One of the most unique religious processions in the world was seen in Belgium recently when the "Penitents Procession" was held in the town of Furnes.
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Background: One of the most unique religious processions in the world was seen in Belgium recently when the "Penitents Procession" was held in the town of Furnes.
People taking part in this old Roman Catholic ceremony come from all parts of the globe to show public penance and the route is a long and tiring one for them all.
Most of the penitents are bare-footed and wear monks robes for the walk. Many carry tableux demonstrating various stages of the passion, others trudge the long route with heavy crosses on their shoulders, and large groups in costume depict the life of Christ.
Historical documents show that the procession originated in the early 1600's and has always been held on the last Sunday in July.
The relic of the Cross, miraculously given to the Collegiate at Furnes in 1100, when Robert of Jerusalem, Count of Flanders, sailed home, was the origin of this procession.
Subsequently it became a very colourful but less significant in comparison with other processions in old Belgium; and the profane slowly triumphed over the sacred.
This type of procession was outlawed and the Furnes parade was re-organised on the lines of the original processions seen in 1600-1700.
Over 500 people carried crosses in this years procession, while a further 400 took part in other activities connected with the parade.