By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans

SPANISH revellers parade their piety in Catholic celebrations for Easter

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Photographer: Wojciech Ryzinski
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: James Thorne

The tradition of Holy Week in Spain goes back over 500 years

Photographer Wojciech Ryzinski, who has spent much of his adult life in Ireland, visited Malaga, Spain to compare how the two Catholic countries celebrate Easter Holy Week.

The 37-year-old captured the elaborate conical hats and sweeping robes worn by pious marchers during the Semana Santa celebrations over two years, once in 2014 and again in 2015.

Preparations for the procession are undertaken throughout the year

He said: ”I heard that Holy Week celebrations in Spain are vibrant and colourful but also very mysterious and spiritual.

“I wanted to experience the atmosphere myself and document the celebrations.

Red and purple are frequently used to symbolise suffering

“For some people it is a religious experience, a way to tell the story of Christ and a public expression of their faith. For others, especially thousands of tourists, it’s just a spectacular show.

“It is also surely a community building event, as the preparations for the Semana Santa run for a whole year.”

Participants will cover their faces and even their eyes to symbolise the shame they feel for sinning

While the tall, conical hats have become associated with the KKK’s historic use in the US, during the Semana Santa the hats take on Catholic symbolism.

Wojciech said: “Nazarenos in their tall, conical hats and matching robes with their faces covered are one of the most striking sights of the Semana Santa.

The event attracts tourists from all over the globe to witness the spectacular event

“The origins of the costumes remain a mystery but most sources say that the purpose is to cover faces in mourning and also as a sign of shame for the sins they have committed throughout the year.

“The red and purple colours symbolise suffering in Christian religion and are frequently used during Semana Santa processions. Some wear blindfolds throughout the route as an extra sacrifice.”

Confradias' - or brotherhoods - all march once during the week from their separate houses

The Confradias - the religious brotherhoods who march throughout Holy Week - enrobed in bold colours are the most memorable sight of the Easter celebrations and each one makes an appearance only once during the week.

The Polish born photographer attended the festivities to compare how Ireland and Spain celebrate Easter

Every procession starts from the different houses of Catholic brotherhoods dotted around the city and the spectacle has become a significant tourist attraction over the years.

Thousands flocked to the streets as the brotherhoods paraded symbolic thrones atop their shoulders - usually two per Confradias - one typically representing Christ in a biblical scene from his final days and the second of the Madonna.

While he was born in Poland, Wojciech has spent much of his adult life living in Ireland

Even though Spanish Holy Week has begun to attract growing numbers of tourists, Ryzinski was instantly hooked on the electric atmosphere of the religious festivities.

He said: “I really loved just being there, soaking up the surreal atmosphere, which was sometimes very sad and sober and was sometimes very joyful.”