, while John and Mary Magdalene look on in hopeless sorrow. Figures in black and white came after, with their sixteenth-century carving, Christ of the Dying Breath, beneath the cross standing Our Lady of Tears. And last of all, in slow, sad movement, their white trains streaming like a line of light along the stone-paved way, passed the second brother-hood of San Lorenzo, bearing the Most Blessed Virgin in her Solitude. The gold of her mantle seemed one with the gold of the candle rays, and, for many a silent watcher, those gliding, gleaming, spiritlike forms will move forever down a shining path in memory. So closed the Holy Week processions.
” How sorry I am,” said our host, with the Andalusian twinkle in his eye. “It is almost eleven o’clock. Ladies and gentlemen, will you please walk out to dinner ? ”
On Saturday morning we went early to the cathedral for the closing rite. The Sagrario was thronged. Some of the senoras had brought low folding chairs with them, others sat upon the floor, but most of that innumerable congregation knelt or stood. We were all facing the great purple veil which concealed the high altar, with Roldan’s retablo of the Descent from the Cross. There was an hour or more of expectation, during which rosaries slipped through the fingers of many a veiled nun, and the soft murmur of prayer came from strong men as well as from pale-faced women. Suddenly, while a shock of thunder crashed from the organ, hid-den ministrants sharply drew on hidden cords, the purple curtain parted in the midst, and the two folds rolled asunder, revealing the high altar, with its carving of the accomplished Passion. The organ poured forth jubilees of victory, all the bells of the cathedral pealed together, Gloria in Excelsis soared in choral chant, and amid the awe-stricken multitudes fallen to their knees, Su Majestad was borne in priestly procession from the tomb in the Royal Chapel to the candles and incense which awaited at the high altar that triumphal coming.
Easter Sunday was celebrated by a bullfight.