THE LARANTUKA “SEMANA SANTA” UNIQUE HOLY WEEK CELEBRATIONS
Each year, the week before Easter Sunday, the town of Larantuka, East Flores, solemnly celebrates the Holy Week, popularly known here as “Semana Santa”. The pinnacle of these celebrations is the commemoration of Christ’s suffering on Good Friday by following the stations of the Cross, known here as the “Sesta Vera”. In Larantuka, prayers center around two religious icons, one is the statue of Jesus Christ (locally known as Tuan Ana) and the other is that of the Virgin Mary (Localy known as Tuan Ma). Both are original statues brought here by Portuguese missionaries Gaspar do Espírito Santo and Agostinho de Madalena in the 16th century. These statues are presented to the public only during Easter and are kept out-of-view for the rest of the year.
Located on the eastern tip of Flores Island, - Larantuka,- also known as ‘Kota Reinha’ or ‘Tana Nagi’, is the capital of the district of East Flores.
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 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 development of Catholicism in this Larantuka region.
During Holy Week, the normally quiet and tranquil town will be filled with pilgrims and congregations from many parts of Indonesia and from around the world.
The Semana Santa commences with the Rabu Trewa or the Shackled Wednesday (or Ash Wednesday) 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 in 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. 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 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.