The week before Easter is a big deal in Spain. No, let me correct that: a huge deal in Spain. In many cities and towns little else happens during Holy Week except Holy Week activities. Seville is said to be the biggest, and Zamora has to have the most intense celebration for a smaller place. Zamora even has a museum dedicated to Santa Semana, which we visited and at which we were amazed/astonished/fascinated!
Starting Palm Sunday, cofradias (essentially religious fraternities) carry huge statues and tableaux through the streets of the city. These pasos, as they are called, depict scenes from the week before the cruxificion of Jesus. They are huge, some of them requiring more than 30 people to carry them. They wend slowly through the streets, watched by huge crowds at every step of the way. The pasos start their journey late in the afternoon and usually take somewhere around 4-5 hours to reach their destination. (On Good Friday the pasos for that day start at 5 a.m. and travel until 2 – 3 a.m. the following morning!) For the members of the cofradias, and for the people watching, this is a mark of their devotion.
The Museo Santa Semana here has many of the pasos used in Zamora’s Holy Week processions, as well as the costumes worn by the cofradias, and explanations of the week. It is pretty amazing!
The picture above shows three pasos. As the people under them walk, they move in a slow swinging gait that makes the paso move as though alive.
I thought that all the pasos would be old, but in fact, a number of them were created and introduced into the processions over the last twenty years. Others have been used for over 150 years, and several were old ones re-created and renovated in the last forty-fifty years.
The Muséo Santa Semana also has costumes worn by the members of the cofradias as they process through the streets. Some are, um, eerie:
I have no idea why when the Ku Klux Klan got going in the United States it took its well-known hooded costume from the cofradias of Spain. I wish it hadn’t. But then I wish the KKK had never existed.
Zamora’s Cathedral is unusual in that it is Romanesque – most cathedrals in Europe were replaced with Gothic buildings as that form of architecture spread from France. But it took hundreds of years to reach Spain and be accepted here; the Seville Cathedral, the largest in the world, is purely Gothic but was built almost 400 years after the first French Gothic cathedral. Zamora’s Cathedral itself is interesting, and it has a small but quite nice museum attached. We spent a lot more time here than we planned!
In the museum, we came across this bust of Mary holding Jesus. It’s carved in wood and painted. The face is just breathtakingly beautiful.
The Cathedral museum also has a series of beautiful tapestries created in the 1500s that are amazingly well kept.
Here’s a detail of one (a detail because they are all huge)!
Today’s interesting tapestry fact: a few years back I did some reading about tapestries and learned that with a tapestry of this quality, a skilled tapestry-maker could do about a square yard per year! These tapestries would take years, with several people working on them at the same time. No wonder they were so valuable.
The Cathedral itself had some interesting aspects. Our favorite was this:Built into a wall and part of a sepulchre, this was created in 1402, and, for an unknown reason, covered up at some later date. It was rediscovered during a 2010 renovation. The colors are original: this is a 800-year-old unrestored work of art.
And a simple but elegant altarpiece of silver:
Okay, enough about Zamora for now. We love this place and will definitely return, more than once, we hope.
Okay, two more Zamora pictures.