The week before Easter is marked by rites, processions, and religious services that combine faith, tradition, and folklore. The rituals begin with short palm processions in churches during Palm Sunday. Tuesday marks the start of the procession of Our Lady of Sorrows’ Madonna dei Massari’s picture, which will meet the Madonna del Popolo on Wednesday afternoon.
Every church is decorated with “sepulchres”, elaborately decorated altars that recall the Last Supper, on Holy Thursday. The highlight of these celebrations is the exciting Procession of the Mysteries Trapani, which is performed by 18 statuary groups, made of wood and clothes kneaded in glue. It evokes episodes from the Passion of Christ. Jesus follows all statues in the urn, as well as the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. The local Guild members carry the sculptures over their shoulders during the longest of all Sicilian Processions, which last from Friday afternoon (around 2 pm) to Saturday morning. (source turismo.trapani.it)
Good Friday in Erice The Procession of the Mysteries
The “Misteri” march through Erice on Good Friday. It consists of four 18th-century wooden statuary pieces, each covered in cloth and glue. These depict the Passion of Christ. The statue of the buried Jesus is behind them. Next to it, is the wooden statue of Our Lady of Sorrows (16th Century). They are taken from San Giuliano where they are kept year-round. The mourning music and the crowds that follow them seal the atmosphere. (source turismo.trapani.it)
Holy Thursday, Marsala The Via Crucis
The Via Crucis, which is performed on Holy Thursday by living characters who walk along the main streets in Marsala, is one of the most important Holy Week rituals. The dramatic scenes when Jesus is crushed under the cross’s weight are not to be missed! The touching Crucifixion reenactment is also held on the same night! A large number of people attend the Good Friday procession that includes the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows and the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
Holy Week in Enna
One of the most dramatic and moving processes in the world is the Holy Week of Enna. This event is attended by more than 2,500 frat brothers, the City council, and the Clergy on Good Friday. The brothers prepare all items that will be carried by the procession to the 16 churches, which are the headquarters of the confraternities. The Holy Week of Enna is rich in symbols that are related to traditions and customs that have been passed down through the centuries. One symbol is the custom of covering the faces of the brothers with their hoods. This was once prohibited in the past. The processes are accompanied by a marching band playing sad music composed by Enna musicians.
Pietraperzia. Lu Signuri di li fasci
In the church of Maria SS. del Soccorso is well-known as “Carmine”, and preparations are ongoing for the evening procession.
The protagonist of ” Lu Signuri di Li fasci ” (literally, ” lu signuri di li faci “) is a beam made from cypress wood and ends in a cross.
The beam is 8.50m high, which includes the “Vara”. It is carried out of Chiesa del Carmine at sunset, where it lies in a horizontal position in the churchyard.
A circular structure of the metal is attached to the top beam. The circle is then encircled with white linen strips measuring approximately 32 meters in length and 40 cm wide. Any faithful must show an entry ticket to allow the counting of the strips in order to tie his band. These bands are for devotees to balance the long wooden beam along the long procession.
In the meantime, an additional traditional rite takes place inside the church: A member of the Confraternity spends all afternoon laying red ribbons on the Crucifix’s body, known as “misureddi” or “small measures”. These small measures, once blessed by the contact, are tied to devotees forearms and ankles.
The confreres carried the miraculous Crucifix outside the church with a touching gesture (“a ppassamanu”) while praying and shouting the brief prayer: “Pieta e misericordia Signuri”. (My Lord, have mercy upon me)
The Crucifix will then be attached to the large cross immediately after the “rise-up”.
The “Vara” carrier will repeat this prayer in procession each time they are urged to carry the heavy load on their shoulders by a double stroke of the hammer.
A colored glass globe is placed at the foot of Christ the Cross, which is the symbol of the whole world and all its diversities. It is dominated by Christ’s saving Grace.
The globe is internally lit by four lamps, which makes the polychrome pop.
San Fratello. Feast of the Jews
San Fratello is located in the province Messina. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are the Jewish festivals. They are shrouded with a mix of sacred and profane rituals.
This tradition is a result of a perfect symbiosis between folklore and faith dating back to the Middle Ages.
It all began in 1276 when a small group of odd characters was called the ” Brotherhood of Flagellants“. Today, they are more common and are known as Jew. As bizarre as their clothing and unbridled actions are, so is their colorful and unusual attire.
Red jackets and trousers are worn by the pair, with different colored strips of cloth on each side. The hood completely covers their head. It is a mask that has a large, shiny, dangling tongue. This, along with a large mouth, and two very long eyebrows gives the mask its monstrous and grotesque appearance. Their shoes are made of raw leather or fur, and a multitude of trumpets and wide-meshed chains hang from their fingers.
