Historical Background of Holy Week Alicantina


To speak of Holy Week in Alicante is to go back, documentary, to the year 1600. This is the first written data that we find in the chronicles although, as is logical to suppose, it means that before this date it already existed. It is enough to remember that the Holy Face in 1489 already unites the city with something as linked to the Passion of Christ as the Veronic Canvas can be.

But, let's imagine Alicante in 1600. It is a city of about 5,000 souls, which will continue to grow thanks to port activity, international trade and the migratory phenomenon. It is a focus of attraction for merchants who seek the goodness of its port, fiscal softness and ease of contracting.

In this Alicante, which worships the Mother of God with the title of Remedy, there is a port in the shape of a crescent. There is great activity; numerous brigs and galleys carry around us wheat, barley, figs, carob beans, almonds, barley, esparto grass, fruits and citrus. All the products of the rich orchard, although dry, that surrounds the city. Its main destinations: Flanders, Britain and England.

Along with them, ships with the Dutch flag stow our precious “Fondillón”, wine from kings, as well as muscat and malvasia.

Recreating ourselves in the surroundings, it gets dark and we enter the walled enclosure through the Portal del Muelle, arriving at Labradores street, where we find a Brotherhood. It is the mournful night of Holy Thursday. The darkness is broken, in procession, by the blue tunics, such as the mantle of the Virgen del Remedio, and the yellowish lights of the hachones. Emotional moment, the gentlemen uncover themselves, the ladies kneel on the muddy ground. We are attending the beginning of Holy Week in Alicante.

From 1600, other dates appear (1603-1606-1753-1760). All of them linked to the theme of our passionate celebration.


From the Brotherhood of Blood, the first of those founded in Alicante.

In 1600, and according to the Chronicle of Rafael Viravens, “Between the house that forms the left angle of the corridor through which the Plaza de la Sangre communicates with Maldonado Street, before En Llop, and the building that is currently occupied by the Augustinian Nuns, there was a sanctuary that served as a chapel for the prisoners condemned to the last sentence. The nobility of Alicante established in this small church a Brotherhood titled the Holy Blood of Christ, the name of that hermitage where there was a Virgin of Solitude. On Good Friday of each year the procession of the Burial of Christ left the Hermitage of the Blood, with the assistance of the Council and the nobles, and the devotion that the people had to that sanctuary was great, and they made arrangements for it to be established by the canonese nuns of the Order of Saint Augustine ... "

This image of Soledad was highly venerated: the sick believed they were cured by the touch of the headdress or the rosary that hung from their small and fine hands; the sailors invoked it to obtain their protection and not fall captive of the pirates. And, so many were the favors that those people substituted the title of Soledad for that of Our Lady of La Marinera.

Over four centuries, this image has suffered two serious desecration. The one that occurred with the entry of the English in which she was rescued from the filth (August 8, 1706) and the one in 1931 when her remains appeared among a pile of ashes and rubble. Even today his face, and especially his eyes, carry the memory of those events.

According to the "Chronicle" of Dean Blessed, we know that in the Convent of RR.MM. Canonesas de San Agustín, the Brotherhood of the "Blood of Christ" was founded, which received the protection of the City "Well, it favors it by sending its officers and advisers to attend and accompany the presentation made by the brotherhood on Good Friday with a white sera candle that the City pays for each one"

However, in light of the data revealed by the "Foundation Book" of the Convent of the Sangre de Cristo in the city of Alicante, it is evident that the existence of this brotherhood was prior to the founding of the Convent.

It refers to the founding act that, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, some religious and gentlemen, tried to gather in the hall of the City Council of some juries of it, the Dean and Cabildo de la Colegial and some other gentlemen, with the purpose of present the concern that "make a nunnery in this city to be able to fulfill their good wishes with him and not force them to leave the land to do so because of the difficulty and inconvenience that they used to offer there"

Considering the reasons, it was resolved that said convent be built and subject to the Ordinary and that it be written to the Bishop of Orihuela, Don Andrés Balaguer, requesting a license to do so and to name what order it would be. The Dean Miguel Zaragoza, the Canon and Commissioner of the Holy Inquisition, Tomás Pérez, were appointed by elect; the Canon and Vicar, Jaime Galante; Father Master Fray Jerónimo Gracián of the Mother of God, of the Order of Our Lady of Carmen; Don Juan Vich, Bayle of the Orihuela Government; and Jerónimo Vallebrera, gentleman.

