In the shadow of the crucifix. The Penitential Procession of Furnes
‘The Penitential Procession of Furnes’ (Veurne, West Flanders, Belgium) is a religious procession originating way back in history. Two schools of thought compete to explain where and how it originated. One school argues that in 1637 a Norbertine monk (Jacob Clou) founded Sodality, a religious fraternity, whose members marched in 1644 as hooded, cross-bearing penitents in a Capuchin procession to stave off war and plague. The other school argues that the origin dates to 1099 when crusader Count Robert II of Flanders returned from Jerusalem with a fragment of The Cross.
The procession continues today, normally on the last Sunday in July. The first part of the procession is dedicated to biblical storytelling. Residents dress in a variety of costumes and wigs. The second part is a sombre affair. Penitents dress in dark brown hoods and robes and walk barefoot through the small town of Veurne. Many carry large heavy wooden crosses and walk slowly to the monotone sound of a single drumbeat, causing silence and eeriness almost the onlooking throng.