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In the little village of La Rioja, Spain, a special event takes place during the Easter Holy Week. It is one of the last glimmers of a medieval celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. San Vicente de la Sonsierra is the last town in Europe to hold the tradition of self-flagellation, a harsh and archaic ritual where volunteer "disciplinantes" (penitents), also known as "Picaos", decide to take part in this tradition as an act of faith and penitence.
A "Picao" is restricted to men over 18 years old and they need to have a certificate of being a good Christian obtained from their priest. Covered with a mask to protect his identity and accompanied by a brother of the "Cofradia de la Veracruz" brotherhood to guide him and protect him. Each "disciplinante" after his prayer to the Virgin "La Dolorosa", open his cassock and start to flagellate himself an average of eight hundred to a thousand times, using a bundle of hemp or flax threads, with knots at their edges, creating blisters on his back with each strike. The doctor and the "brother" decide when to prick them. The "Picao" is poked twelve times with a ball of wax containing twelve sharp crystals around it that symbolizes The Twelve Apostles.
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