In the pastoral visit that the Bishop made to the city of Alicante in the month of April 1606, he granted the requested license and imposed some conditions that are later included in the order received by the notary Don Juan Torres on May 16. of 1606, granting powers to Canon Pedro Ivarra and Jerónimo Vallebrera so that in his name they founded said monastery, they went to bring the founders of the Monastery of San Cristóbal de Valencia and buy the necessary house or houses and other things suitable for said foundation.

In compliance with the agreement, they brought together the mayordomos and brothers of the Brotherhood of the Blood of Christ and "The church and other houses of the aforementioned brotherhood asked of them for in it as a more appropriate place to make said monastery. And all unanimously and in agreement agreed with such a just request and made a donation of it for that purpose with certain capitulations, as it seems with a car for before Francisco Pérez, notary ".

On July 16, 1606, the founders arrived and on the 18th of the same month and year, they settled in what would become known as the Convent of the Blood of Christ.

All of the above argues that the origin of the Brotherhood of the Blood of Christ of Alicante could well go back to the 16th century, despite the fact that its founding date remains unknown. If the Convent was founded in 1606, and at that time the Brotherhood had a church and houses adjoining it, it is obvious that it had had an administrative organization for a long time - in the Foundation Book, reference is made to the existence of stewardship-, and of some cults and acts in honor of the images of Ecce Homo and the Virgin of Solitude. And this, in addition, corroborates the statement collected by Viravens in his Chronicle, by saying (...) "in the 1600s there was a Shrine that served as a Chapel for inmates sentenced to the last sentence."

Another piece of information that helps us to date the existence of this Brotherhood of Blood was the devotion of this dedication throughout the Kingdom of Valencia. It was linked to the resurgence of the disciplining companies that supported Saint Vincent Ferrer in his travels and preaching - remember that Saint Vincent Ferrer preaches in Alicante in the year 1411. There is a copy of the document by which the Real, Muy Illustrious Arch Confraternity of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, founded on April 11, 1411 in Murcia, says textually: (...) "we give participation of all the works of the pleasure of God that are verified in our Arch Confraternity and of all its spiritual treasure to the Old Royal Confraternity of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, today entitled Our Lord Jesus Christ Divine Love of Alicante By virtue of this Brotherhood with Spiritual Aggregation, we pray to God Our Lord, that for his Precious Blood and for the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God and for those of our Fathers who were Brotherhoods of the Precious Blood, Saint Vicente Ferrer, San José Oriol, San Antonio María Claret and Blessed Juan de Ribera, that this Sister Corporation of ours in the Redemptive Blood of Jesus Christ, may participate in the aforementioned spiritual goods".

It thus coincides with the rise of the brotherhoods of the Vera Cruz in Castile and Andalusia that worshiped the relic of the Lignum Crucis, from the 15th century the Kingdom of Valencia began to worship the Blood of Christ.

Juan Bautista Maltés, in his work Ilice Ilustrada, in a very neat way, tells us about the Alicante devotion to the images of the Convent of the Blood, the Ecce Homo (this iconography that in the Kingdom of Valencia represented the devotion to the Holy Blood of Christ , as is the case of Manises, Pego and Elche) and La Soledad "La Marinera".

In a portentous story that occurred in Mislata would be the origin of the devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Once this festival was disclosed to Valencia, a brotherhood was founded in the parish of San Miguel and San Dionisio, in the suburb of Villa Nueva, whose constitutions were approved on March 15, 1535 by Gaspar Rubió, doctor of canons and vicar general. Paulo III instituted his festival in Bula dated April 14, 1540. The foundation of this brotherhood has been located in various towns throughout the Kingdom of Valencia.


