Semana Sancta Celebrations in Indonesia
Larantuka is the capital city on the island of Flores on the eastern side of the Indonesian Lesser Sunda Islands. Located along an important sea trade route, the island became a colony of Portugal for 300 years. The clans of Larantuka, descendants of these settlers, still retain the Portuguese language and Catholic religious practices of their colonizers and have made their city famous for the Sancta Semana Catholic pilgrims from all over the world attend the celebrations.
Semana Sancta or Holy Week, the week before Easter, is an important time of religious reflection and conversion for Christians especially the devout people of Larantuka. Beginning on Wednesday of Holy Week, people gather in the Chapel of Tua Ana at the statue of Jesus Christ and at the Chapel of Tuan Ma for the Virgin Mary. These statues were originally brought to Flores by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. They are kept out of view the whole year – until Sancta Semana. On Good Friday, thousands of pilgrims – dressed in black to symbolize mourning and holding lighted candles – process behind the statue of Jesus for seven kilometers to the Chapel Tuan Ma. Along the way they stop to pray, sing devotional songs and remember the suffering and death of Jesus at eight small chapels, which represent the eight clans of the Larantuka people. The statue of Mary joins in the procession and both images are brought to the Katedral Reinha Roasari. Here the procession ends and devotees attend a Good Friday mass that lasts all night.
Besides Larantuka, Flores is also a place of unspoiled nature with beautiful beaches, sparkling seas, active volcanoes and home to the ancient and rare Komodo dragon. The people are warm and friendly and willing to share their fascinating and diverse tribal cultures with others.
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