Balmaseda is a pretty little town, surrounded by beautiful hills, with a medieval fortified bridge at its centre.
The living passion is a bit like a cross between a procession and a mystery play. The whole town comes together to stage the events of the passion, with parts played by townspeople. The whole thing is essentially a series of tableaux without words which take place as part of a procession. Instead of telling the story through the usual ‘pasos’ – floats carried by nazarenos containing scenes from the passion in statue form – this town tells the story through tableaux of live costumed people – and it has been this way since the early sixteenth century. Individuals play specific parts – Jesus, Pilate, Mary, Barabbas, etc. – but most of the participants are Roman centurions and Pharisees (male) and inhabitants of Jerusalem (male and female). Apparently the town’s male inhabitants start to learn how to do the centurion role – with its superbly well-rehearsed marching and drumming – when they are boys, so that they can take over from their fathers later.
Finally, here are a few more pictures of processions in Bilbao during the week: