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Lent 2019: 5 interesting facts about the 40 days religious observance

Lent 2019: 5 interesting facts about the 40 days religious observance

Pope Francis arrives to lead Ash Wednesday mass at Santa Sabina Basilica in Rome, March 5, 2014. | REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The origin of purple

Purple, specifically violet, is the symbolic color used in churches throughout Lent, from drapes and altar frontals to crosses and flowers.

According to the BBC, purple is used for two reasons: first, because it's associated with mourning and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion.

In an act of derision toward Jesus, Pilate placed a purple robe on Jesus, whom he called “King of the Jews.” Mark 15:17 reads: "They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him."

Second, purple is the color associated with royalty and celebrates Christ's resurrection and sovereignty. In ancient Rome, “Tyrian purple” was a designator of status. An extremely high value was placed on the dye as it was extracted from sea snails, therefore not easily obtained, according to the Smithsonian.

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