Famed Seville Easter processions called off over rain

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Heavy rains forced church officials in Spain's southwestern city of Seville to call off all six nightime Good Friday Easter processions this year for the first time since 1933.

Organised by religious brotherhoods and featuring huge floats of wooden sculptures of religious scenes accompanied by hooded penitents, the processions known as "La Madruga" are the high point of Easter Week festivities in the city.

They draw thousands of tourists and are broadcast live on television across Spain.

But this year's processions, which had been due to begin in the early hours of Friday, had to be cancelled amid heavy rains.

"The weather is getting worse. The weather front has hit us directly. There is more water on the way," the head of the brotherhood that puts on the Esperanza de Triana procession, Adolfo Vela, said when he announced it would not take place this year.

The last time none of the six procession were held was 1933. In that year the political turbulence before Spain's 1936-39 civil war was to blame.

Many faithful who had gathered to watch the processions, which date back to medieval times, were reduced to tears after the announcement that they would not take place.

The city plans all year for the spectacle and many parents enlist their children in the brotherhoods at a young age because it takes years to move up the ranks and earn a prestigious spot in a procession.

The first procession, called El Silencio because participants march in silence, traditionally gets underway just after midnight and the last wraps up at dawn.

The processions follow a designated route from the floats' home churches to Seville's main cathedral in the historic centre of Spain's fourth-largest city.

While processions are held in other Spanish cities to mark the day when Roman Catholics believe Jesus Christ was put to death, the ones held in Seville are among the biggest and most solemn.

The national weather office put 23 provinces on "yellow" alert on Friday, the second stage of its four-stage alert scale which warns that forecast weather conditions are not unusual but "potentially dangerous".

© 2011 AFP

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