Semana Santa and Liturgical Music in Cuenca- Don Harris
I have posted this itinerary in conjunction with my June 2011 Reflection posted on www.latienda.com, which details this unique expression of piety and music in Cuenca (with the hope that you might be tempted to choose this wonderful experience in the future). Pictures of the Semana Santa processions can be found on Flickr as well.
Day 1 - Monday of Holy Week
Iberia Airlines from Richmond, via Chicago, to Madrid/Barajas Airport.
Day 2 - Tuesday of Holy Week
07:40 – We arrived at Barajas, the Airport of Madrid, rented a car, and drove an easy two hours on fine roads from the airport to Cuenca. A diesel vehicle saves on fuel, and is smooth and quiet to drive. We checked into Rusticae Posada San José, adjacent to Plaza Mayor (tel 91 859 56 65), and stayed there there until morning of Good Friday. It was built in the 18C as the school and lodging for the cathedral choir boys. Excellent staff.
17:00 - Concert: Chant in the Tradition of the Benedictine Order performed at the Iglesia de la Merced, by the Choir School of the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Cruz of the Valle de los Caidos.
21:30 – Procession of Forgiveness begins to enter the Plaza Mayor. Pasos include John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Medinaceli Jesús, and the Virgin of Hope. Procession begins at 20:00 at the Church of El Salvador, and ends the next morning at 03:00.
Day 3 - Wednesday of Holy Week
We visited the unique Gothic Anglo-Norman Cathedral begun by Alfonso VIII and his wife Eleanore of Aquitaine, along with the Cloister and the Diocesan Museum.
12:30 – ‘Procession de las Beguinas’ performed at Iglesia de San Felipe Neri, by Psallantes Femina, a group of seven women from Bruges, Belgium. As the processed around the church we were surrounded by extraordinarily pure voices.
19:00 - Procession of Silence: began at the lower city, arriving at Plaza Mayor at 22:00, where the penitents rested before descending from the old city, pausing to sing the Miserere at San Felip Neri. Pasos include: The Last Supper, Agony in the Garden, Judas’ Kiss, Peter the Apostle, The Denial of St Peter, ‘Ecce Homo of San Miguel’, Our Lady of Bitterness, accompanied by St John. We had a perfect vantage point standing along the cobble-stoned Calle Alfonso VIII which lead directly to the Plaza Mayor. So narrow is the curb that the rows of spectators can only be 2 or 3 deep.
Day 4 - Thursday of Holy Week
Visit Artesania – Artwork by local artists located in a former church around the corner from the Diocesan Museum. Moderately priced. Then, visit the Semana Santa Museum.
17:00 – Liturgical Office of Tenebrae written by Tomás Luís de Victoria performed at the Iglesia de San Miguel by Schola Antigua Ensemble Plus Ultra, a monastic chorus formed by graduates from the Choir School of the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Cruz of the Valle de los Caidos.
20:00 – Plaza Mayor continuation of the Procession of Peace and Charity. It begins at 16:30 at lower city, where the Miserere is sung at the Iglesia S Felipe Neri, and ends at Midnight. Pasos include: Christ of Mercy-Jesús praying in the Garden, Scourging of Jesus tied to the Column, ‘Ecce Homo of San Gil’, Fallen Jesus and S. Veronica, and Our Lady of Sorrow.
Day 5 - Good Friday
05:30 – The dramatically riveting Procession to Calvary arrived at the Plaza Mayor at approximate 0830. Pasos include Jesus the Nazarene, Jesús and Veronica, S John the Apostle, Meeting of Jesus and Mary, Our Lady of Sorrow, and El Salvador. Traditionally Jesus is greeted by crowds with drums and horns and broncos (scorning shouts) led by brotherhoods who have stayed awake all night.
There are processions all day Friday in Cuenca, but we decided to see other unique celebrations in the general area of Aragón, by following what is designated as La Ruta de los Tambores – The Route of the Drums.
10:00 – Drive one hour to Albarracín, a dramatic mountaintop village designated one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. There we witnessed the Good Friday convergence of drummers from the various barrios, each group answering one another in counterpoint.
15:00 – Check into Parador in Alcañiz, Castle and Convent – Order of Calatrava.
17:00- Go to village of Alcorisa, with local Passion Play: Drama de la Cruz, culminating in a 2100 Procession to Mt Calvary.
22:00 – Visited the small village of Calanda, where over a thousand drummers accompany the multiple processions which meet in the Plaza Mayor.
Day 6 - Holy Saturday
16:00 – Alcañiz Procession of the Holy Burial (Santo Entierro) with flags, and continued our observance by driving about an hour to Zaragoza site of the Basilica of Santa María del Pilar.
Checked into hotel NH Ciudad de Zaragoza. (The address is: Avenida Cesar Augusto 125 – Tel: 97 644 2100. It is adequate, clean and perfectly located).
22:00 – Holy Saturday procession with drums from San Juan de Penetes to Basilica.
Day 7 - Easter
12:00 – Mass at Basilica of Santa María del Pilar.