The Calvario of Lagartera is a representation of Mount Calvary or Golgotha, the site of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is located on the top of a hill outside the village. It is reached by a path, called Via Crucis, marked by fourteen stone crosses, which represent the moments experienced by Jesus from his arrest to his crucifixion and death.

The word “Via Crucis” is also used to refer to the prayers recited at each station represented by the crosses. The word ‘Calvario’ can also mean the path, though in Lagartera, it usually refers to the top of the hill.

Calvarios are normally found outside Spanish towns and villages, as part of the Catholic tradition, in imitation of the one outside the walls of Jerusalem, which was the path walked by Jesus Christ.

To the west of the three crosses, there is the Casita del Santo, painted white.

During Lent, a picture of Our Lady is placed in the Casita.

The picture shows Our Lady holding the body of Jesus, with her heart pierced by seven swords, representing her seven sorrows.

Next to the Casita del Santo, there is a white-painted boulder, which represents the stone which covered the entrance to the tomb of Jesus. In Lent, people leave handmade crosses on the stone, sometimes to ask for something.

It is a Lagarteran tradition for groups of family, friends and neighbours (usually women) to go up to Calvario in Lent, often just after dawn if they have to work during the day. Some people go up after lunch, when it’s warmer because the sun has been out for a while. You can walk this route at any time of the year, because it’s a pleasant walk, with wonderful views at the top, but walking up to the Calvario is especially important as a tradition during Lent.

The black and white photos were taken just after dawn some forty years ago.

The group prays a Via Crucis prayer at each cross, and a rosary between crosses, and then a special prayer at the three crosses at the top of the hill.

You can see the Crown of Thorns at the top of the central cross. The photo was taken against the rising sun, which you can see shining through the trees.

The group then prays at the Casita del Santo.

You go up one path, following the crosses, and go down by another path, which is called The Path of Bitterness, as it’s a difficult path to walk.

Then, as the sun warms the day, you return to the village along the Alcañizo track.

As in other places in Spain, there is also a procession on Good Friday, which in Lagartera used to be just for men. Nowadays this is no longer the case, and both men and women take part in it.

Alison Lever, Lagartera, October 2021

Photos by Alison Lever

Thank you to Magdalena and Miguel Iglesias, and Guadalupe Suela for explaining the tradition to me.