Cofradía de María Santísima de los Dolores y Cristo de la Buena Muerte
On Easter Monday, the cofradía, or church guild, of Holiest Mary of Suffering and Christ of the Blessed Death, descends from the hill of Calvary, high above Priego. The procession returns in the early hours of Good Friday, in an atmosphere of silence charged with penitence.
In June 1689, the abbot of Alcalá, Don Pedro de Toledo, approved the constitution of the brotherhood of Holiest Mary of Suffering, then based in the ancient church of Santiago. Nothing more is known of the guild until 1928, when a group of guild members at the shrine of Calvary decided to reconstitute it, and in 1931, the Bishop of Córdoba approved the rules of the new cofradía. Eventually, there was a third reorganisation in 1969, when the guild entered its most significant period.
It is thought that the figure of Our Lady of Suffering was donated to the shrine of Santo Cristo del Humilladero in 1635 by Marina de Pareja, “with all robes provided, ready to adorn the altar”. The icon was moved to the rebuilt shrine of Calvary in the eigtheenth century.
The figure of Our Lady of Suffering, surrounded by its sea of candles, is one of the outstanding icons of the seventeenth century: nothing, however, is known of its provenance. The elegantly-dressed image embodies the suffering of the mother of Christ, her heart consumed with flames, run through with seven daggers, at the centre of her breast. The figure once bore symbols associated with the Crucifixion, but they were removed in the last restoration in 1978.
In 1970, the image of Christ of the Blessed Death, a carving of the Granada school, was brought into the procession from the church of the Virgen de la Cabeza, to where it had been moved from the former shrine of San Luis. For a while, the icon was kept in the cemetery, until building work on the church was finished. It belongs to a style of icon depicting the death-throes of Christ, and is believed to date from the seventeenth century: some experts attribute it to Juan Fernández de Lara, others to José de Mora.
The first procession is thought to have taken place in 1930, but there is no documentary evidence: the figure of Christ of the Blessed Death was added in 1970. The procession, generally acclaimed as one of the best-organised and most spectacular of Holy Week in Priego, undertakes a double journey. On the Monday it leaves the heights of the shrine of Calvary and descends through the town to the parish church of La Asunción. The official march of the cofradía, known as the Silent Procession, climbs back up through through the streets in the early hours of Good Friday, returning each figure to its respective shrine.
The routes are -- on Easter Monday: Calvary, Rute, Virgen de la Cabeza, Estación, Santo Cristo, Málaga, Ancha, Río, Ribera, Corazón de Jesús and Asunción.
In the early hours of Good Friday: Asunción, Corazón de Jesús, Ribera, Carrera de la Monjas, Lozano Sidro, Virgen de la Cabeza, Rute, the lanes leading to Calvary.
The Virgin is carried on the shoulders of 110 costaleros, or bearers, wearing black robes with purple hoods. They are substituted 55 times during the procession, so long is the route, and so great the weight of the icon and its throne. The costaleros are obliged to execute extremely difficult manoeuvres through tiny lanes, and their movements are guided by a procession director, giving commands to the ringing of a bell.
The figure of Christ is borne in a most unusual way, by only eight costaleros. The icon is flanked by four enormous torches which light up the whole paso, and the director gives instructions by subtle signs with his hands or movements of his cape.
The so-called Ovals of the of the Suffering -- seven oval-framed paintings by Manuel Rovira Casañer – were added to the procession in 1981: they are carried by penitents, and depict the seven sufferings of Our Lady.
The procession has been accompanied by the drums of the guild since 1971: today, there are 38 drums, as well as the lead drum and 12 bass drums, which mark a rhythm composed by Alonso Cano and Antonio López. This band was the first to adopt the so-called raun to accompany the exit and entrance of the icons -- fast and thunderous drumbeats which electrify the atmosphere. In 1991, six bugles were incorporated to play a fanfare, an event unprecedented in Holy Week. The band’s repertoire, including the March of Silence, has been adapted to its style by Antonio Ureña, and the composer Francisco José Serrano has written a Passion march specifically for the fraternity.
The Silent Procession climbs up towards Calvary in the early hours of Good Friday, with the Choir of the Vía Sacra, singing the sacred music Stabat Mater and Miserere, which has traditionally accompanied the Passion and the saying of the Rosary,
There are a number of ceremonies in the days leading up to Easter: every Friday in Lent until the Friday before Holy Week, there is an enactment of the Vía Crucis, The Way of the Cross, and afterwards, the fraternity and supporters gather to kiss Our Lady’s hand. There is a quinario – Mass on five consecutive days – during the preceding week.