León’s Holy Week tradition goes back to the 16th century, although records exist of the Corporation taking part “under maces” in the Official Procession of the Holy Burial on the evening of Good Friday, when they helped carry the Virgin of Solitude. And Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer’s pen described the Meeting of Our Lady of Sorrows and St John on Good Friday morning in front of the old Consistory on the Plaza Mayor. Holy Week in León is a truly inexhaustible source of emotional moments and beautiful imagery.
For ten days, starting with the spectacular procession on the Friday before Palm Sunday leaving the Church of Our Lady of the Way, popularly known as the Market Church, to the release of doves on Resurrection Sunday on Cathedral Square, locals and visitors share a Holy Week experience with no equal.
Also peerless are the images of the Passion carried through the streets of León, made in the studios of image makers like Juan de Juni, Gregorio Fernández, John of Angers, Luis Salvador Carmona, Juan de Archeta, Víctor de los Ríos, Ángel Estrada and others.
Altogether sixteen confraternities and brotherhoods organize a total of twenty-five penitential processions, with 65 floats mostly carried by bearers, five processional viae crucis and a lyrical passion walk to alert brothers of the forthcoming procession.
No fewer than sixteen thousand local people, known here as papones, take an active part in the Holy Week celebrations, while all the people of León and an ever-growing number of visitors crowd the streets to look on in admiration.
But it is not all art and worship, for there are also moments for relaxing in the plentiful bars offering the typical Easter limonada (similar to sangría), consisting of wine with sugar, lemon, cinnamon and fruit, to comfort those walking the streets.