My Collins Dictionary defines saeta as an arrow or dart or secondary meaning a sacred song in flamenco style. This one, sung to Nuestra Señora de la Soleda, certainly hits the mark. Nowhere else in europe except Andalucía can one hear this plaintive sound that seems to strike right into the soul. Juan and I had arrived whilst the crowd were already massing for the most famous part of Úbeda’s Semana Santa, the raising of the Virgin up the Hill of Grace (Cuesta de la Merced). There was no chance of filming this from the front as the road up the hill and the turn were already packed. I settled for this position at the bottom of the slope not realising how close I would be to the singer. Unfortunately, I then became completely hemmed in and couldn’t manoeuvre the camcorder easily, hence the only sighting of the singer in the top right-hand corner is the occasional extravagant hand gesture.
The origins of venerating this particular Virgin go back to the 12th century, but it was only formalised in the 16th century. It is the oldest of the processions in the Úbeda Semana Santa celebrations. In 1554 the confraternity responsible for the procession was known as ‘la Cofradía de las Angustias y Soledad de Nuestra Señora y cinco plagas de Nuestro Señor redentor Jesucristo’ today it is known as Cofradía de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y María Magdalena (Sociedad Benéfica de Albañiles), a confraternity of Masons and one of the oldest confraternities in Spain.