Semana Santa in Popayán, Colombia

Perhaps the biggest Semana Santa celebration is in Popayán. Popayán is one of the oldest cities in Colombia, founded in 1537 by Sebastián Belalcázar. Its name, comes from the indigenous words for Two Straw Villages. It referred to the two villages with houses having straw roofs. However, today, it is known as the White City, because of its beautiful white colonial houses.

For over 400 years, Popayán has held processions during Holy Week. They are similar to processions held in Spain.

These celebrations start on Palm Sunday with a procession that starts at the Basilica de Belén. People participating in the procession carry Palms, white handkerchiefs and flags proclaiming the royalty of Jesus Christ.

On Martes Santo (Holy Tuesday), there is another procession where the effigy bearers carry four images from the church of Saint Augustine to the center of the city. Accompanying the procession are the sounds of a solemn requiem. They are met at the church by red-robed men carrying incense, small bells, and a large crucifix. At the end of the procession is the statue of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

On Viernes Santo (Holy Friday), Popayán celebrates the Passion of Christ. The procession on this day includes the image of death represented by a skeleton and a group of men armed with hammers, chisels, and other tools. These men symbolize those who took down the body of Christ from the cross. Finally, there is a representation of a Holy Sepulcher, where the body of Christ was laid to rest. It is made of ivory and tortoise shell.

Popayán also has what it calls "Procesiones Chiquititas" . Here those carrying the statues and images are children ranging in age from 5-11. The kids are dressed the same as the adults and all of the "pasos" that they carry are exact replicas, on a smaller scale, of those carried by the adults in the formal processions.

* Photo by Maocandimil


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