Between the ten days that pass between the Friday of Sorrows and Easter Sunday, a total of 29 brotherhoods and a Section of Penance roam the streets of Cadiz. In total there are 52 marches and more than 10,000 people in processions. Both the images and the stages of their processing are authentic heritage gems, some of which are over 5 centuries old.
As Andalusian, Holy Week in Cádiz has a series of characteristics common to those of the rest of the region: color, music, the own Andalusian passion is clearly reflected in Holy Week in Cádiz.
But there are also several factors that make Holy Week in Cádiz special and different.
We must start with the geographical location of Cadiz, a peninsula surrounded by the sea on all four sides except for the isthmus that connects it to San Fernando (by the way, another island) and the two bridges that connect it to Puerto Real. It’s hard to walk more than 10 minutes through the streets of central Cadiz without bumping into the sea, either in the form of a beach or a balcony. Holy Week visits are no exception and there are many confraternities and confraternities that perform their station of penance towards the cathedral by the sea. On many occasions they also coincide with sunset, which gives you allows you to enjoy unique images that cannot be seen in other cities.
The light of Cadiz is different and Benito Rodríguez Gatiu, biographer of the great Ortega Bru, tells that the image maker of San Roque spent several days in Cadiz to see how the light fell on the objects in order to create the majestic Christ of Forgiveness .
The city of Cadiz bewitches all those who visit it: its shape, its small size, its layout, its mixture of architectural styles resulting from its long existence of more than 3,000 years make the city a treasure to be discovered at every step, every corner, every square, every street has its story and Holy Week takes the visitor to all these places.
The vast majority of the temples are located in the old town, the most touristic part of Cádiz, an isolated and easily explored area on foot, practically flat and in which hotel establishments and unique accommodations abound.
For this reason, Holy Week is an ideal time to discover Cádiz, the three thousand year old city that, when spring arrives, puts away its mask and cane whistle and takes out its balaclava and incense.
In addition to the city itself, Holy Week in Cádiz is characterized by impressive and sometimes unknown images. It must be assumed that during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the city was the main port of Spain with America, which made Cadiz a rich and prosperous city where merchants, merchants and artists from all over Europe arrived to embark for the Americas. . Many have left their mark here with priceless images.
Unfortunately, the city of Cadiz also suffered attacks such as that of the Anglo-Dutch fleet in 1596, the Lisbon tsunami of 1755, or the attacks of the radicals during the Second Republic and the civil war that followed which were fattened through images, the heritage of the city’s brotherhoods and temples. The oldest tell that the Nazarene of Cádiz himself was thrown on a pyre lit by the radicals in the preludes to the civil war and that brave inhabitants of the district of Santa María pulled him out of the flames by pulling him by the hair. His head and hands were then hidden in a bucket at the bottom of a well on Calle Botica for months until they could be recovered and restored. Every Good Friday morning, el Greñuo, as his Lord is known in Cádiz, passes by this house on Calle Botica in gratitude.
A great heritage was lost, perhaps the most precious and the oldest, but fortunately another part was saved and still continues today.
The oldest image in Cádiz is the Lord of the Sentence, which is in procession on Holy Wednesday and dates from the end of the 15th century. For antiquity and quality, two works by Jacinto Pimentel should be mentioned: the Christs of the Brotherhoods of Humility and Patience and of the Column, both from the 17th century. It is enough to see them to realize their age, their value and their quality.
But if there is a Christ in Cádiz that arouses the interest of all, whatever their faith, it is that of the Good Death who is venerated in the Church of San Agustín and that the processions of Good Friday in darkness, with only light from its four axes.
Much has been written about this sculpture: we talk about its perfection, its forms, its posture. Some even mention the possibility of studying anatomy there, given the technical perfection achieved by its author. But no one knows for sure who it was. It is one of the mysteries of Holy Week in Cádiz, or perhaps even of the history of Cádiz. There are hundreds of theories, although one of the most commented and famous, although not confirmed, is that it is the work of the famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Álvarez del Pino justifies this theory by the very high amount that appears on the receipt for the sculpture: “In this document it is established that the Crucified cost 300 gold ducats”, which gives another important key for Álvarez del Pino: “Martínez Montañés, who can be considered the Andalusian reference of the time, he charges 2,000 reales de vellón for a sculpture; the difference of up to 300 gold ducats is incredible”.
This is not unreasonable given the constant presence of Genoese, Venetians and Italians in general in the history of Cadiz, attracted by the city’s potential as a seaport with America.
Another illustrious and famous name linked to Holy Week in Cádiz is that of Joseph Haydn. The famous composer was commissioned to compose his “Seven Words” from Cadiz. One wonders if it came from the cathedral itself or from the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva in Rosario street.