San Fratello is crazed for two days. The Jews run, cross the roads, climb walls, balance on balconies and houses, jump, play and flee, making it a deafening pandemonium and sometimes even scaring people.
Easter at Prizzi The Devils’ Dance
“U Ballu di diavuli” (Devils’ dance) is a folkloristic-religious tradition related to the Easter events taking place in Prizzi, in the Palermo area.
Its origins may be from the Middle Age. There is clear evidence that it was used in pagan celebrations at the start of spring, which focussed on the triumph of life, or the rebirthing of the vegetation.
Some masked devils dressed in red suits together with the Death and wearing yellow-ochre dresses have been roaming the streets of the villages, performing tricks and “catching” people. They will only be released if they receive donations (money, sweets).
The afternoon ends with the devils trying to stop the meeting of the statues Christ and Virgin Mary, which are expected to reach the main square. The angels that escort the statues of Christ and Virgin Mary oppose this evil effort. This struggle is made up of specific rhythmic movements and is known as the “dance of devils”. After the devils have been defeated, the Virgin Mary and the Risen Christ can be reunited and good triumphs over all.
Easter in Modica The Madonna Vasa Vasa
The Feast of Our Lady Vasa Vasa, (kiss, kiss) is also held on Easter Sunday. This event is a must-see for both locals and tourists. It is difficult to accommodate the large number of people who are moving towards Santa Maria di Betlem for the traditional “Bacio di mezzoggiorno”, (noon kiss), between the Virgin Mary, and the Risen Christ. Our Lady and Christ, carried on the faithful’s shoulders, search for each other along the main street.
U Gioia is the Easter celebration that takes place in Scicli. It is the most beautiful Easter celebration in Sicily. The Easter celebrations end with the sorrowful atmospheres being wiped out by the joyful atmosphere created by the sciclitani (Scicli’s inhabitans). This festive atmosphere involves everyone in a vibrant procession that takes men and objects in a rainbow of colors and sounds. This is the Feast of the U Vivu (Living Man), or “U Gioia”.
Many artists, photographers, journalists, and musicians have been captivated by the magic of Easter in Scicli. Vinicio Capossela is one of the most well-known artists to have witnessed it. In fact, the song “Uomo vio” (Hymn To Joy) was written by the songwriter. It was inspired by the Celebration in which he was involved with devotees and bearers as well as singing in the main square.
Easter in Piana degli Albanesi
Easter rites in Piana degli Albanesi are very evocative. The place’s heritage and traditions, including the richly embroidered costumes of women and the language, clearly show its Albanian heritage and tradition that has been maintained for over 500 years. The Byzantine Rite celebrates the amazing Easter Mass. It reflects the unchanging identity of the locals and deep cultural roots.
Holy Week in Caltanissetta
Caltanissetta the Holy Week is marked by special rites. The Holy Thursday tradition began around 1700 with the parade of the small “Vare”, called Misteri. It is similar to the mystery of “Passion of Christ”.
Over time, the procession has seen many changes in its route and the number of Statues that symbolize the Way of the Cross. Today there are 16 Statues after adding the Addolorata (Our Lady of Sorrows), and the Sacred Urn. These statues, made of wood and paper-mache, were created by Biangardi’s father, and son. They were commissioned by Caltanissetta’s ancient social classes (bakers, miners …), and other brotherhoods).
On Thursday evening, the “vare”, decorated in flowers and fruits, will reach the main square at sunset. They will be followed by musicians from across Sicily.
The procession continues through the historic center, stopping at the end of the night to return to Piazza Garibaldi. Here, the final act is performed: the “Spartenza”, which is the separation of the “vare”.
Caltanissetta’s Good Friday evening is a time of silence and mourning. A procession is led from the historic church “Lord of the City”, in the San Francesco district. It is the Black Christ (Black Christ), which is named after its dark color and deeply revered by all citizens.
According to tradition, the Crucifix was discovered in the same cave by two “fogliamari”, wild herb pickers. The devotion quickly spread and it became “the Lord of all the city”. Today, the “fogliamari”, who are from all classes, wear a purple tunic, and as a sign to penitence, they carry the gilded wood crown that guards the Black Christ on the shoulders. All around them, everyone tunes the , while lamentations in archaic Sicilian language.
All the masters (craftmen representatives), dressed in mourning clothes, are led by the bishop, and then the clergy, nuns and monks. A large crowd follows the Black Christ, most of them barefoot, to absolve themselves from their vows or to ask for graces.
