Chris Isaia had only one worry as he led the faithful up Mangere Mountain in his role as Jesus Christ yesterday - and it wasn't the whips cracking across his back.

The 20-year-old found the sparkling clear Good Friday morning a little too fine for his liking.

He wanted clouds as "that would have set the mood".

About 1000 people joined yesterday's procession as it wound its way to the summit.

Along the way the characters acted out the 14 stations of the cross, representing the events and people Jesus met as he made his way to crucifixion, and the crowd joined in prayers and hymns.

Mr Isaia ended the journey with welts across his back, inflicted by teenage Roman soldiers.

"They don't really hurt," said Mr Isaia.

"But the crown had real thorns and that kept poking into me."

He said the realism "helps us remember how he died and why".

Dante Taua, 7, enjoyed watching the cast's efforts with his aunty.

"I liked the tenth station, where Jesus gets nailed to the cross. They did that well."

Alec and Nofa Winterstein have been coming to the service for more than 20 years.

Yesterday, they had their youngest daughter Yvannah, 4, with them.

Holding onto her daughter's hand as she scrambled about the mountain, Mrs Winterstein said the service had been an important part of her family's long weekend tradition.

"It's lovely to be here. It makes it all real."