Live crucifixion on Good Friday

Crucifixion scene, Biniamar, Mallorca

Crucifixion scene in Biniamar. Credit: Annie Christmas

The traditional enactments of the descent from the cross are the most powerful religious expression during Holy Week.

Religious fervour in the village of Biniamar, northwest of Inca, reached a peak on Good Friday with the dramatisation of Jesus Christ’s descent from the cross.

The sombre Good Friday mass at the modest village church was interrupted by the traditional procession of the cross through the narrow village streets.

Sombre Good Friday procession

Accompanying the near life-sized wooden figure of Christ on the cross at the head of the parade was a group dressed as Roman soldiers and three beautiful young women in black. The congregation processed in respectful silence, halting at the main square, where it was surrounded by an expectant crowd.

The entrance to the imposing “New” church glowed red, and dramatic music began to intone from inside. The crowd surged up the steps.

Inside, a poignant scene was spread out on the stage. A near-naked man was hanging from a cross, the soldiers and the three women from the procession at its foot. The accomplished actor playing Jesus Christ spoke a few powerful words, subtly agonised and expired.

A medley of plangent tunes, including fragments of Mozart’s Requiem in D minor and Barber’s Adagio for strings, brought many of the spectators to tears as the soldiers lowered Christ from the cross and laid him in his mother’s arms. The resulting tableau was worthy of a Flemish or Spanish master.

The neogothic “new” church or cathedral dates back 110 years but was never finished. The main financer, Antoni Maura, had lost political influence and the budget ran out before the roof could be built. The atmospheric church is host to many cultural events, notably the rampaging devils and fireworks for San Antoni celebrations in January and opera stagings in the summer.

Descent from the cross

Towns and villages throughout Mallorca stage their own descent from the cross, known as the ‘davallament’, on good Friday.

In Felanitx more than 150 actors depicted scenes from the stations of the cross.

The Calvari steps in Pollença host one of the most renowned davallaments, which begins with a reading of a work by emblematic poet Miguel Costa y Llobera, who was born in the town.

Sineu holds the oldest procession in Mallorca, which like the one in Palma includes centurions on horseback.

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Annie christmas in the Bay of Palma
Written by

Annette Christmas

Annie Christmas loves language and communication. A long-time resident of Mallorca, she enjoys an outdoor life of cycling, horse riding and mountain walking, as well as the wealth of concerts and cultural events on the island. She also plays fiddle in a traditional Mallorcan dance troupe.