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Published on March 22, 2014

Each year, the week before Easter Sunday, the town of Larantuka, East Flores, solemnly celebrates the Holy Week, popularly known here as “Semana Santa”. This year the series of rituals will occur from 16th to 20 April 2014.

During this special week, the small town of Larantuka will be thronged with thousands of pilgrims, not only coming from surrounding islands in Flores but also from Java, Bali as well as many international tourists. This is because of Larantuka’s unique commemoration of Holy Week which blends Old Portuguese devotion with local tradition. Pilgrims come here to pray but also to participate in this one of a kind procession.

The Semana Santa will commence with the Rabu Trewa or the Shackled Wednesday (or Ash Wednesday) on 16th April, on the mid-Easter week. On this day, devotees gather in chapels and pray, remembering the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot which led to Jesus’ arrest and shackling. This is the time when the town of Larantuka turns into the Town of Mourning; a time when it drowns into solemnity and reflection for the purification of the soul.

In the afternoon of Maundy Thursday, devotees enact the tikam turo ritual to prepare the route for the following day’s seven kilometer procession, by planting candles along the route. At the Chapel of Tuan Ma (Virgin Mary) the casket that has been sealed for one year is carefully opened by the Conferia, and the statue of Tuan Ma or Virgin Mary are bathed and then dressed in mourning clothes (a piece of black or purple, or blue velvet coat).

The pinnacle of the rituals falls on Good Friday or the Sesta Vera which this year falls on 18thApril. The door of the chapel of Tuan Ma and Tuan Ana (Jesus and the Virgin Mary) opens at ten o’clock in the morning. The Good Friday procession is highlighted with the ritual carrying the statue of the body of Jesus Christ, placing Jesus at the center of the ritual and placing Mother Mary at the center of attention, as the mourning mother (Mater Dolorosa).

The Sabtu Santo (Holy Saturday) and the Minggu Paskah (Easter Sunday) follow the next days, marking the end of the entire Easter week procession.

The town of Larantuka, capital of the District of East Flores, lies on the very eastern edge of this long island of Flores in the East Nusatenggara province.Although now quite a sleepy town, in its heydays Larantuka was a hive of activities when in the 16th century, Portuguese traders came here to load their vessels with precious sandalwood. Having strong Portuguese colonial influences, the town is commonly known as one where Catholicism flourishes in Indonesia.

For more than four centuries, this region inherited Catholicism through the active role of the common people rather than through the clergy.Larantuka does not have a commercial airport. Therefore to get there one must take a flight from Jakarta or Bali to Maumere or Kupang, and travel overland to Larantuka. Maumere is linked by air to Kupang and Bali with regular flights. Best use a reliable travel agent. Book early since accommodation will be at a premium.

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