In Frigiliana, the Holy Week observances and processions begin on the Friday before Palm Sunday, before the events commemorating the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus which constitute the actual Holy Week. On el Viernes de Dolores (Friday of the Sorrows) the brotherhood of the same name, the largest in Frigiliana, goes in procession dressed in black robes and black hoods in the pharaonic style, with the hood hanging down their backs. The brotherhood was founded on the 14th August 1771 and held its first procession the following year, the first time that Frigiliana had processed with the image of Our Mother, Our Lady of the Sorrows.
On Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) the observances begin with the blessing of branches of olive and palm in the Chapel of San Sebastián, next to the cemetery. The penitents then go in procession through the streets to the parish church, San Antonio de Padua, where mass is celebrated.
On Holy Thursday, before the procession, the mass of the Last Supper is held in the parish church, during which the priest washes the feet of twelve villagers, who represent the apostles, and are dressed in robes and masks, some of the masks dating to the XVIII century. This is followed by a procession of the statues of Jesus the Nazarene, the Christ of the Cane Fields, and Our Lady of the Sorrows.
Without doubt the most solemn day, and the one which gives Holy Week its special significance, is Good Friday.
After celebrating the Stations of the Cross through the streets of the town, at sunset a mass is held in the church which enacts the crucifixion of Christ and the taking down of his body from the cross. This followed at nightfall by the procession of the body of Jesus, resting in his sarcophagus, accompanied by the brothers of the Cofradía del Santo Sepulcro, founded at the beginning of the XIX century, wearing the same type of robes and hoods as the Brotherhood of the Virgin, but in purple, trimmed with yellow. The Brotherhood of Our Lady of Sorrows, with their statue accompany this procession.
But the tragic nature of the passion and death of Christ, which brings thousands of people onto the streets is seen most clearly in the procession of La Soledad (The Desolation), an exquisite demonstration of the way that the baroque spirit continues to permeate Frigiliana’s Holy Week, open only to women, married or single, of all races, nationalities and beliefs, but who must follow the unswerving tradition that they wear black, mourning clothes.
This procession, which takes to the streets immediately after the end of the procession of the Holy Sepulchre and Our Lady of the Sorrows, plunges the entire historic part of the village into total and disquieting darkness, lit only by the flickering candles, carried by the hundreds of black-clad women.
If the truth be told, if Frigiliana can be considered the perfect place to celebrate the Day of the Cross with its masses of flowers in the streets and squares, it is in La Soledad that the grief and pain of death shared by the women as they sing their hymns to Mary, that the beautiful, enigmatic streets of the Morisco quarter demonstrate the sublime essence of the observances revived in Frigiliana during the XX century.
It is the flickering candlelight and the silence, briefly interrupted by the piercing tones of a saeta, and the singing of the women which marks out the procession of La Soledad as something uniquely of Frigiliana. Its form has been imitated in many places, but the devotion and essence cannot be equalled by those not motivated solely by faith.
The Brotherhood of the Risen Christ brings the Holy Week observances to a close on Easter Sunday. The members of this brotherhood, founded in 1988, wear white robes and hoods with green capes, paying implicit homage to the earth.
They process in the full sun of midday, their leisurely progress accompanied by the Frigiliana Town Band, while the statues of the Risen Christ and Our Lady of the New dawn, receive the homage of the people lining the street or crowding the flower-decked balconies, and throwing rose petals down onto the images, as an anthem to the new life heralded by the death of Christ on Good Friday.