If you really want to understand Semana Santa in Andalucia, then you need to learn about the groups of people who are at the heart of it all - the cofrades or members of cofradías, the religious associations that care for the images of Christ and Mary that are used in the processions and that meet throughout the year for various activities and to plan the next Holy Week celebrations and events in their local area.
In the heart of these organisations we find the history of present day Holy Week celebrations in Andalucia. It all goes back to when the cofradías formed in the 16th century and were provided with regulations by the Council of Trent to ensure that they based themselves on true Catholic doctrines and did not include any pagan or unnecessary traditions.
There are three types of cofradías:
Only the penitenciales participate in the Holy Week parades around Andalucia. Their historical purpose has been to bring silent Catholic convictions out into the light of day at specific times of the year - such as Holy Week - in order to bring the liturgy out of the church to the people in the street.
Members of Cofradías take their responsibilities very seriously. They are highly organised groups with governing bodies and committees. Everyone has a role to play and news of these groups will appear in local press from time to time throughout the year with information becoming more and more frequent as Semana Santa nears.
Watch a Semana Santa procession