On the night of the 5th Sunday of the Lent, Bairro Alto comes out to celebrate. Not to sing fado or for a bohemian night in the countless and famous bars and restaurants, but for a public display of faith, the Procession of Senhor dos Passos (Procession to Calvary): From Bairro Alto to São Roque.
Join this small religious manifestation and discover a different side of the neighbourhood. For the visitants of Lisbon, Bairro Alto is an unmissable place, but to witness it on this night will be an unforgettable experience!
The Secular Processions
We all know that Lisbon is a city of feasts and manifestations, among them the processions.
We won’t tell you about the Procession of Corpus Christi today, the oldest one that dates back to the 13th century, or of the Senhor dos Passos from São Roque to Graça, nor about the Procession of the Senhora da Saúde, both from the 16th century. Not even about the Procession of Saint Anthony, probably the most cherished by the people of Lisbon that covers the narrow streets of Alfama and that the Museum of Lisbon – Saint Anthony has revived and promoted.
The processions that we have just mentioned are, perhaps, the most known ones and also the ones that gather more believers and curious people and have, effectively, secular tradition. There are others that were reinvented and that today are significant events of manifestation of faith of the population of Lisbon.
These processions haven’t been carried out constantly in all times. They were interrupted in the beginning of the 20th century, in the period of the First Republic, when with the secularisation of the State, it became deeply anti-clerical.
However, in the 1940’s, the processions were recovered. The Estado Novo (nationalist corporatist authoritarian regime installed in Portugal from 1933 to 1974) promoted them as an ideological and identifying affirmation of the idea of a nation.
After the revolution of April 1974, these traditions were once again abandoned until the 1980’s, when they were gradually recovered, not only the secular ones, but also the processions that were later introduced.
The Procession of Senhor dos Passos: From Bairro Alto to São Roque that we bring to you today is an example of those. We are far from the large masses of people that cross hills and the main streets of the historical centre, following the statues mounted on floats, headed by countless brotherhoods and high individuals that represent the Church, local authority or even the State.
The Stations of the Cross
The Procession of Senhor dos Passos: from Bairro Alto to São Roque is organised by the Brotherhood of São Roque. In this procession participate several Brotherhoods of Lisbon and the Brotherhood of Santa Cruz and Passos de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo de Alenquer.
The procession starts at Church of São Roque and invades the heart of Bairro Alto. This neighbourhood, used to the hubbub of the glasses, of the raising voices of young people in euphoria and of the latest top charted songs, is invaded by an unusual wave of silence. A silence only broken by the drums, bells, readings and prayers of the participants, all together as one.
On this day, the neighbourhood’s community is invited to join by participating and also by decorating and illuminating the streets. And so, the balconies are covered with handcrafted and/or old bedspreads and flowers. By the doors and windows, show up surprised residents, establishment owners, clients of bars and tourists. Everyone solemnly respects the passage of the ritual of the Passion of Christ.
The Procession to Calvary relives the painful final stretch of Jesus’ life. Here are evoked the seven stations that correspond to marking and symbolic episodes. The overall atmosphere is thus naturally heavy, the brotherhoods wear black and purple, just like the figure on the float, bent down by the weight of the cross.
Christ Carrying the Cross goes through several streets of the orthogonal Bairro Alto and finishes in Trindade Coelho Square, back in the Church of São Roque. At the door awaits the image of the Lady of Sorrows and the procession ends as it began, in reflection and introspection inside the church.
This is not a very well-known event, and therefore, we invite you to go to the bohemian Bairro Alto and witness this curious religious event.
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