From the Holy Thursday Procession. The Brotherhood of the Holy Christ of the Good Death and Our Lady of Sorrows. The Virgin of the Remedy.

To speak of the origins of the Brotherhood of the Good Death is to relate it, as Federico Sala Seva quotes in his book "Notable events of the Church of San Nicolás de Alicante" to that penitential procession that, through the streets of our city, left Holy Thursday, 1603.

Both in the aforementioned book and in "La Perla de Alicante", by Modesto Nájera (1927) and in the "Chronicle of Alicante" by Dean Vicente Bendicho (1640), as well as in the "Missive letters" of the San Nicolás Archive, The procession that the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Remedy carried out on Holy Thursday in 1603 is cited with the participation of more than 120 penitents, who wore a blue vesta, "which has built the entire city."

This information is used to obtain from Rome the pontifical approval of the Confraternity of the Virgin of Remedy as an “association of the faithful to carry out works of piety or charity and increase and splendor of public worship (Codex Iuris Canónici, cc. 707). Thus it is sent in a letter dated April 2, 1603 to Canon D. Nicolás Martínez Clavero, who was in the Eternal City.

Indeed, on May 31, 1603, a month later, canonical approval is obtained from Clement VIII.

The aforementioned procession was organized and left from the same Cloister and the fact that the current Brotherhood of the Good Death currently begins its penance season also from the Cloister of San Nicolás is still significant.

During the 18th century (1753-1765) this procession continued to be celebrated. In the year 1760 the same Cabildo admonished several penitents “that in the Procession of the Holy Christ they were not dressed with the vestas, forcing them for the next year that six months before Holy Week the Cofrades who wished to continue being it had to have prepared a dress ..."

As is recorded in the capitular decisions, a Municipal Commission chaired by the Mayor, several ecclesiastics and, some years, the Guilds of the city were invited to this procession.

The Holy Christ referred to corresponds to the image that was in the Sacristy of the Cathedral of San Nicolás.

There is no evidence of any cause that justifies the disappearance of this Holy Thursday procession that left Holy Week in Alicante with the "only" procession on Friday afternoon, called "Entombment Procession" and in which, accompanying the Holy Sepulcher , they processed the rest of the passionate images. This Burial Procession started, at least since 1600, from what was the first Christian temple in Alicante, Santa María.


Foundation of the Brotherhood of the Good Death

In 1927, a group of young people requested and got the Cabildo de San Nicolás to authorize the processional removal of the image of Christ of the Good Death on the night of Holy Thursday and on Friday afternoon in the Burial Procession. Shortly after, it was canonically constituted as the Brotherhood of the Holy Christ of the Good Death.

On Holy Thursday 1927, at 10:00 p.m., through the Black Door of the Collegiate Church of San Nicolás the Throne with the image of the Christ of the Good Death came out to go to Santa María where it would participate in the Burial Procession the next day .

The processional parade was developed as follows: banner, faithful, protective partners, ladies with Spanish mantilla, brothers of vesta or Nazarenes, Paso del Santísimo Cristo de la Buena Muerte and Ecclesiastical Presidency.

Over time, the Brotherhood would become independent and would start its solo journey only on the night of Holy Thursday.

The original design of the vestas of the penitents was of black velvet, a hood of the same color with a scapular on which a red cross with the monogram of Christ wore; the vest was fastened at the waist by a girdle of red silk. The cape, gloves, and socks were equally red. The wardrobe is completed with black patent leather shoes with a silver buckle.

Today, the colors have been maintained, although the material has changed over time.

It is from the year 1940 when the Brotherhood of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias is added to the Brotherhood of Cristo de la Buena Muerte, which is why, since this date the image of Las Angustias, also popularly known by the name of the Virgen de la Peña, will process the night of Holy Thursday, ceasing to do so on Friday afternoon, as it had been doing from 1893 to 1931.


