All about the religious parades in Malaga- The Processions of the Brotherhoods

Just a few days after the smoke from the bonfires lit on the 23rd of June has cleared, and after the sea has regained its calm from all the people who proceeded to dive in, using the water as a means of purification and good luck, I’ve noticed that there is one more tradition related to San Juan that might not sound familiar to an expat! I am talking about the custom of the Catholic Processions of Brotherhoods, which occur quite frequently, as one can quickly come to realize.

What is a Catholic procession and when was the last one that took place in Malaga?

In Malaga, just like in the greater Andalusian region, there is the instance of the “Processions of the Brotherhoods”, a Southern Spanish phenomenon that is very original and ethnically specific. There are two terms describing this religious event in Malaga that tourists or foreign residents might not be familiar with: The term Brotherhoods refers to the “cofradías”, as these Confraternities are called in Spanish, who are voluntary members of the church. Usually, they consist of “penitents”, who are not ordained priests, wearing robes and tall hoods and carrying platforms topped with statues and flowers.

Now, proceeding to the term “Procession”, it can be described as the act of the Confraternities walking in a line, followed by laypeople, parading all together in a ceremonial way. During the celebrations of the religious calendar, in Malaga they usually cross the main part of Centro Historico but also cover a significant amount of the town’s length. Such a festivity merges both Christian and pagan customs, each time honoring a particular Saint.

How do Catholics differentiate themselves from the Orthodox on this custom?

Can the Procession ceremony of the pillar of the Catholic church pass as the equivalent of the Epitaph Litany/procession of the Orthodox? It can, but there is a distinct difference between the two. Their difference lies in the musical nature of the Procession. Juxtaposing the Epitaph’s choral citing or preaching of hymns, the Catholic custom always has musical accompaniment. Well, that’s not the only difference exactly; since the Brotherhoods, as collective organizations established by the body of the church and the public, do not exist in the same way within the Orthodox context! As for the musical “entourage” in the case of Malaga, it always is a kind of emotive, triumphant tune, generated by the instruments of the Church marching Bands.

The most recent one took place on the 22nd of June during San Juan’s Eve. The San Juan procession is in honor of Saint John the Baptist, who is very beloved and respected by local Spaniards, as the website InSpain News mentions here. The writer goes on to say that, as a community-binding event, it echoes older ritualistic and spiritual ceremonies. Go ahead and fisish that article, if you are more interested in further details on San Juan’s and its origins.

Here is a list of the most important Brotherhood Processions, if you are interested to witness this eccentric dispay of religious devotion:

  • Holy Week Processions: Taking place during the last week of Lent. It is the traditional way to welcome the coming of Easter. Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are the honored protagonists, whose symbols are paraded around town. In Malaga, there are seven Easter societies, the younger male members of which bear the thrones that they parade around on their shoulders.
  • On Palm Sunday: On this day, which marks the beginning of Semana Santa, nine brotherhoods from different neighborhoods carry around the image of “The Virgin of Tears” leaving the church. Then what follows is the departure of one of the brotherhoods, “La Pollinica”.

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