The rich culture of Andalusian towns, each with its own character and way of doing things comes to the fore during the Easter Celebrations. At this time of the year each dot on the map is a completely different world. Traditions with their own nuances of language and customs carefully guarded by the town´s inhabitants. Holy Week (Easter Week) in Priego de Córdoba, declared a Celebration of National Tourist Interest for Andalusia and recognised as part of the Camino de Pasion, envelops the visitor from the very first moment.
As night falls on the fifth Friday of Lent, known here as Viernes de Dolores (Friday of Sorrows), the streets of the town are filled with sonorous drum beats from the religious brotherhoods. The unique beat of each band, an essential part of the Holy Week culture, can be recognised at a distance by the people of Priego after just a few strikes. This characteristic sound, is a call to come out onto the streets, bringing back childhood memories of skipping after the coloured capes of the bands.
The sounds, the taste of palillos de leche and hornazos (typical Easter pastries) and especially the smell of incense from each brotherhood are all part of the cultural explosion that enables the public to enjoy the experience in 101 different ways. In this way the streets of Priego become a stage where anyone can enjoy the passing of the brotherhoods as they go from one unique place to another.
MOMENTS. The focal point of Palm Sunday morning is the great number of children that come together to form the Pollinica Brotherhood´s (Hermandad de Pollinica) procession. They parade with the statues of Our Lord´s triumphal entry in to Jerusalem and Our Lady Encarnate. The passage is also marked by the music of the children´s band.
As dusk falls the Brotherhood of Peace head out into the streets. They were formed only 15 years ago but have already become famed for their dedication to the procession. Bearing their statuary of Ntro. Padre Jesús en la Oración en el Huerto y María Stma. De la Paz (Our Lord praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and Our Lady of Peace) they process to the climax of the journey in the Carcolas quarter.
The Monday of Easter week is a symphony of solemnity, marked by the rhythm of the drum band, the base drum and fanfares of the Cofradía de los Dolores (Brotherhood of Sorrows). El Cristo de la Buena Muerte (Christ of the Just Death), escorted by large torches along with María Stma. de Los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows) descend slowly from the shrine on Calvary on route to the parish of the Assumption. In this very place, an incomparable setting opposite the fortifications of the Arab Castle, on the Tuesday of Easter Week the Hermandad de la Caridad (Brotherhood of Compassion) will hold their penitential vigil. They parade, with the statues of Stmo. Cristo de la Expiración y de María Stma. de los Desamparados (Christ dying on the Cross and Our Lady of the Defenceless), through the Barrio de La Villa and are the only procession to pass along the Ardarve and the Paseo de Colombia.
Wednesday of Easter Week in Priego has come to symbolize the value of both the conservation of cultural traditions as well as the adaptation and innovation of customs during the centuries. The Archicofradía de la Columna (Arch-brotherhood of the Column) enact a Passion play, known locally as El Prendimiento. Premiered in 1674, it can be seen in the Plaza de la Constitución. When this has finished, the new Hermandad del Mayor Dolor (Brotherhood of Great Sorrow) begin their procession from the tiny Plaza de San Juan de Dios. The paso (float) of Ntro Padre Jesús Preso (Our Lord Jesus the Captive) and María Stma del Mayor Dolor (Our Lady of Greatest Suffering) is carried in similar style to their counterparts in Seville as they pass through the streets of Triana. A day culminating in a historic contrast and fusion representative of the spirit of integration of Priego de Córdoba.
The crescendo reaches a climax on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with Stations of the Cross with some of the most treasured statues of the Andalusian Easter Week. Priego, as shown by its temples and churches is a union of styles mid-way between Granada and Córdoba where Baroque art reached its dazzling apotheosis. Its sculptural vivacity can still be enjoyed during an Easter Week of popular feeling and fervour.
The next date with history for the traveller can be found at the threshold of the San Francisco church from which emerges a figure on a cross, both sculpted in wood. This is dedicated to and led to the foundation of the ancient Cofradía de la Santa Vera Cruz (Brotherhood of the Holy Cross) in 1550, the genesis of Priego´s Easter Week. The retinue of the Archicofradía de la Columna (Arch-brotherhood of the Column) is formed of the most prized statues of Ntro. Padre Jesús en la Columna (Our Lord Jesus Scourged) and María Stma de la Esperanza (the Holy Virgin Mary of Hope) pass through the streets accompanied by penitents dressed in green and white. After night fall, the dawn of Good Friday, the Hermandad de los Dolores (Brotherhood of Sorrows) embark on their return journey from the old town on a route known as Via Sacra (Way of the Cross) marked by strict silence, broken only by the solemn beat of a drum.
A little later, at the dawn of a new day, the Prieguenses return again, in great numbers, to the San Francisco parish. Here is where the vigil of the image of Ntro. Padre Jesús Nazareno (Jesus of Nazareth), a statue known and adored the length and breadth of Spain starts. In the morning, accompanied by the floats of Saint John the Evangelist and Our Lady of Sorrows, the statue freely sways to and fro as all who wish to can carry the float up to Calvary. The “at the double” pace and the blessing of the hornazos (pastry chicks) are without a shadow of a doubt the two most iconic moments of the week. The memory of this event lasts all year until next Good Friday.
With the setting of the sun, two brotherhoods close the Passion. The Archicofradía de las Angustias (Arch-brotherhood of Sorrows) set forth into the street from their small chapel in Calle Río. The procession of Ntro Padre Jesús en su Descendiemiento (Our Lord taken down from the Cross) and Ntra Sra de las Angustias (Our Lady of Sorrows) parade to the emotional sounds of symbols and base drums. For their part, the Hermandad del Santo Entierro (Brotherhood of the Sacred Entombment) and Virgen de la Soledad (Our Lady of Sorrow), which celebrates 425 years since its foundation, is charged with the solemn announcement of the death of Christ. From San Pedro Square, Stmo. Cristo Yacente (Christ Recumbent) and Maria de la Soledad Coronada (Our Lady of Solitude Crowned) undertake their vigil guarded by penitents uniformly dressed in black where each brotherhood is represented. The unique Easter week in Priego de Córdoba comes to a close on Resurrection Sunday with the Hermandad de Resucitado (Brotherhood of the Resurrection). The floats of Ntro Padre Jesús Resucitado (Christ Resurrected) and Maria Stma. de La Cabeza (Our Lady Mother of the Church), now clad in light blue and white announce that Easter Week has come to an end. From this moment, the streets of Priego will remain clear of floats until next year.