Easter in Sicily
Next weekend is Easter. Good Friday 10 April and Easter Sunday falls on 12th April.
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Starting on Good Friday through to Easter Sunday in Salemi and then highly recommended is to spend Easter Sunday in Trapani, there is a spectacular procession…
Sicily’s Easter processions and celebrations are the most famous in Italy. They are the legacy of the 17th century Spanish domination of the island, and still bear a close resemblance to current Easter traditions in Spain.
“I Misteri” procession, in Trapani, represents the most important traditional event of the year for the local community, attracting many of visitors.
The roots of this tradition can be traced directly back to Spain. During the XVII century, the brotherhood “Confraternita del Preziosissimo Sangue di Cristo”, that existed in Spain since the XV century and was founded in Trapani in 1602, commissioned local artists to create statues representing various moments of the passion of Christ.
The brotherhood, that was later merged with the preexisting Confraternita di San Michele, is now known as the Confraternita di San Michele Arcangelo. Over the years, the costs and difficulties of taking care of the statues and the organisation of the procession called for the involvement of the local Maestranze (working categories such as grocers, fishermen, bakers, butchers, etc.) that took on an increasingly predominant role over the years.
The Maestranze organised the Holy Friday procession and each one of them was responsible for a specific statue of the Misteri. Even today, each maestranza is identified with a Mistero and often the statue is called with the name of the maestranza itself. For example, the statue representing the Deposition scene is taken care of by the Tailors and represents them.
Currently, there are 18 Maestranze involved. On the first Friday of the Lenten period they do the “Scinnuta” (in Sicilian this means to take something down) of the statues, exposing the statues to the public so that people can admire them. There is strong competition among them, so details regarding the procession, such as the final decoration of the statue on Holy Friday, are kept secret until the last minute.
The actual procession lasts 24 hours and is accompanied by local marching bands. The statues are taken around Trapani on the shoulders of volunteers, i portatori, that walk with a particular step called “annacata” rocking sideways.
If you visit Sicily during Easter you should not miss the chance to see these ancient rituals, if you are not in the area of Trapani, you will surely find a town in the area you are visiting with similar traditions.
Easter week in Sicily is a time of evocative festivals and parades that recall the death of Christ. The via crucis processions take place all over the region with the crowds who accompanied Jesus through his last tragic hours.
One of the most famous procession is in Trapani and is called “I misteri” it is a parade of a group of sculpted religious statues from 17th century and 18th century in a procession in the historical centre lasting for more then 16 hours from Good Friday to Holy Saturday. After this intense and for same aspects fascinating night, on Good Saturday, at about 1 p.m., I Misteri (the Mysteries) are carried back to the Church of the Purgatory (P.zzetta Purgatorio, church builded in 1688). What makes this religious procession unique is the tension and the passion of each participant.
Another interesting procession is In Modica. On Easter morning, the statues of the resurrected Christ and Virgin Mary are taken outside the church , this procession in Sicilian dialect is called “A Maronna Vasa Vasa” (Madonna that finds her son).
Early Sunday morning the statue of Christ is brought out of the church Santa Maria and a procession carries him through the city. The Madonna is brought out half an hour later looking for the Christ. So, there will be 2 different processions through the main streets of the historical centre where the statues will “search” for each other. At noon the two statues will meet in the square in front of the church. The finale is very exciting, the black mantle slips off the Virgin shoulders revealing a blue mantle, the crowd cheers as the Madonna kisses her son. This is the sign that Easter is arrived.
Dance of the Devils. (Il Ballo dei Diavoli) A religious drama held in the main town square of Prizzi that is a small village situated in Sicily inland, not far from the famous Corleone. (Piazza Umberto I) The Dance of the Devils is performed by villagers wearing large and terrifying iron masks and pretend to be devils dancing through the streets collecting the souls of the villagers.
Feast of the Schietti in Terrasini (Palermo) It consists that the unmarried men demonstrate their strength to the local girls raising an orange tree with only one arm ( the tree weights about 50 kilos)
Piana degli Albanesi (Palermo) The Easter celebrations in Piana degli Albanesi, (Albanian community) feature sacred music and Greek-Orthodox rites held all over the town,. There are sacred musical pieces performed on Good Friday narrating the passion and death of Christ.
Interesting is also a folk representation in Adrano, little village that lies near the foot of Mount Etna, (Catania) called the Diavolata and Angelicata. It is a verbal battle between five devils led by Lucifer and angel impersonated by a child. Ofcourse it ends with the triumph of good over evil.
On Good Friday in the main square of Pietraperzia, Piazza del Carmine (Enna province) there is a big celebrations with a spectacular procession by over 500 participants.
An interesting event happens on Easter Sunday in Gangi (in Palermo province) there are various rituals and processions with an unusual competition between saints. Devotees of the Madonna compete against those who venerate Jesus. The main event consists of creating the best decorations in the Duomo square.