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Published on January 20, 2015

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 take place from 1st to 5th April 2015.

During this special week, the small town of Larantuka will be thronged with thousands ofCatholic pilgrims, not only coming from surrounding islands  in Flores but also from  Java, Bali, around Indonesia, joined by many international tourists. This is because of Larantuka’s unique commemoration of Holy Week which blends Old Portuguese devotion with local tradition.

Pilgrims from around Flores and Indonesia come here to pray and participate in this one of a kind procession.

The Semana Santa will commence with the Rabu Trewa or Shackled Wednesday (or Ash Wednesday) on 1st 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, congregations hold the tikam turo ritual , preparing 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 is 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 3rd April 2015. 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 by the ritual of 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.

Having strong Portuguese colonial influences, Larantuka is commonly known as one where Catholicism flourishes in Indonesia. For more than four centuries, this region inherited Catholicism through the role of the common people rather than through the clergy. The King of Larantuka, missionaries, the brotherhood of apostles of the common people (Confreria), the  Semana Tribe, and the Kakang (Kakang Lewo Pulo Tribe) as well as the Pou (Lema Tribe) have played pivotal roles in the growth of Catholicism in this Larantuka region.

From Jakarta or Bali the town of Larantuka  is accessible by flights to the El Tari Airport in Kupang or the Wai Oti  Airport in Maumere, followed by about 3 hours’ overland journey to  Larantuka. 

Since Larantuka is a small town with limited accommodation facilities, those wishing to attend the Semana Santa in Larantuka are advised to book their hotel and flights early.