The Crist del Rosari

With this name the image was known that, on Good Friday 1854, would be renamed Santísimo Cristo de la Buena Muerte.

Since 1597, when the Dominicans took possession of the convent and church, they were known by our ancestors as "els frares del rosari" and the image of the crucified Christ that they enthroned in the church on Calle Mayor with the current Pasaje de Amérigo, was called "El Crist del Rosari".

According to the exposition made by Gonzalo Vidal, said work of imagery was a donation to the Dominicans together with the property rights and, although he favors Bishop Saragosa as the most likely donor, he collects and analyzes the possibility that it was Don Andrés Balaguer or, also, Don Acacio March. (Both were bishops of Orihuela).

About who was the author of this image and, since there is no documentation on it, there are two versions: those who affirm that it is the work of Nicolás de Bussi (Vicente Martínez Morella - Federico Sala Seva) and those who support the version of a masonry work (Gonzalo Vidal Tur). The truth is that we are facing a magnificent carving that would become the property of the Collegiate Church of San Nicolás from 1851 due to the exclaustration of 1836 and the subsequent order of the State to demolish the Dominican temple. After the last studies carried out on the image in its last restoration, the previous options are rejected, cataloging it as a work of an anonymous author from the 16th century.

Once the image of the Dominican church was transferred to San Nicolás, it remained kept in the Chapter House until the remembered Abbot Penalva moved it to the Cloister and later inside the temple. It will be in 1948 when the Holy Christ of the Good Death, the Crist del Rosari, will be enthroned in his own chapel .. It will be the architect Don Juan Vidal Ramos, then President of the Brotherhood, responsible for decorating it with a padding on his walls and severe ornamentation, and the Bishop of the Diocese, Dr. D. José García Goldáraz, who blessed it. The new chapel is closed by a wrought iron gate, made by Marcos Pérez in 1741 from the old Choir of the Collegiate Church.

In the right angle, at the bottom of it, is the First Stone of the current Temple, blessed on March 9, 1616.

From that November 7, 1948, what had been the Chapel of Souls became the Chapel of the Holy Christ of the Good Death.

It is also Blessed, who indicates to us the realization of a procession of penance on Holy Thursday of 1603 (...) "from its chapel and cloister leaves on Holy Thursday, given the prayers, a great and devout procession of lights and blue robes in devotion to the blue mantle with which the Virgin is usually painted and dressed by ordination of a council , and the arms of the brotherhood which is the white cross in the manner of which the commanders or military religious of San Juan ".

This information is taken by Bendicho from the letter directed by the Cabildo to obtain from Rome, the pontifical approval of the Confraternity of the Virgin of Remedy as an "association of the faithful to carry out works of piety or charity and increase and splendor of public worship" . This is how it is sent in a letter dated April 2, 1603 to Canon D. Nicolás Martínez Clavero, who was in the Eternal City "Our Brotherhood, has made a procession of penitents of more than 120 with their blue vestas, with which they have built this entire City."

Indeed, on May 31, 1603, a month later, canonical approval is obtained from Clement VIII.

During the 18th century (1753-1765) this procession continued to be celebrated. In the year 1760, the Cabildo itself admonished several penitents "that in the Procession of the Holy Christ, they were not paramented with the vestas, forcing them for the next year, that six months before Holy Week, the confreres who wished to continue being so, had to have their vesta ready ..."

As is recorded in the capitular decisions, a Municipal Commission chaired by the Mayor, several ecclesiastics and, some years, the Guilds of the city were invited to this procession.

There is no evidence of any cause that justifies the disappearance of this Holy Thursday procession that left Holy Week in Alicante with the "only" procession on Friday afternoon, called the "Burial Procession". And in which, accompanying the Holy Sepulcher, the rest of the passionate images were in procession. This procession of the Burial started from what was the first Christian temple in Alicante (Santa María), at least since 1600.


