Carrying the Body Through the Streets

Yesterday presented another first for me in Sevilla. I was walking near the Cathedral with a couple of friends from Santa Barbara who were passing through town, giving them an overview of the city. As we were rounding the corner of the Archbishop’s Palace, I heard the drums of a marching band. It was somber and sounded like another religious procession. I rushed in the direction of the music with my friends close behind. We came upon a small procession. There was a float being hoisted by its invisible strongmen (hidden under the curtain). But, there was no seated or standing Virgin atop the float. As we neared it, we realized it was a silver and glass coffin. We immediately calmed ourselves respectfully, thinking we had come upon a funeral.

On closer inspection, I was relieved to see that beneath the glass was not a corpse, but a statue. We watched it pass having no idea — other than the Latin inscription I photographed — who it was or what the occasion.


Last night, I did some research and learned that what we had stumbled on was a very big deal. It was in honor of the 200th anniversary of Don Bosco’s birth. I’ll provide my own “dumbed-down” (for myself) version of what I read.
Don Bosco (Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco) was an Italian Roman Catholic priest who, in 1845, founded The Salesians, a charity organization to help the young and poor children of the industrial revolution. The “institute” is named for St. Francis de Sales, an early-modern bishop of Geneva. The corpse-like statue encased permanently under glass is a reliquary; apparently the right hand of Saint Don Bosco is encased within the chest cavity of this particular statue. This is the first time the reliquary has ever visited Sevilla. It’s making its rounds of the city this weekend and we just happened to be at the Cathedral at the right time. Later on, San Geraldo and I went for a walk and came upon another band preparing to march from the Plaza de San Lorenzo.


In 2006, Don Bosco’s hand was packed in a silver box and tied with a red ribbon before being placed inside the statue. Imagine finding that under the Christmas tree!

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

35 thoughts on “Carrying the Body Through the Streets”

  1. I'm always amazed at the opulence those relic-like crypts indicate. What did those poor parishioners sacrifice to provide all that? But, hey… everyone loves a parade…. including me. Those churros (?) in the last photo look pretty good too.

  2. Holy S–t,
    That is soooo strange. What will they do for a thrill. Rather creepy isn't it.
    It's rainy today in Maine the leaves are turning.Spain is having $ money problems too. I see protesters in the street. Maybe they should have more parades.. yvonne
    Oh no another frickin code, it take 3/4 times to send.

    1. La Petite Gallery:
      I know what you mean about those "prove you're not a robot codes." Some days I feel like, by the time I get through, I won't be able to prove I'm not insane!

      Sunny and low 80s again today here. Sorry about the Rain in Maine.

      It was definitely shocking to see "the body" at first. Glad I quickly realized it wasn't really a body (although there was the hand in a box…)

  3. Hello Mitch:
    Gosh what a shock! We can well imagine that upon turning a corner and coming across the statue in the glass case you were somewhat taken aback. We certainly would have been.

    Until coming to Hungary we had never witnessed an open coffin at a funeral but, here, that is quite usual. Indeed, the body is often approached and kissed by the closest members of the family in a way that does seem very un-British to us. However, in many ways we think that it does lessen the taboo of death and makes it all so much more immediate and meaningful and part of the circle of Life.

  4. I'm convinced that you're attracted to processions like flies to honey. lol
    Indeed our Latin cultures are a bit more morbid than the rest of the world…look at the Mexican's veneration of the dead. It is disturbing that faith could be associated with death and an obsession with funeral rites.
    Oh, well, to each his own
    but the snack afterwards seemed delicious

    1. Raulito:
      I think maybe the processions find ME. San Geraldo commented the other night that the little band queuing up had been waiting for him to arrive. (But there was no paso and he had to walk!)

  5. Yes, LPG above is right. I too would find it all a bit creepy. But your elucidation draws the sting a bit.
    Don Bosco? Yes, that takes me right back to my childhood Catholic education (indoctrination?). I wonder if the Blessed Dominic Savio is still talked about as much these days as he was, well, 55 years ago. (That comment was only an 'aside'. No need to follow it up.)

    1. Raybeard:
      I am now curious about Dominic Savio and will read up! It would be nice to believe/hope that Don Bosco did in fact accomplish what he set out to do and that his institutes and schools have never been involved in any of the abuses.

    2. I've just looked him up myself, Mitch – and found that he wasn't Spanish as I'd thought (otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned him) – but Italian. But he WAS indeed a saint (19th century – dying at just 14 from pleurisy), canonised some 50 years ago. He was one we were especially encouraged to pray to – presumably because he was a child saint – and one canonised when saints were still a relative rarity, before Pope JPII started canonising nearly every other dead Catholic left, right and centre, and so devaluing all their worths.

    1. Thanks, Judeet. There's obviously so much I still haven't seen. Glad you liked my summary. I hope I don't bore too many readers (but then some people just look at the pictures anyway… and then write and say, "Wow. What a creepy funeral!")

  6. I think it's beautiful.

    I remember many similar experiences in Bulgaria and Italy and Poland: feasts and parades, long standing traditions, huge events, very emotional and stirring.

    I love the reverence. I'm 26, and I'm from a generation that holds nothing as sacred. These rituals are meant to remind us that there is divinity here on Earth, and these huge gestures of deep respect connect us to that divinity. They're from a different time, and a different culture, and so many now just don't have a mind for it.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I love it.

    I'm inspired to write a post now on Notker Balbulus, The Blessed Patron of Stammerers.

    1. Thank you. I posted it. It's funny, I'm not Catholic or Christian but I really understand the old world European mind for these rituals and they move me.

  7. You guys are killing me! First John Gray whets my appetite with some noodles and now you flaunt your churros and chocolate in my face! I am trying hard to be GOOD today!

  8. Like you, I thought this was a preserved body at first. It reminded me of a picture I took of Pope John XXIII in Saint Peters in Rome. He is perfectly intact in his glass coffin and looks like a dead, shaved Santa Claus.

    1. Stephen:
      I've got to get back to the Cathedral and get a photo of Jerry's 22-greats, San Fernando El Rey. He's preserved (sort of) in a glass coffin since the 1200s. The last few times I was there the chapel was being renovated, but I think it's done and reopened.

  9. I am speechless and will remain that way! It's difficult, but I will.
    Now those churros, right? I would eat 10 of those after all this!

    1. Jim:
      San Geraldo and I get a double order and two mugs of the thick, hot chocolate. He sips what remains in the mug after the churros are gone, but it's way too thick, dark and rich for me to that. So I've learned to just let the churros soak in the mug while I'm eating. No chocolate left after MY churros are gone!

  10. The ongoing Catholic public pageants and spectacles continue to fascinate me. Are many Spaniards Catholic? I know this sounds odd, but I know in Europe some 'Catholic' countries are not that devout really – is Spain? and does that 'colour' things?

    1. Spo:
      Most Spaniards are Catholic (or born Catholic) but, from what I've read, only a small percentage would say they're religious. It seems to be more a cultural Catholicism. And it certainly doesn't appear to have an impact on political and social rights in the country.

    1. Jean:
      I went running around the corner with many others thinking, "Oh, a procession!" We all came to a somber grinding halt when we saw what we had walked into. I think there were some people who never realized it wasn't a real body. Then again, I had no idea there was a human hand encased in it!

  11. OMG, those people are so morbid! They seem to have a preoccupation with death and like to display it at any opportunity 🙂

    1. Jenners:
      Some of the statues are frighteningly lifelike (like this one). There's a statue of a nun who founded an order here. It gets carried through the street once a year and is the spitting image down to a large mole on her chin. It's a bit like walking through Madame Tussaud's.

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