Viernes Santo, Good Friday, is the most holy day in the Spanish Catholic calendar. All towns and villages have their processions during Semana Santa, Holy Week, but in Loja the Easter processions are amongst the most significant in Andalucia.
This morning the most important procession of the week started from the Ermita de Jesús and followed the narrow streets of the old town to the main church of Santa Maria de la Encarnación. Semana Santa in Loja is distinguished by its famous “Incensarios” ( incense carriers ) – groups of eight men who, in reverence to the images, perform an extraordinary dance comprising graceful curtseys punctuated by stampings. Their elegant costumes, one group in white and others in black, are crowned by tall, conical, richly beaded hats. The waving of incense is accompanied by haunting songs, very Arabic in influence, demonstrating the fascinating mix of Islam and Christianity which is so typical of this part of Spain.
The statue of Santa Marcela, which led the procession, was followed by the statue of Jesús carrying his cross, accompanied by Roman centurions resplendent in purple and gold. The images of the saints were followed by drummers, a band, penitents with covered faces and tall, black, conical hats and others from the participating “hermanidads”. The Virgen de la Angustias, adorned with white flowers, was the final image to be paraded.
The procession, which lasts all day, makes a circular tour of the town and we watched it from the main church and the Plaza Constitución. Although a solemn occasion, it was a quite spectacular event and full of colour beneath a cloudless blue sky.