Holy Week in Écija, city of towers, stands out for its baroque style and the beauty of its images whose carvings, made by image makers such as Juan de Mesa, Montes de Oca or Gaspar de Águila, among others, have centuries of history. The palaces, stately homes and the beauty of its historic center serve as the perfect setting for the fervor with which the residents live this tradition.
From Passion Saturday, with the Procesión del Olivo, and until Easter Sunday, a Parish Association and thirteen brotherhoods run through the streets of the municipality. The Brotherhood of the Cautivo, with the passage of ‘La Borriquita’, which leaves on Palm Sunday in the morning, and Jesús Cautivo and a Dolorosa under canopy, which leaves in the afternoon, officially opens the Holy Week.
The Brotherhood of the Yedra is the protagonist of Holy Monday. The Sacred Image of Cristo de la Yedra (1630), which is venerated in the Church of Santa Ana in the popular Puente neighborhood, is a work attributed to Juan de Mesa and one of the most popular.
On Holy Tuesday the three steps of the Brotherhood of Santiago travel through the city. The image of Jesus Nazareno de la Misericordia, as well as that of San Juan Evangelista, are carvings from Montes de Oca (18th century). El Santísimo Cristo de la Expiración is a masterpiece by Pedro Roldán (17th century) and the four Evangelists by Rafael Amadeo Rojas. And that of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores is attributed to La Roldana (1713). Although the dimensions are rectangular and it is carried by costaleras under the typical trabajaderas, the absence of a canopy, the profusion of arboreal chandelier and the height of the base as well as the Crown and the Crescent, remind us of the old Ecijano style.
The Brotherhood of San Gil leaves on Holy Wednesday. The devout image of the Cristo de la Salud, from around 1500, stands out due to the dramatic expressionism of the skinny, life-size body and the deadly inclined head. Procession in a neo-baroque style, Guinea mahogany wood in its color (1969), illuminated with four thick axes in its corners, from Antonio Martín’s workshop (1967).
On Holy Thursday it is the turn of the Brotherhood of the Confalón in which it is worth highlighting that of the Stmo. Cristo del Confalón (16th century), by an anonymous author, is one of those that processions in the purest Ecijano style, especially because of its square proportions and because it is carried on the shoulders by a cuadrilla (or remúa) of brothers dressed in the tunic of the Brotherhood and with his face covered by a capillo. Also on Thursday, the Brotherhood of Sangre comes out, known as Los Gitanos.
In the early hours of Friday you can see the Brotherhood of Silence – in which the Virgen de la Amargura procession, by Antonio Castillo Lastrucci (1964) – and the Brotherhood of San Juan, which processes Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, an anonymous author from the 17th century with the image of Nuestra Señora de las Misericordias, image of Ricardo Comas, whose Piedad with the Santísimo Cristo de la Exaltación en la Cruz is carried in the old way by costalero’s brothers.
Good Friday is the day in which more brotherhoods procession. That of Jesús Sin Soga, whose carving is the work of José Montes de Oca and is dated 1733; that of La Merced -with the image of Santísimo Cristo de la Exaltación en la Cruz, which is carried in the old way by brothers and costaleros- and that of La Mortaja, the youngest brotherhood of Écija.
Already on Holy Saturday it is the turn of the Brotherhood of the Santo Entierro with the Paso de la Quinta Angustia, whose iconographic set that used to process until a few years ago –work of Jorge Fernández Alemán from 1500- is currently in the Iglesia del Carmen; the procession of the Santo Entierro with the venerated Image of Jesús en su Santo Sepulcro and that of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, a beautiful dolorosa Ecijana from the 18th century, wearing hair natural, attributed to La Roldana. The Virgin is surrounded by a magnificent blast of silver, a half moon and a crown also made of sterling silver. The procession is flanked in its four corners by archangels in carved, polychrome and stewed wood, also attributed to La Roldana (18th century).
On Resurrection Sunday, the passage of the Cristo Resucitado, a work of an anonymous author from the 16th century, and the Virgen de la Alegría, whose passage is carried by sisters costaleras.
Thirteen brotherhoods of passion
With thirteen brotherhoods and a Parish Association, Écija is the city in the province of Seville with the most processions after the capital, and one of the largest in Andalusia. It is also the Spanish town with the most brotherhoods per inhabitants. Before the 16th century there was only a brief liturgical celebration in Écija, but the public imitation of the Passion in a Brotherhood comes at the beginning of that century, being that of Veracruz, based in the convent of San Francisco, the first that included flagellants in the night of Holy Thursday. In fact, a document from 1519 is the first found on the incorporation of penitents, and it can be stated that Écija is one of the pioneer cities in Spain in the celebration of Holy Week in the strict sense.
Towards the middle of the century and in imitation of this brotherhood, penance would come to another local brotherhood: that of Nuestra Señora de la Piedad, in the Convent of Mercedarios Calzados. The rise of the brotherhoods of penance would come from 1570 coinciding with a notable change in the local hospital system, whereby the hospitals were no longer supervised by the brotherhoods, which led to the founding or renewal of their Rules by numerous brotherhoods.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries thirteen Ecijan brotherhoods lived their best time, but then some ended up dissolving. In the twentieth century, the brotherhoods contribute to the enhancement of their Holy Week and to promote the Christian spirit through their services and the exercise of charity. Heirs of a centuries-old devotion, today there are thirteen brotherhoods that come together in Ecija’s Holy Week. Among the numerous processions, some stand out for preserving to a different extent the style called ‘Ecijano’, as opposed to the Sevillian style, the aesthetic that has ended up being imposed not only in Écija, but in a large part of Western Andalusia. The “Ecijano style” processions were carried on the shoulders by men dressed in tunics and hoods (cubrerrostro). The images were placed on tall bases or baskets of square proportions unlike the current baskets that are rectangular, and were illuminated with windshield chandeliers. The crowns of the Dolorosas had bursts, like those that we can observe in numerous Virgins of Glory that procession in our days.