The gruesome procession of Verbicaro Flagellants

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Last Updated on 2023/08/02

Italian flagellants

Every year Verbicaro, Calabria, hosts a gruesome procession.

During the night between Thursday and Good Friday, some penitents, completely dressed in red, with barefoot and bare legs, beat their legs with a piece of cork on which are stuck five sharp bits of glasses, until they bleed.


Then the flagellants run around the town three times, marking the streets with their blood.

At three in the morning kicks off the procession of the Mystery of the Passion of Christ with statues and tableaux inspired by the Stations of the Cross and the Mystery of the Passion.

Italian flagellants-of-verbicaro

Flagellants are individuals who practice an austere form of self-punishment, often by physically lashing their bodies using various tools. This practice, termed as flagellantism, was predominantly witnessed during the 13th and 14th centuries, becoming an influential movement within the Catholic Church during this period.

This rigorous discipline was initially cultivated by a faction of fervent devotees within the Catholic Church who sought to atone for their sins through their bodily suffering. The practice originated from the concept of a militant pilgrimage, where believers embarked on a journey of religious significance, using physical pain as a medium to express their faith and penance.

Over time, the movement attracted a considerable following, with the radical practitioners becoming renowned for incorporating public flagellation as an integral part of their religious observances. These public ceremonies were viewed as both a personal demonstration of penance and a stark expression of their devotion, typically marked by ritualistic group marches followed by communal self-whipping.

In the small town of Nocera Terinese, situated in the province of Catanzaro, an annual ritual unfolds every Holy Easter – the ceremony of the flagellants. This yearly procession, steeped in ancient traditions, is fundamentally derived from the rite of self-flagellation, a pagan custom rooted in the pursuit of penance and redemption for personal sins.

However, the Catholic Church, despite being the initial backdrop for the emergence of this movement, eventually took a stand against flagellantism. The Church hierarchy saw the extreme nature of this practice as crossing the boundaries of orthodox religious conduct. It criticized the movement as a distortion of the tenets of penance and self-sacrifice, arguing that the practitioners were misinterpreting the concept of atonement and inflicting unnecessary harm on themselves.

As a result, flagellantism was officially condemned by the Catholic Church, which declared it heretical. This decision was rooted in the belief that the flagellants’ actions deviated from established Church doctrine, thereby undermining its authority and misrepresenting its teachings. Despite this, the influence and historical significance of the flagellant movement cannot be understated, as it provides valuable insight into the radical forms of religious expression during the Middle Ages.

Source: Wikipedia

Video by Calnews


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