Los Empalaos

Religious in La Vera

At midnight on Good Friday eve, Valverde hosts one of Spain's most bizarre religious festivities, Los Empalaos ('the Impaled'). Penitent locals strap their arms to a beam, their near-naked bodies wrapped tight with 60m-long cords from waist to fingertips. Barefoot, veiled, with two swords strapped to their backs and wearing crowns of thorns, these 'walking crucifixes' follow a painful Way of the Cross.

Iron chains hanging from the timber clank sinisterly as the penitents, dressed in white petticoats from the waist down, make painful, silent progress through the crowds. Guided by cirineos (who pick them up should they fall), the empalaos occasionally cross paths. When this happens, they kneel and rise again to continue their laborious journey. Doctors stay on hand, as being so tightly strapped does nothing for blood circulation.

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