Fact File: What is Good Friday?


• What does Good Friday commemorate?
• What happens in churches and cathedrals on Good Friday?
• Where does the name originate?

Good Friday is the most sombre day of the Christian calendar when the crucifixion and death of Jesus is commemorated in churches and cathedrals.
Jesus on the cross in sculpture at Winchester Cathedral Winchester Cathedral

Many congregations take part in a public Walk of Witness before the start of the service to remember that Jesus had to carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem.

In some areas there will be a Passion Play, a dramatic re-enactment of the Passion (the story of the events leading up to the crucifixion).

Many churches also observe the 'Stations of the Cross' either in their biblical form or the traditional stations, where worshippers move around a series of 'stations' depicting different scenes from the Passion narrative and offer prayers and reflections at each one.

Church services on Good Friday may begin or end at 3pm – the time when Jesus is believed to have died on the cross – and are traditionally stark and bare, marking the solemnity of the occasion.

Some churches will hold a Three Hours' Devotion, a service that lasts for three hours, from midday until 3pm. The service usually involves a series of reflections and prayers, with readings from the Gospels, as well as hymns and musical interludes.

In some churches, the clergy will prostrate themselves at the start of the service after processing in silence to the altar, as a sign of deep reverence for the suffering of Christ.

There will be a reading of the Passion and in some churches there will be a moment when people venerate the cross. Congregations traditionally leave church in silence at the end of the service.

The origins of the name ‘Good Friday’ are not clear. Some sources see its origins in the term ‘God's Friday’.

More information