The thousand facets of Easter in Sicily

Sunday Easter

Sicily lives the Eastern rites in a very intense way ; almost all the towns, even the smallest villages, implement suggestive processions and ceremonies related to ancient local traditions, capable of involving all the inhabitants.

The ritual of the Incappuciati in Enna
The rites of the Holy Week in Enna date back to the period of Spanish rule, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. During this period the sovereigns authorized the Brotherhoods, already existing as corporations of arts and crafts, to constitute themselves as religious organizations to assist the poor, the sick and those in prison.

Of the original 35 brotherhoods today there are only 15 and today’s brothers are no longer the miners or farmers they used to be, but modern professional people, students or employees. The only restriction has been admitting men only.

The brothers must adhere to a strict regulation that establishes the clothing during the procession. Essentially, the costume of Enna brothers consists of a long white gown, tied at the waist by a girdle, a scapular, the colored cape (or mantilla, of Spanish derivation) white gloves, the cap with the visor down and a wicker wreath on their heads to symbolize the crown of thorns brought by Jesus Christ during the ordeal.
It ‘s really impressive to observe the long procession, characterized by the various shades of colors of the garments, which vary from brotherhood to brotherhood, and help make the Good Friday procession highly choreographic.
From Palm Sunday to Holy Wednesday the Brotherhoods, following a shift system according to which each of them parade during a day and time set out, depart in procession from the church to the Cathedral they belong to, for the rite that in Enna is called the”Ura “, that is the adoration of the Eucharist.
On Palm Sunday the procession , recalling Jesus and the apostles going to Jerusalem , starts from the Baroque Sanctuary of Papardura. The procession goes up to the city, followed by the band and by a large number of believers , as far as the Church of San Leonardo .
In Enna the Good Friday celebrations have even been included among the Attraction events at international level and, each year, attract tens of thousands of people from Sicily and Italy.
The Holy Week celebrations culminate with the Procession of Peace ( “a Paci” in dialect), which takes place in Piazza Duomo and during which the Virgin and the Risen Christ are carried in procession to the Cathedral . At this point the black veil which until then covered the face of the Virgin, falls down.While the bells ring loudly ,the two fercoli run towards each other, then they are brought inside the Church where they will remain for a week.
The atmosphere is special if you consider that until the sixteenth century, the Easter Sunday was the only occasion of meeting between the inhabitants of the city and the peasants who had been relegated to the western side (called Monte). During the whole year a wall divided the citizens of Enna from the farmers; the wall was located where today there is Piazza Matteotti, the square known precisely as Balata square. The farmers could enter the city only on Eastern Sunday and throughout the following week.

Procession Incappucciati Enna

Easter Incappuciati procession Enna

Arbëresh Easter to Mezzoiuso (PA)
The Arbëreshë Easter is typical of the town of Mezzojiuso (Pa), but it refers to a Greek -Byzantine rite which also links other Sicilian communities, such as Palazzo Adriano, Entellina Contessa, Santa Cristina Gela, to the presence of the Albanians in the island.
The celebrations follow each other from the Palm Sunday on , when we commemorate Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem. Enchantment and excitement accompany the Holy Thursday, when the rite of the washing of the feet takes place, the processions of the Good Fryday and the Solemn Easter Pontifical (Pashkët) with the songs of the resurrection of Anestis Kristos (Christ has risen) .
The arbëreshe celebrations remind us not only of ancient rituals and sacred functions, but also of their surviving for more than five centuries in a non-native territory.
Easter Arbëreshe, therefore, constitutes an enclave of Oriental culture in the middle of the Western one, representing a multicultural model of ethnic ,linguistic and religious integration .
This old , unique culture has been an object of curiosity, study and analysis for a long time .
It is a celebration that is even more important today because of the peaceful union of different cultures living in the same territory .

Byzantine Easter

Christ at the Column, Licodia Eubea (CT)
The Holy Week begins on Wednesday evening with the procession of the “Christ at the Column” which is carried by the believers into different churches, welcomed with songs and prayers characteristic of the country.
The celebrations continue on Thursday with various re-enactments of the Last Supper ,while the Good Friday is marked by various rituals; in the morning , in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele ,there is the encounter between Christ and Our Lady of Sorrows, who is covered by a black cloak. In the afternoon the Christ, accompanied by a long procession of devotees carrying on their shoulders a very heavy cross and intoning ancient folk songs, gets to Mount Calvary where Our Lady of Sorrows reaches Him.
From Mount Calvary the two statues of Christ and the Addolorata are brought to the Capuchin Church . The devotees go into church to be reconciled with Jesus, because they are guilty of His crucifixion. During these moments, it is clearly visible the excitement of the believers participating in the commemoration of the martyrdom.
Later in the evening from the Capuchin church another long procession moves following the dead Christ who is carried in a coffin to the Cathedral.
At Licodia Holy Saturday represented in the past a very suggestive moment; at noon, in the Cathedral ,the ceremony of the “calata a Tila” took place : the fall of a rectangular shape linen cloth, woven from the young virgins of Licodia and painted by a painter of Palazzolo Acreide depicting all the passion of Christ , revealed the image of the risen Christ.
The fall of the canvas had an extraordinary importance for the popular beliefs ,in fact if the farmers folded it neatly , there would have been a rich harvest, on the contrary they feared a bad year. So you can imagine with how much trepidation and anxiety Holy Saturday was expected. The function was suspended on the eve of World War II, but the canvas has been preserved and is now on display in the Cathedral as a document of this ancient tradition.
The manifestations of the Holy Week end on Sunday afternoon with the “Giunta”, namely the encounter between the risen Christ and the Virgin wrapped in a black cloak ; the two statues are carried on the shoulders by some youngmen .
Licodia Eubea Easter

Easter Licodia Eubea

Photo Credit Salvatore Campagna
The rituals that recall the Passion of Christ are many and all very special in our island as a testimony that the mixture of sacred and profane celebrations has managed to create a very special moment of great pathos to be experienced .

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