For Spaniards a particularly important week in the year is Semana Santa – Holy Week. In a tradition dating back to medieval times, floats (‘pasos’) comprising sculptured representations of biblical scenes are carried shoulder high through the streets of most cities and towns. The floats are accompanied by penitents (or ‘nazarenos’) wearing inverted cone-shaped headgear (‘capriote’) with a hood into which eye holes are cut enabling the wearer to see but not be identified. The procession moves at a very steady pace in time with the rhythmic beat of a muffled drum. Every few minutes there is a pause to allow the bearers of the float (the ‘costaleros’) to relax their shoulders.
The processions are organised by religious fraternities (‘cofradias’) and brotherhoods. The robes worn by the penitents differ in colour according to their particular brotherhood. Some carry candles, rods or banners according to their level of seniority. The most senior is the president who carries a golden rod.