Eight ‘picaos’ completed their penance in the Holy Thursday procession of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, gathering thousands of people in the streets of that town in La Rioja to witness this ancestral rite of medieval origin that is unique in Spain. Covered with a hood to hide their identity and a white linen habit with a slit at the back, they flogged his back with a 750-850 gram skein of cotton for about 20 minutes and delivered between 800 and a thousand blows. each.

After that moment, the practitioner who accompanies each disciplinarian lightly hits the lower back area three times on each side, which allows a little blood to flow and avoid further discomfort, but never to further mortify or increase suffering. .

The crystals that the “sponge” contains and that the practitioner uses for the “chopping” allow each disciplinarian to receive 12 punctures, which symbolize the 12 apostles, after which they receive a hygienic and sanitary wash with rosemary water, so that they do not there are effects on the puncture and bruising produced.

The Holy Thursday procession is the first time that this tradition is repeated every Holy Week, which is repeated on this same day at “Holy Hour”, inside the church of San Vicente and with the expectation that it will be carried out by another five disciplining. Each one of the ‘picaos’ chooses a moment of the procession to start this rite, always behind one of the images that run through the intricate streets of San Vicente, carried by members of this brotherhood, whose origins are documented in the 16th century.

In the Holy Thursday procession the images of the Holy Cross, the apostles, Jesus Captive -carried by women-, Jesus whipped and the Sorrowful Virgin walk through the streets. Although this rite is repeated on Good Friday, it is done with a different route, in the morning and in the afternoon, and also with different images.

San Vicente de la Sonsierra has about a thousand inhabitants, which is multiplied by four to see this ancestral tradition, “which survives over time above everything, even criticism,” the spokesman for the Brotherhood of Vera Cruz explained to EFE. , Jose Ramon Eguiluz. Because this tradition has not been exempt from contestation throughout its history and was even banned in the 18th century by Carlos III “and now there is also fierce criticism on social networks” in which “they call for demonstrations against this tradition”.

For the spokesman for the Brotherhood “these criticisms come from people who do not agree with the religion” that “is the basis” of this rite and even each disciplinarian must come endorsed by their own parishes. “They say that this is something anachronistic” and “the truth is that this cannot be completely denied” but “it is a tradition of our people, the only one that survives in Spain of this type and for us that is what is important and also the that year after year there are people who come here to do this penance for their own feeling that we help”, EguĂ­luz emphasizes.