The Annual Passion Play at San Fernando Cathedral, where more than 50 actors and actresses dress as Roman soldiers and mourning women to re-enact the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is more than just a show.

It’s a tradition that dates back more than 30 years, when actors first dragged a wooden cross through the downtown streets to observe the powerful biblical event.

On Good Friday, keeping that tradition alive, thousands of people from all over San Antonio gathered at Milam Park to attend a bilingual ecumenical prayer service and watch a bloodied Jesus carry a cross down Santa Rosa and Dolorosa streets all the way to the San Fernando Cathedral.

Spectators watched cackling Roman soldiers whip and batter Jesus and place a crown of thorns on his head. Cell phones and cameras were out in full force to capture the powerful and vivid re-enactment, while grandparents whispered to their grandkids about the meaning behind Jesus’ death and parents hoisted children onto their shoulders so they could watch the procession.

“It was very beautiful. It’s always an emotional story,” said Estefania Manzo, who has been going to the Passion Play in San Antonio for eight years. “There are a lot more people this year that came out than other years. It’s always very beautiful when they change the story or add more elements, but the presence of the people that come is the most special.”

The event was organized by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller and other clergymen. Once the procession made its way to the cathedral, the wooden cross was raised in Main Plaza to showcase the crucifixion.

“As a child growing up in the Philippines, I used to watch the re-enactment. As a child, you don’t understand and it’s pretty scary watching someone get tortured,” said Ruby Sison, who came to the Passion Play for the first time this year. “Now, it’s an eye-opener. We walk with Jesus and see how he wants us to live our life. He gave up his life for our own salvation.”

For a full schedule of Holy Week services at San Fernando Cathedral, click here.

The large wooden cross carried by an actor portraying Jesus can be seen above the crowd at the Passion of Christ Procession.
The large wooden cross carried by an actor portraying Jesus can be seen in the crowd at the Passion of Christ Procession. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...

Bonnie Arbittier

Bonnie Arbittier

Bonnie Arbittier is a photojournalist raised in upstate New York and rural Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Fine Arts and French. After completing...