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Leon Holy Week

The Holy Week festivities in León have been declared of international touristic interest, and it is certainly deserved.
The tradition of this festival dates back to the 16th century, and combines religious devotion with art in equal quantities. The art is obvious in the unique floats that take part in the processions; designed and constructed in the workshops of well-known designers such as Juan de Juni, Gregorio Fernández, Luis Salvador Carmona, Víctor de los Ríos and Francisco Díez de Tudanca, among others. The religious devotion is demonstrated by the sixteen fraternities and Brotherhoods, their members, locally called "papones", and above all the people of León and the thousands of visitors that come and admire these Semana Santa celebrations. The oldest fraterinities are Nuestra Señora de las Angustias, la Virgen de la Soledad and the Cofradía del Dulce Nombre de Jesús Nazareno.

The festivities go on for ten days, and they start with the emotional procession carrying the ancient image of the Virgen del Camino, known locally as la del Mercado (she of the market) on the afternoon of Viernes de Dolores (The Friday of Pain), and finishing with the releasing of doves on the morning of Domingo de Resurrección (Resurrection Sunday) in the cathedral square. The sixteen fraternities and penitential brotherhoods organise some thirty processions, a hundred parades with spectacular sculpted saintly images born on the shoulders of the brothers, processions of the Vía Crucis (the Way of the Cross), parades of lyrical worship, concerts and proclamations. All going on in the middle of the major celebrations.

La Ronda y la Procesión de los Pasos is one of the most interesting processions. On Jueves Santo (Maundy Thursday), at exactly midnight, the brothers of Jesus of Nazareth (Jesús Nazareno), lead by the Abbott and the Committee of the Sixes (the Junta de Seises), and with the members of La Ronda, proceed throughout the night through all the street of the city, to come before the authorities and announce the start of the Procesión de los Pasos. Handbells, bugles and drums break the silence of the night with their unique call, followed by one of the brothers who shouts the secular phrase: "Levantaos hermanitos de Jesús, que ya es hora" (Rise, brothers of Jesus, the hour is nigh).

At 7:30 in the morning of Good Friday the Procesión de los Pasos sets off, the participants bearing thirteen saintly images on their shoulders. The images of la Dolorosa and San Juan meet in the Plaza Mayor.

Also of particular interest is the Procesión del Santo Cristo de las Injurias, which proceeds the crucifixion and transforms the city into a scene from the ancient acts of the Passion, mediaeval theatre representations revived during the festivities by some of Spain's cities. This procession is proceeded by the Oficio de las Tinieblas, in the church of Santa Marina la Real, with the traditional singing of Salm 50 in the darkness, organised by the fraternity of el Santo Cristo del Desenclavo, to frighten people.


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