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Hermandad de Jesús Nazareno: El Salvador's largest confraternity organizes Holy Week

Members of the Hermandad in Izalco, El Salvador, prepare the image of Christ with a cross made with Corozo palms, on the morning of Holy Thursday. The image will be carried in the Procesion de los Cristos. Photo credit: Josue Parada/El Salvador
Just outside the Hermandad de Jesús Nazareno de Niños, this mural uses the towering volcano above the town to locate the festivities, and an image of the Nazareno statue that is featured in their Holy Week processions. Izalco, El Salvador.

The Hermandad de Jesús Nazareno is the largest confraternity, taking the leading role in Lenten and Holy Week commemorations. Some locals make a distinction between a “brotherhood,” like this one, which has 700 members who pay to have the privilege of carrying the statue in the procession, and a cofradía, which is smaller and which is more open to anyone who wants to participate. Others say the only real difference is size.

The HJN processions pass throughout the streets of the city, both in the barrio and between the town’s two main churches. A brass band provides mournful music at many of the events, though by Friday the procession is silent. The first procession is on the Tuesday of Carnaval, when the image of Jesus is brought to the house of a confraternity member for the start of lent. For the 40 days of lent, the Nazareno moves all over the barrio in different processions.

The largest Holy Week procession begins in the early afternoon on Holy Thursday, and lasts through the night. The procession features 13 platforms or carrying altars that are supported on the shoulders of members of the hermandad. Carrying the statues is considered an honor, and all carriers, along with other members of the procession, are dressed in costumes that designate their role and membership. The main statue in the procession is the Nazareno, a life-size image of Christ that belongs to the hermandad and is housed year round in its chapel. It is carried on a beautifully carved platform, covered by a baldachin that that has lighting to show the statue during the nighttime processions. Forty men at a time carry this statue.

The Nazareno carries a large crucifix, and is designed so that it can be maneuvered to face the left or the right side of the float. Families who contribute to the celebration can arrange to have the image of the Nazareno turned to face their house as the procession moves by.

Twelve other crucifixes, each belonging to a different cofradía from Izalco, are carried in the procession. These crucifixes are much smaller, are surrounded by palm branches, and are each carried by a single individual.

The platforms in the procession also feature other statues belonging to the Hermandad de Jesús Nazareno. Visit the HJN blog for more images and videos of the procession from the brotherhood. Watch video of the procession during the night and as it returns to the chapel at sunrise, almost 18 hours after its start.

The Hermandad de Jesús Nazareno is not the sole sponsor of Holy Week events. View a few images from other events.

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