In Piazza Armerina: the Good Friday procession - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

April 19, 2019

In Piazza Armerina: the Good Friday procession

One thing we were hopeful of in coming to Sicily at this time of year is that we would see an Easter festivity or two.  We tailored our itinerary a bit with this in mind, knowing that some of the interior towns have significant events and celebrations.  So far we’ve seen only a fairly modest Palm Sunday procession in Noto, but we’ve seen posters in other towns announcing processions on other nights - but not the night we would be there.

So, we were excited when our host Arianna told us that there was to be a procession in town tonight.  It would begin at 7, end at the cathedral, and pass directly beneath our window.  Based on our experience in Noto when the procession began a half hour early, we walked around to the cathedral at 6:30, and stood around looking for signs of activity.  We didn’t see much, other than a few other spectators milling around.  I occupied my time taking photos of the church and plaza, while Rachael checked out menus.

The facade of the cathedral
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Villa Imperiale de la Casale
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Eventually, Rachael intuited that we must be in the wrong spot and noted that people were walking downhill to the streets below.  We followed, asked another pair of walkers for confirmation, and arrived at the piazza in front of the Church of Santa Veneranda where we joined a crowd of perhaps two thousand and watched the beginnings of the procession.  A scaffolding was erected in front of the church, and for the next fifteen minutes a team of white clad men painstakingly assembled the statue of Christ.  Eventually, their work done, the procession began.  The statue’s thirty or forty bearers left the square into the street as the crowd parted before them, and proceeded to carry their obviously heavy burden down the street toward the city below.  The band, which had been standing in waiting all this time, fell in behind and began to play a somber melody.

I thought this was the complete procession, but then the statue of Mary emerged from the church born by black robed women, and was soon followed by a third statue (Christ again, but down off the cross?) and a third team of bearers.  They too fell in line and proceeded down the street, followed by a huge share of the assembled crowd.

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Raising Christ
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Adding a corona of lights
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Raising a series of small children, but I missed just what they were doing - touching him, or kissing his feet perhaps?
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All the while, the band stands in waiting.
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As does a crowd of probably a few thousand.
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Finally, perhaps twenty minutes later, the procession slowly begins to leave the square.
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There are at least 30 men here, possibly more. Nothing about this looks easy or comfortable.
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It is a very stop and go operation, and well choreographed. It looks quite exhausting, really.
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Leaving the square, with the band in tow.
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Mary emerges from the church, carried by her bearers.
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In queue, waiting for clearance.
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And Mary joins the procession.
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And the third statue, and its bearers.
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And finally, the people of the town follow in afterwards. It feels like half of the town’s residents must be here this evening.
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The crowd splits. Most, I think, follow the procession. Many though, like ourselves, walk the other direction and disperse.
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What an amazing spectacle.  Talking this over with Arianna at breakfast in the morning, she tells us that there are many such processions on the island, each of them unique.

We walk back up to the cathedral and sit down for an outstanding dinner at La Locanda, the restaurant Rachael had been eyeing earlier.  In keeping with the rest of the day, this proved to be one of the finest meals of the tour.  While we ate we kept an ear out, thinking we might hear the procession arrive at the cathedral; but all was silent.  After our meal we returned to our room, worked with videos and the journal, and flipped out the lights a bit before 11.  What a unique, full day this has been!

Two fish dishes sounded wonderful, so we ordered both and split them. On top, swordfish crusted in almonds, pistachio and sesame seeds. Below, spigola (sea bass) with Prosecco, saffron and pistachio.
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A look back down into town before we head back to our room.
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But wait - there’s more!  Not long after 11 we start hearing sounds in the distance, gradually growing louder.  It is the procession, finally arriving at the cathedral after nearly four hours on the steep streets of the city.  I step out onto our small balcony to observe as it passes directly below our window.  It is quite humbling to watch, contemplating how exhausted many of these participants must be.   

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Andrea BrownWow, that was really interesting. The song they were singing was unfamiliar to me, as a (former) American Catholic. You will probably see all the statues under cloaks in the cathedral on Saturday if you peek in.
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1 month ago
Kathleen ClassenAmazing. Absolutely amazing.
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4 weeks ago