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Passos - Stations of the Cross in the Brazilian Semana Santa

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Passos - Stations of the Cross in the Brazilian Semana Santa

Passo in Tiradentes

©Stefan Wilkerson

Passos ("Steps") are Stations of the Cross. They consist of tiny chapels or altars embedded in the walls of eighteenth-century constructions in some Brazilian colonial towns.

They remain closed all year except for one day during Semana Santa -- Holy Week -- when they are opened for the Stations of the Cross Procession, (Procissão dos Passos in Portuguese, also known as Procissão do Encontro).

During this special event, a procession made up of women leaves a church carrying an image of Holy Mary, while a group of men leaves another church with an image of Jesus carrying His cross and reenacts His steps - the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. 

Famous Passos

In Brazil, some of the best-known Passos can be found in Olinda, in Paraty, on the coast of Rio de Janeiro, and in the colonial towns of Minas Gerais. They were introduced in Brazil by the Portuguese colonizers.

Olinda has five passos, built between 1773 and 1809. They are Passo da Sé (early 19th century), Passo do Amparo (inside the Amparo Church, 18th century), Passo dos Quatro Cantos (1773), Passo da Ribeira (1773), and Passo do Senhor Apresentado ao Povo (1773).

The procession goes from the Sé Church to the Carmo Church, and the meeting of Jesus and Mary takes place at Largo do Amparo. The procession and Procissão do Encerro, which takes place the day before and represents the arrest of Jesus, have been held for 341 years and are maintained by the Venerável Irmandade Bom Jesus dos Passos de Olinda. 

In Paraty, there are six Passos; in Tiradentes, Minas Gerais, there are five which open every Holy Week and one that has been closed since the 19th century, according to historian Olinto Rodrigues dos Santos Filho.

Varying Dates

The Procession of the Meeting is usually on Holy Friday, but it may take place before that depending on the town and the year, so visit official websites for cities and churches to find out when the Passos will be open.

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