Spanish version

2.- XVIIth and XVIIIth Century


This century was an age of splendor for processions. They were considered as community celebrations, included all social classes, although its leadership was still in the hands of bourgeois. The influence of the Royal Family and the court increased. Also the professional associacions (gremios) played a more important role. In many cases they even controlled the processions and their cofradias. This was due to the lack of money of the cofradias. In those days craftsmen and shopkeepers had the money, so the cofradias asked them to join their brotherhoods. On the other hand, these craftsmen and shopkeepers got their money for the cofradias from donations made by their clients. Once the clients stopped giving money, the tradesmen stopped being interested in the cofradias.

All Processions were obliged to pass the Alcazar, that became the central point of the celebration,  and the Descalzas Reales Convent, so that the Royal Family and the noblemen could participate. These processions were called "Court Processions".Jesus el Pobre

Under the influence of the Barroque movement the images were taller and less austere. Some processions had a more theatrical character. The cofradias become more festive  giving great importance to external appearance.

Even penance became barroque. The penitents carried now big hollow crosses on their shoulders and sometimes even some sign to be recognized.

Part of the activities of the cofradias were similar to those of current insurance companies: they took care of their memeber´s burials, making sure it took place in the cemetery of the brotherhood, the funeral service and, sometimes, they even looked after the deceased´s family.


This century brought new regulations to the Processions. Some of them announced by the Catholich Church and others by King Carlos III. Both wanted to give Processions a more serious character. King Carlos III, for example, forbade all public mortification. Enlightment brought a more rational view of religion and even part of the Church agreed with this.  Public penance was thought to be a result of fear and ignorance caused by the Council of Trent.

The idea was show that the Crown had a complete control on all social activities. Of course this also brought a tense relation with the Church that, on the other hand, also wanted to control the population. The Crown expelled several papal nuncios and even confronted the Inquisition.

All this was manly caused by the Enlightment, political movement of this time. It has to be said that in those moments the cofradias managed many foundations, hospitals and charitable organizations. Both, Government and Church wanted to control these establishments. So the Government wanted to permit only those cofradias that had a social utility, could self-finance their activities and were not ostentatious.Dulce Nombre de Maria

The cofradias also underwent a new internal and external organization and it was attempted to abolish the profane or secular aspect of the Processions. We could say that the cofradias were living a time of decadence. They  were more interested in spending money for splendid meals than in using their funds for charity.  More priests took part in the Processions trying to return to their origins.

Among other laws, one established that those cofradias based on a trade or without a civil or ecclesiastical license had to be dissolved, but finally only a ten percent dissapeared. It was difficult to change an apathetic  society that was just continuing with its customs.

During the first years of the century the cofrades still organized their Processions, but wore severer clothes.

The Royal Family continued with the custom of visiting the different sacred masterpieces located at different churches during the Holy Week and all Processions had to pass the Palace or wherever they were living at that moment. This changed the itineraries of the Processions quite frequently.

Our Lady of SolitudeMany Processions started joining each other, so that several "pasos" took part in the same one, offering different aspects of the Passion, for example the Procession of the cofradia of the Vera Cruz showed an image of the Praying in the Olive Grove, Christ tied to a column, an Ecce Homo and finally Christ with Saint Veronica.

During this century some cofradias were set up by people from other parts of Spain that had come to live in Madrid

The influence of the Crown over society was also continued during the reign of King Carlos IV. In order to get money to defray the War against England, the properties of the Church were transfered to the State. This policies continued during the XIX century.

If you want to know more: XIXth and XXth century.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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