So, as of Sunday Sicily is now in its most exciting time of year— Holy Week. Holy Week (La Settimana Santa) starts on Palm Sunday, and in Sicily sees the start of a number of unique events. If you are looking to experience the true, authentic Sicily then you really should visit during Easter.
Sicily’s Unique Easter Celebrations
Holy Week is the time of ancient rites and processions that have their origins in medieval times. As the name suggests they are of course related to the Christian faith and approach of Easter. Whether you are religious or not however, the spectacle is very real. The congregation of towns and communities, joining together in the human experience makes for an incredible atmosphere.
Wherever you are in Sicily over the Easter period you’re sure to be within range of at least one of these events. The site Sicilia in Festa has over eighty of them listed.
Some are more famous than others. I’m lucky enough to live in the city of one of the oldest and most spectacular—Trapani. Their procession is on Good Friday and lasts almost 24 hours! The province of Trapani has several different processions. They commence with the procession of the Living Pictures on Palm Sunday in Buseto Palizzolo.
The Procession of the Living Pictures
Inspired by the rites of other towns in Trapani province, this procession at Buseto Palizzolo is a fairly recent addition to the Holy Week celebrations as this year’s procession was only the 37th edition of the Living Pictures.
In just a short time however, it has cemented itself as an important feature of Holy Week in Trapani province. Experiencing it up close, it’s easy to see why.
The event consists of a procession of Living Pictures which depict the story of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. The ‘mysteries’ are beautifully crafted sets which form the backdrop to still scenes which volunteers faithfully maintain throughout the entire procession which lasts almost 6 hours.
Bands playing funeral marches accompany the Living Pictures as they travel along the route. This lends the entire display a rather austere nature.
The Mysteries start out in the parish of Santa Teresa del Bambin Gesù in Badia before winding their way up the hillside to the centre of Buseto Palizzolo. The procession is headed by a wooden crucifix dating back to the 1500s. The procession ends when this crucifix is returned to its place in the Madrice church at around midnight.
The dedication of the volunteers forming the pictures should not go unrecognised. They hold their poses religiously (pun intended). Standing on one leg on a crucifix for 6 hours is no mean feat. Neither can it be much fun ‘sleeping,’ eyes closed, atop a platform being pulled through the winding streets of a Sicilian countryside town.
And therein lies the magic of Holy Week in Sicily. The dedication that ordinary people have, to create something so atmospheric. Their physical investment, in addition to their time and dedication. That’s what makes Sicily so unique. The ephemeral nature of their acts, that swallow up whole towns and villages and then regurgitate them hours later as though nothing had happened. That is a quintessentially Sicilian trait.
Nowhere is this more true than Trapani on Good Friday. Stay tuned to the blog to witness some of Sicily’s most intense physical exertions in the creation of one of Sicily’s most enchanting Easter spectacles.