A wondrous cross

IT’S the annual Cristo festival, traditionally held a fortnight before Good Friday. Jesus and his mother are escorted from the Church of Our Lady of Expectation into the warm evening sunshine. In preparation, evil spirits are banished to ensure their passage will not be hindered. In the old days, the population of the Alpujarran town of Orgiva would bang pots and pans to drive out malevolence. Nowadays, 455 kilograms of gunpowder is used. That’s nearly half a tonne of high explosives in the form of thousands of fireworks. It’s extremely effective . . .

The Holy Christ of Expiration and the Virgin of Sorrows are carried through the streets, commencing their tour at 6pm, escorted by the Legión Española and Guardia Civil. We watch as sorrow and love flow mingled down while the legionnaires entertain the crowds with gun displays. We watch some more, share a pizza with friends, and head for home at 11pm. Jesus and Mary are still touring the town and the fireworks exploding well into the early hours. It’s a long night. But when you’re confined to a church for most of the year, I suppose all the nights are long.

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16 thoughts on “A wondrous cross

  1. From the description and the photos there seem to be two differences between a Spanish festival and a British one: better weather and not a tombola in sight.

    I’ve seen other celebrations like these in Spain and Italy and the people on the march wear those long pointy hoods which always look a bit Satanic to me. Nice to see they include the goats.

    I’ve often wondered why those distinctive police hats are shaped the way they are: the ones with the flat panel at the back of the head.

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    1. Hi Chris. Actually, at the top of the town there was a funfair (three darts for a euro and air-rifles to shoot balloons) but we steered clear of that bit. To be truthful, we didn’t steer clear I just didn’t take any pictures. As for the pointed hats with eyeholes, I was fully expecting to see some because we’d been told that was part of the ritual – but there was nothing. A quick glance at Google suggests they come out during Holy Week, so there is time yet.
      The tricorn hats worn by the guardia were once part of the day-to-day uniform but are nowadays reserved for dress occasions. I don’t know what they are made from but they look pretty hard. Standard issue these days are baseball caps or those fore-and-aft caps British airmen used to wear.
      All the best, Alen

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    1. Hi Kim, yes you can’t beat a religious parade. What made me slightly uneasy was the very obvious military presence. But there is usually a strong military presence at most high-profile C of E ceremonies, and we tend to take that for granted.
      Cheers, Alen

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  2. Having planned to abandon Britain like the proverbial shot the moment the Lottery win kicks in (nothing like having realistic goals and plans, eh?) with Mallorca or Barcelona as the preferred initial destination, pieces like this do give me pause to think that there may be a slight disconnect between my atheism and a staunchly Catholic country…

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    1. Funnily enough, Martin, other than the occasional high-profile festival such as this one, there is very little visible religion in Spain. A 2011 survey of Christians who said they attend church at least once a week put the UK on twenty per cent and Spain on nineteen. Ireland and Poland were on 51 and 48 per cent respectively. I shall reserve a beach lounger with your name on it!
      Alen

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    1. Hi Carol. Travels with a Donkey is my favourite book ever. I’ve read it four or five times over the years. But no, Orgiva is not in the Cevennes, but the landscape is very similar.
      The goat was the most patient goat in the world. It coped with the fireworks better than most of the people.
      Cheers, Alen

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        1. Different times, Carol. We were just talking today about how, when I was a child, people thought nothing of drowning a litter of kittens in the dolly tub. Wouldn’t happen nowadays.

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