Shrouded in purple: Images of Passiontide


During the last two weeks of Lent, many Catholic churches veil statues and crosses in preparation for Good Friday.

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The last two weeks of Lent are traditionally known as Passiontide in the Catholic Church, as our focus turns toward the events of Jesus’ Passion, death, and resurrection, celebrated in the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week.

It was once the custom, beginning on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, to cover the crucifix and all statues and images in Catholic churches with purple veils that resemble shrouds. While this custom continues by mandate in communities where the Extraordinary Form (the traditional Latin Mass) is celebrated, it is optional in the revised Roman Missal (the Ordinary Form) that most Catholic parishes use. Veiling is up to the discretion of the pastor, and if you have never seen this custom followed, you may be interested in the meaning of this practice.

The purple veils covering the familiar outlines of Jesus on the cross, the Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph serve as a hint that all is not as it should be. The veils remain in place until after the Good Friday liturgy.

As Philip Kosloski wrote, “The unveiling before the Easter Vigil is a great reminder of our own life on earth. We live in a ‘veiled’ world, in exile from our true home. It is only through our own death that the veil is lifted and we are finally able to see the beauty of everything in our lives.”

View the slideshow to see images of Catholic churches veiled for Passiontide.


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