From the Statutes for the Government of the City of Alicante of Carlos II to the Report on Brotherhoods required by Carlos III (1669-1770)

In the Regulation that on December 18, 1669, which King Carlos II granted to the City of Alicante, the expenditure set for the wax appeared. Concerning Holy Week, the last of the Austria established (...) "for the Officials of the City, Governor, and Bayle, who go out in the Processions of Thursday, and Good Friday, an ax to each, weighing four pounds of wax"

In the Report on the Brotherhoods, Brotherhoods and other species of collegiate people, required by Carlos III, and sent by the President of the Council at that time Mr. Conde de Aranda, on September 28, 1770, it is discovered that in the censuses and alms collected annually by the Brotherhood of the Virgen del Remedio (...) "Mass is said every Saturday and the lighting of the chapel is paid for at all festivities and functions of the church, and that of Holy Thursday with wax to the canons who go in the procession"

Also in this report reference is made to the participation of another brotherhood in the processions of Holy Week. It is about the Brotherhood of San Pedro that was born under the protection of a trade association whose headquarters was established in the old convent of San Francisco. This brotherhood formed by the guild of sailors, had at that time with a total of one hundred and sixty brothers.

This trade association faced its expenses from the contribution called "tacha", since the confreres did not pay any fees at their entrance. "For each Valencian royal of twelve quartos that each individual of said brotherhood earns in the work of boatloading, fishing, traveling, and any other occupation of sailors, he leaves two years to benefit the common flow of the tacha [av] edís, and other years, four, as determined "

Among the expenses that the brotherhood anticipated annually, a game of thirty pesos was reserved for the processions and the wax on Good Thursday and Friday.

Therefore, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the penitential processions continued to focus on these two days of Holy Week.


From yesterday's Guilds to today's collectives.

Jaume Castillo and Luis Pablo Martínez, in their book “Els gremis medievals en les fonts oficials. The fons de la Governació del Regne de València in temps d'Alfons el Magnànim (1417-1458) ”48, make us see that the existing Valencian documentation on the world of work and its institutional organization does not fit with the univocal category of“ Guild ”consecrated by traditional historiography and its stereotyped division.

In the Kingdom of Valencia in the Middle Ages, we find two institutional realities: trades and brotherhoods. The "Trade" that brings together all the artisans of the same productive class that they performed, performing economic, technical, professional and also political representation functions. In parallel, the "Cofradía" or "Almoina", which specialized in charitable and welfare functions with a marked religious character. These borders were very diffuse in practice, to the point of giving rise to accentuated corporate conflicts.

This is how Jaume Castillo and Luis Pablo Martines observe that, according to the privilege granted by Juan I in 1392, the butcher's "almoina" enjoyed freedom of assembly. However, they found twelve assembly permits by the Governor of the Kingdom to the butchers, between 1420 and 1457. A careful reading of the permits revealed that in all cases, the license is granted at the request of the "procuradors, majorals" , etc. of the "Office of Butchery" and not of the "Almoina of the Office of Butchery".

All this shows that, in the Medieval Kingdom of Valencia, there was a tight governmental control towards the trade unions, so much so that they did not have the freedom of assembly nor did they enjoy freedom of expression in their meetings. On the contrary, if the "almoinas" or "brotherhoods" had this privilege.

In this context we have the birth and personality of the Holy Week processional procession. It arises as an expression of popular faith when the artisan guilds of medieval cities, from the end of the 14th century or the beginning of the 15th, founded Brotherhoods and Brotherhoods of Penance, which organize processions of disciplinarians to do penance as a sign of repentance around the dates of Holy Week.

Throughout the 16th century, these processions regularized their stations of penance and reached their peak after the Council of Trent and the triumph of the counter-reformist mentality, which supported the external expressions of the faith.

The penitential procession of Holy Week is definitively configured from the 17th century, in the Baroque era, so the personality and aesthetics that have come down to us are clearly Baroque and this stylistic note appears underlined in the elements that configure it.

