AP PHOTOS: Greek Orthodox mark Good Friday with solemn bier processions

NAFPAKTOS, Greece (AP) — The procession of “Epitaphios," symbolizing the bier that carried the body of Jesus to his grave, took place across Greece on Friday, which was Good Friday in the Orthodox Christian calendar.

The solemn processions, with the flower-adorned biers followed by the clergy and the faithful, are often spectacular, especially in places where bier processions from each parish converge into a central square.

The city of Nafpaktos, in western Greece, is one such city. Once part of the Byzantine Empire, it was later hotly contested between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetians, who called the town Lepanto. One of the largest ever naval battles, the Battle of Lepanto, involving nearly 450 ships, was fought in the nearby Gulf of Patras on Oct. 7, 1571. A coalition of Western states defeated the Ottoman fleet.

Partly in commemoration of that event, local fishermen put their own stamp on the Good Friday bier procession by lighting fires on the battlements of the Venetian-built fortifications. The event was revived in the 1950s and, each year it follows a similar script: While the processions from the two main parishes get underway, fires are lit on the battlements at sunset and a chorus sings hymns. This year, choral work by a modern Greek composer was performed.

A large cross was erected in the port’s entrance with wire and adorned with lanterns, adding to the atmospherics of the event.

After a sermon by the local bishop, the processions departed from the port for their respective parishes around 10 p.m. and fireworks lit up the sky.

A city official said attendance was significantly higher this year, with many visitors coming to watch the procession, in addition to a significant portion of Nafpaktos’ 25,000 residents.

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Nellas reported from Athens, Greece.