At that time, Haydn was already one of the most famous composers in Europe, which shows the economic power and influence of the city of Cadiz at that time. Today, every Good Friday, this work is performed at the Oratory of the Seven Words, an unbeatable composition and environment to enjoy together.
The Rocalla brand from Cadiz
Cadiz is baroque, its period of splendor indicates it and this style is present in many buildings of the city, including, of course, its temples. Within the Baroque in Cádiz, the Rocalla is lavished, a style which is not exclusive to the city but which has a particular role here, especially in the temples of El Carmen, San Francisco, the Church of Pastora of Sagasta and Santa María.
Although Holy Week in Cádiz is clearly influenced by that of Seville, the “mother” Holy Week of Andalusia, it has a series of characteristics that differentiate it from this and other Holy Weeks in the region. The most important thing is how to go through the stages.
To understand this, it is necessary to start from the principle that in Seville and in practically all of Andalusia except Malaga, the steps are carried on a costal, that is to say carried on the neck by means of sticks that cross the step side by side and are called workers. In Cádiz, these sticks go from front to back, instead of horizontally, and the carriers carry them on their shoulders. This layout in itself makes the style totally different, but also the way of walking in Cadiz is different with wider movements, which makes the steps swing with each step instead of moving forward in a more natural and similar way to the human walk that is stylish. in Seville.
In addition, the steps of Cadiz have a differentiating element such as the handle and the fork, a true hallmark of Holy Week in Cadiz.
In addition to the loaders that go under the step, on the outside of the step there are four to eight (usually four, one in each corner) that carry the forks, which in ancient times were used to support the step when it touched bottom (stopped). ) and is now used to mark time and rhythm. Its metallic sound against the ground is typical of Cadiz.
This is how Cadiz sounds at Easter
In Andalusia, Holy Week cannot be understood without music. In Andalusia, music is part of our essence and flamenco, one of the characteristics of Andalusia, is also very present during Holy Week. Historians place the origin of flamenco in the triangle formed between Seville, Jerez and Cadiz and the flamenco of Holy Week has a name: the saeta.
These are short, improvised compositions that are sung from the street itself or from the balconies. A saeta is a deep and sincere prayer that arises from within the soul and expresses devotion and love for a Christ or a Virgin in the form of a song. When a saetera or a saetero sings, everyone is silent.
Santa María is the flamenco district of Cádiz par excellence and enjoys the return of the Nazareno to his church at dawn on Good Friday, when the sun begins to rise listening to saetas dedicated to the Regidor Perpetuo and his mother, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, is a unique experience.
Carnival, arguably the city’s big party, also yields to the charm of Holy Week in Cádiz and many play both styles, singing carnival carols in February and saetas in April.
But music is not just saetas. Cofrade music groups are in themselves a wide world that stirs a lot of emotions and attracts crowds, and Cádiz is lucky to have one of the best bugle and drum groups in Spain, Rosario de Cádiz , which bears the name of the city and its Holy Week throughout the national territory. Without harming other groups in the city such as Polillas, Salud or Ecce Mater.
During these weeks a concert of processional marches took place at the Gran Teatro Falla and in less than an hour and a half the capacity was exhausted. This can help to get an idea of the appeal that this music has.
The perfect excuse to eat Cadiz
The year 2019 began with an article in the New York Times newspaper placing the city of Cadiz among one of the must-see destinations that year. Among the arguments, alongside the architecture and the beauty of the city, he pointed to a reason hitherto little known beyond our borders: its gastronomy.
And it is that in Cadiz we eat very well and a visit to the city during Holy Week is the perfect excuse to check it. A good place to start is the food market (it does not open on public holidays such as Maundy Thursday and Good Friday). You can find freshly caught fish there, as well as shellfish and other seafood. Right next door, you can start the day with good churros, like those from La Guapa cafeteria or La Marina.
Afterwards, it is difficult to choose a place to have tapas, they are numerous and very varied. Of course, the tapa is always accompanied by a good sherry or a manzanilla from Sanlúcar.
Easter also has its classics, like the empanadas at Casa Hidalgo in Plaza de la Catedral, an ice cream from the Italian ice cream parlor that opens shortly before Easter every year. The torrijas are a typical dessert of these dates that can also be found in the pastries and sweets of Cadiz, as well as the donuts of Holy Week.
In the coming weeks, Holy Week in Cádiz will receive the Declaration of Feast of National Tourist Interest, which will undoubtedly serve to publicize this feast and this cultural expression so deeply rooted in this land, but which is in the shadow of other city festivals and other holy weeks in the region. Hence the title of this article: A beautiful, authentic and different Holy Week, but still little known.