Easter in Sinagra. Race of San Leone
Since ancient times, the Easter Sunday symbol in Sinagra has been’ a Cursa’ (Race of Saint Leo). The patron saint’s statue is carried on the shoulders of devotees during a long, slow procession that begins at the Church of San Leone in the countryside. The procession changes dramatically as the afternoon approaches, ending in a typical onward rush to reach the Main Church. The procession’s initial slow pace is symbolic of Leone’s inability to return to Catania, where he holds his episcopacy. While the final race symbolizes his decision to stay with Sinagra. It’s an evocative event that attracts thousands of people each year. Easter Monday is a day of celebrations that continues with the parade of the saint through the streets of the village as well as the traditional “Easter Monday Fair”.
The spectacular and captivating ” Archi di pasqua” (Easter Arches Festival) is the result of an artistic-craft competition that is quite rare in Sicily. The “Madunnara brotherhood” (devotees of Virgin Mary) and “Signurara confraternity” (Jesus devotees) work on cane-structures construction projects. These will be the frames for magnificent artistic decorations made from citrus, bay leaves, and bread in all shapes and sizes. Corso Umberto, I will become San Biagio Platani’s main street. The magnificent artistic works – domes, arches, and bell towers – will then be placed. This charming village, Agrigento is transformed by the elegant decorations and the nighttime lighting into an open-air, welcoming lounge. The highlight of the event is the reunion of the Risen Christ with his Mother Mary on Easter Sunday, in front of the Main Church.
Easter in Caltagirone ‘A Giunta
Easter Sunday in Caltagirone, a large open-air festival held throughout the city’s streets, is very popular.
It is composed of two epic points, “A Giunta (the encounter), and “A Spartenza (the separation), in which the simulacra San Pietro and the Risen Christ meet and then split again.
Local people and tourists crowd Piazza Municipio in large numbers. The Staircase Santa Maria del Monte transforms into an enormous parterre, where everyone claims a spot to view the event. The most important and dramatic moment of the Feast is “A Giunta”. This is when St. Peter meets the Risen Christ within a short distance. They then proceed through Via Infermeria, crossing Piazza Umberto and finally arrive at Piazza Municipio, the true stage of the ancient reunion, to deliver the joyous message to Virgin Mary. This reunion is the reason for the name “A Giunta”. (Source Comune di Caltagirone official page)
Easter in Petralia Sottana. U ‘Ncuontru
The Holy Week at Petralia Sottana is marked by the touching and joyful ” Ncuontru” (the encounter) on Easter Sunday at Noon. The bells ring joyfully to announce Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the early hours of the morning. The Brotherhoods prepare for their traditional costumes at this time. The Brotherhood of SS carries the statue of the Virgin, which is still in black, over its shoulders. Rosario and the Brotherhood of the SS. The simulacrum is carried by Sacrament. They are taken in procession through the old town along various routes. Then they stop at fixed points, the “Chianu”, and the “u Culleggiu”, and wait for the sounding of firecrackers. The Risen Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other statues begin to move and then they see each other. Finally, they run into one another. The Mother recognizes her son and removes her veil of pain. Mother and Son hug one another amid applause and tears, songs of joy, flight of white doves, and sounds of firecrackers. An engaging, joyful, liberating ceremony, almost a good luck ritual. The two statues are placed face-to-face immediately afterward. They then cross the old city and return to the Main Church. (source Ufficio turistico Comune di Petralia Sottana)
Good Friday in Barrafranca U’ Tronu
The Procession of the Crucifix U Tronu (the Throne), is the most awaited moment of Good Friday, Barrafranca in the area of Enna.
The procession of the Holy Crucifix starts late in the evening after all liturgical celebrations have ended. It is called “U Tronu” by the locals, after the device that lifts the simulacrum when it leaves the church. To indicate the location of each carrier, two ” Baiarde” (wooden beams) support the ferrcolo (the sedan it lays on).
The Crucifix is covered in hundreds of ex-votos of gold given over the years by the faithful. It is located in the middle of the “Sphere”, an oval wood structure made of oak. Just before the procession, it is placed within the “World”, a bigger sphere that is located on top of a trunk two meters tall.
The Statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Urn of Dead Christ, leave their churches and head to the Main Church where they will join the procession of Crucifix. The procession begins once they reach “U Tronu”, led by the Urn Of the Dead Christ. Next, the Addolorata and San Giovanni, then the band, and finally, the “Tronu”.