The Holy Week: Ora et labora


For the first time in a long time, Holy Thursday is not a public holiday in Castilla y León, which means that there might be fewer people watching some of the processions and fewer brothers taking part in others. As a result of a highly criticised decision taken by the Regional Government's Department of Economy and Employment, today is a working day for large and medium-sized shops. The up side is that visitors will be able to see some of the processions that fill the city's streets and also take home with them some of the many good things Valladolid has to offer. So that you can pray and shop at the same time, the official programme includes a total of ten processions. They start at half past eleven in the morning with the Cristo de la Luz (Christ of the Light) and end in the early hours of the morning with the return of El Yacente (The Recumbent Christ), which is kept in the cloister of the convent of the nuns of St Anne, who are currently waging war against a plague of termites. So, today is a great day for enjoying the bands, brothers, candles, trumpets and impressive statues by Gregorio Fernández, Lázaro Gumiel and Pedro de Ávila, among other great classical and modern sculptors.

I would highlight three things about today's programme: the fact that the Christ of the Light can be seen in the streets; the first showing of the complete work on Jesus' arrest; and the release of a prisoner thanks to the insistence of the brotherhood of La Piedad (The Piety).

1. No counting the Lions. The first must-see procession is that of El Cristo de la Luz (Christ of the Light), which comprises a unique and wonderful statue made by Gregorio Fernández in 1630. In my opinion, it is one of the most solemn and moving statues of Holy Week and it is best seen in Plaza de Santa Cruz or Plaza de la Universidad. Those who choose the first setting will be entranced by how difficult it is to take the statue out of the minute chapel situated at the entrance to the Mansion that is today home to the Vice-Chancellor's office. To see the statue, the best two places are the exit from the church or in the aforementioned plaza, although anywhere on the route is ideal for enjoying the music, solemnity, silence and beauty of this work, which portrays Christ dead on the cross. The onlookers in Plaza de Santa Cruz will be able to hear the band of Galician pipers who play from the balcony of Casa de Galicia, while those who prefer to see the event from Plaza de la Universidad will be able to hear the voices of the University Choir. However, if you prefer the choir, it is best not to count the lions around the main façade, since it is said to bring bad luck.

2. The miracle of the ear. In the evening, there are a number of processions to see, although my first suggestion is for you to get your strength back. Very near to the aforementioned two places, those who enjoy spicy food can try their luck in calle de Cantarranas, a street down which the River Esgueva once flowed and which is now home to three or four kebab restaurants, two or three sandwich shops, a supermarket that never closes and a few Asian restaurants with menus of the day for less than ten euros. Enjoying a beer or a tea in El Minuto bar is also a good option, as is having an excellent and very thin pizza in Gabela, on calle de Platerías.

After you've had something to eat and drink, take a walk (fifteen minutes) to the church of El Corpus Christi on Prado de la Magdalena. The statue of El Prendimiento (The Arrest) leaves the church shortly before seven o'clock. It is a very modern statue (so much so that today is the first time it is being carried along the streets in its complete version) by Miguel Ángel Tapia. The last figure in the piece is Malchus, the high priest's servant who collaborated on Jesus' arrest and whose right ear was cut off with a sword by Simon Peter, one of the disciples, and then healed immediately by Jesus Christ himself.

3. A bit of everything. As the evening is particularly busy in terms of processions, I will limit myself to recommending only three: the procession of Penitencia y Caridad (Penitence and Charity), which includes, among others, the statues of La Quinta Angustia (The Fifth Anguish) by Gregorio Fernández, La Sagrada Cena (The Last Supper), which is the largest piece in Holy Week, and El Santo Entierro (The Holy Burial), a moving procession led by a recumbent Christ that was attributed to Gregorio Fernández for many years. The originality of the first is that a prisoner is released by the Regional Cabinet of Ministers at the end of the procession and the best place to see the act is Plaza de San Pablo. The procession of the Last Supper is best seen as it sets off from the church of San Pedro Apóstol and it is best to enjoy the Holy Burial in Plaza de Santa Ana. Those who enjoy staying up late can wait for the return of the statue to its church (around one o'clock in the morning) while they have a coffee with 'a bite to eat' in El Molinero, cod croquettes in El Corcho or one of the many wines on offer in La Villa Paramesa.

You can also try your luck at playing chapas for money. It is a traditional game that used to be played in the street and is now played inside certain bars and cafeterias, which advertise the fact on their doors. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this simple, fast-play game is regulated by Junta de Castilla y León, which collects the corresponding taxes.

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