The funeral of the sardine

The Funeral of the Sardine
The mock chaplain
The roots of this fiesta date back to Carlos III (1716-1788) who decreed a final celebration on the day preceding Lent. Sardines were to be served to offset the hunger of the revellers but, unfortunately, these putrefied before they could be eaten and the King gave orders for them to be buried just outside the town. Far from quenching the high spirits of the crowd, the sardines were escorted to their final resting place by an enthusiastic crowd with much good humour and wit, in a parody of a funeral procession.

The riotous capering of the burial of the sardine, painted by Goya around 1816 shows how entrenched and popular the custom had become by then.

As the colour and joy of carnival ends and Lent and its fasts approach, the pallbearers carry the sardine to its fiery end. Behind it is the mock chaplain with the altar boys who are female, followed by the widows who may or may not be, dressed in darkest mourning.

The band plays dirges and laments as the procession wends slowly around the town. On reaching the Square where the bonfire burns, the chaplain “blesses” the sardine before it is consigned to the flames to the loudly expressed wailing and lamentations of the spectators.

Holy Week
Palm Sunday
Carnival and Lenten Customs

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