Nuestro Señor de la Columna
Holy Week festivities begin in San Miguel with one of the most traditional religious festivities in town, the arrival of Nuestro Señor de la Columna (Our Lord of the Column).
The impressive figure of the beaten and bloodied Christ, credited with miraculous powers, is housed at the Shrine of Atotonilco, 12 kilometers away. Accompanied by a huge procession, the statue is borne to San Miguel during the week preceding Holy Week. Early on the morning of Sunday 25, hundreds of believers will await the procession at the entrance to San Miguel on Avenida Independencia and receive the statue with rockets and fireworks, the streets bedecked with purple and white decorations and flowers.
During its stay at the Church of San Juan de Dios, the statue is watched over by a group of faithful called the San Juan de Dios Brotherhood, who also organize the procession; they work with intense fervor during most of the year to prepare for this act of faith.
The procession from the Shrine of Atotonilco to San Juan de Dios dates back to 1812, when a plague threatened San Miguel’s population. The statue of Jesus Nazarenus (also at the Shrine of Atotonilco since the time of Father Luis Felipe de Alfaro, who built the shrine) was taken to San Miguel by Father de la Helguera, hoping it would miraculously eradicate the plague.
Nuestro Señor de la Columna is carefully removed from its protective glass case in the church of Atotonilco. The statue, along with those of the Apostle John and the Virgen de Dolores (Sorrowful Virgin Mary), is covered with hundreds of silk scarves to protect it on the journey.
The three shrouded statues are borne on biers. The 12-kilometer journey is made in silence, lit only by lanterns and torches. At La Cruz del Perdón, the halfway mark about six kilometers away, a mass is held by the Atotonilco parish priest. It ends at the entrance of San Miguel at around 7am, which leads directly to the Church of San Juan de Dios.
The procession reaches San Juan de Dios about 8am and comes to a halt outside the church, where a solemn mass is performed before a huge crowd. When the ceremony ends, the statue of Nuestro Señor de la Columna is placed on the high altar, where it remains until Easter Wednesday at 6pm, when it begins its way back in another similar, but smaller, procession to Atotonilco.
In 1823, a San Miguel merchant named Cayetano Vargas commissioned the parish priest of Atotonilco, Father Remigio Ángel González, to sculpt a statue of Señor de la Columna in order to request a miracle. The statue is made of painted wood and represents the flagellated Christ resting his arms on a small column. His cheek bears the scar of Judas’s kiss, his body is covered with blood and his ribs are exposed from flogging. Standing 1.80 meters high, it weights about 40 kilograms