Four persons, dressed in white fabrics with their heads covered, and with high pointed red hats, walk through the night, with a coffin. On the black cloth that lies over the coffin is a silver cross. It's the coffin of Christ, which contains a relic or a holy status of Christ. Every year, thousands of religious people gather to bring the coffin around Larantuka, singing and with candles. It i accompanied by a statue of Maria, which is almost entirely covered in a blue fabric.
The procession started on Good Friday around 9:00, after playing on the funeral drums. The musicians are followed by members of the religious fraternity Konfreria Renha Rosari ('Fraternity of the Queen of the garland of Roses') of which some had the decorations from the Portuguese time, when Catholicism was brought to Flores. Nicodemus was one of the two men which got Jesus' body of the cross, together with Josef of Arimatheoa.
The procession stopped for a temporarily altar. A young girl climbed on a chair, unrolled a painting of Jesus and sung with a very clear voice. She played the role of Veronica, which wipes Jesus' face with a cloth. The song of the girl was followed by prayers and a blessing by the bishop.
After that the procession continued to hold still near several altars, where the garland of roses was spoken in Indonesian. Sometimes the crowd stood still near a house or under a tree. On all these places you could find and altar, sometimes with an old holy statue. Some should have been brought here by the Portuguese. The last two stops were on the most important places: the chapel of the Virgin (Kapela Maria) and the chapel of Christ.
Larantuka, the capital of the district East-Flores, is a too big village with 25,000 residents and a small center behind the old harbor. The new harbor for the ferry to Kupang is five kilometers to the west. The volcano Ile Mandiri is almost on top of the town. In the early 1980's the Ile Mandiri exhausted a stream of mud and stone which killed over 200 people. Both chapels were saved during this event.
The statue of the Virgin is of curious origin. Some people say that a man in Larantuka dreamt about a nice woman. In the last dream he asked her to meet him near the sea side the next day. Then the man went to that spot the next day, he found the statue of the Virgin, which was washed ashore. There are other versions as well, but the fact that is washed ashore is for sure.
Every year the statue is washed and dressed in preparation for the Easter festivities, and after that it's kissed by the worshippers. The water of the washing is seen as holy and is saved for the cure of ill children and for use during complicated births. The relic in the coffin of Christ is also washed, and this water is also seen as sacred.
The procession on Good Friday is the biggest of several events in the Silent Week, all held by the Konfreria. This religious organization was founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese. Over time, mainly in the period that the city was without spiritual leaders (the end of the 17th through the middle of the 19th century), the Konfreria gained a lot of status among the religious. The members baptized, maintained the churches and took care of the holy statues.
There is a female equivalent of the Konfreria, the Mama Muij, which also organizes events in the Silent Week. With Easter, the members hold a wake in the chapels. The Mama Muij pray in what now sounds as disguised Portuguese, but because the prayers have only been told on, this should be the language the Portuguese spoke in the early times. When the Portuguese consul visited Larantuka in the 1990's, he didn't understand a word of it. Some young women wanted to help him by 'improving' their speech, but others refused that. The older woman were attached to their prayers. Above all they were not interested whether the nowadays Portuguese could understand them, since they on fulfilled a religious aim.
During the many years that the Catholics of Larantuka were left along, their religion has been influenced paralithurgic elements. The church has regained the orthodox theology again and has succeeded in that very well. But, as the official publication of the Konfreria tells, 'To get to the Lord, to understand Him and the religion, liturgy is not enough. Without our traditions the Silent Week doesn't say much'.
Visit to Larantuka
The Kapel Maria and the processions in the Silent Week are the most interesting attractions of Larantuka. Nevertheless the area of the old harbor is interesting as well, outside the town you will find nice landscapes and traditional villages where ikat-fabrics are made.
A road towards the north runs to Tanjung Bunga ('Flower Cape'), the northeastern peninsula of Flores. Visitors often go to Muda Kaputu, about ten kilometers outside the city; the village is known because of it's ikats. The road runs all the way to Waiklibang, the capital of the sub district Tanjung Bunga. A nice walk of about one hour brings the visitor in the weaving village of Riang Puho. At the coast, near Riang Koli, is the beach of Pantai Kita, heavily visited by people from the neighborhood.
Lewotobi, about twenty kilometers southwest of the city along the main road to Maumere, has a beautiful environment, among that a white sand beach. This village got its name from the volcano which can be found in the south. Mondays, market day, is the only day when you can count on public transport. A trip takes you in about two to three hours to several traditional villages like Nobok, where you can see a helong or dance of the warriors. You have to warn the dancers a few days in advance, and keep in mind nothing is free.