Hermandades and Cofradías have been, as stated by the professor of social anthropology at the University of Seville, Isidoro Moreno, historically contexts and settings where two phenomena have occurred. On the one hand, a high degree of consensus between the groups objectively confronted at the level of the social structure and asymmetrically located in power relations, around the same symbols and the participation of the same rituals. And, on the other, the expression, not always conscious, of the contradictions, tensions and conflicts that really exist in the social structure. An example of all this can be observed in the black slaves of Seville and other Andalusian cities, from the 15th to the 18th century, competed and even sued with their masters to enforce their associative rights and their symbolic privileges, sometimes even humiliating those.

Moreover, with the Counter-Reformation, was there any other means beyond belonging to Brotherhoods and Confraternities for Judeo-converts, former Moors, and other individuals suspected of political or ideological heterodoxy to be recognized as "normal" citizens?

It is evident that the established powers have tried at all times to lead the festivities, control them, make them a means of reproduction of the social order. And it was, especially from the middle of the eighteenth century when many associations escaped the control of power. Not so much for the will to do so but, above all, because with the Ideology of the Enlightenment and the beginning of what is usually called the passage from the Old to the New Regime, political power, seconded by the ecclesiastical in its highest instances, is already promoting other means to extend and accentuate its control over all social sectors.

Thus, in 1770, the count of Aranda, president of the Council of Castile, requested on behalf of King Carlos III, as we have mentioned in section 1.3, the census of existing Brotherhoods and Brotherhoods51, the type of approval they had and the expenses that they will carry out in their services and parties. What underlies all this were the collection interests of the public treasury, arguing that there was a danger that by paying these associations there was a risk of not complying with the maintenance obligations of the family itself and even, it would also transcend the Condition.

All this entails the extinction of Brotherhoods and Brotherhoods except for those whose purpose was to assist those interned in prisons, hospitals and the sacramentals that are in charge of worship in the parishes.

Thus begins a period of instability for Brotherhoods and Brotherhoods and, some important festivals, were prohibited by the bishops in perfect harmony with the political authorities since they had a similar mentality and, in many cases, belonged to the same families.

We have a clear example in 1777 where a parallel appears between what happens in Seville with Archbishop Francisco Delgado y Venegas and Bishop Tormo in Alicante.

Both accept the Royal Decree of February 20, given by Carlos III, to avoid excesses and the misunderstood piety caused by indevocation and disorder.

It was with the political stabilization of the mid-nineteenth century that ideological conservatism on the one hand and the incipient mercantile interests, on the other, produced a rebirth of brotherhoods, brotherhoods and corporations, which were re-functionalized and redefined. This even leads to subsidization by the municipalities at the expense of the famous saying of ... "who pays, rules".

Nowadays, Brotherhoods and Brotherhoods represent contexts and occasions where collective identities and identities are reaffirmed, reproduced and redefined. This identity and identification function is opposed to the instrumental function that the political and ideological groups of power try to assign to it and also collides with the role that the Market tries to impose so that they are consumer spectacles and tourist attraction.

The rise of Holy Week in Alicante in recent years reflects an activation of various collective "we": through participation in the processions -in them or in their environment- individuals, social sectors, are identified, reaffirmed or rival neighborhoods and other social groups in the life of our city of Alicante. Hence, we have Brotherhoods that identify neighborhoods (Flagellation to San Blas, Piedad y Caridad to Benalúa, Mater Desolata to Carolinas, Morenet to Raval Roig, Santa Cruz to the neighborhood of the same name, Gran Poder to San Antón), Brotherhoods that bring together educational collectives (Holy Supper to the Salesians, Ecce Homo to the Franciscans, Jesus Stripped to the Augustinians), those formed by health professionals (Arrest), advocacy (Divine Love), bank employees (Nuestro Padre Jesús), merchants from the center of the city (Humility and Patience), public officials (Jesus Triumphant); and even that which brings together the union with the official festival of the city (Ntra. Sra. de la Alegría).

We observe, therefore, that Holy Week in Alicante brings together, in itself, groups from the social life of the city, establishing that each group identifies itself as such and expresses the vision that it has of itself, its uniqueness and difference and role that it fulfills or believes it fulfills in the city.