Holy Week in Sicily
The celebration of Easter in Sicily is a mixture of the sacred and the profane, capable of arousing deep popular participation. The Holy Week is a series of performances and processions re-enacting and commemorating the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The organized celebrations are complex and deep-rooted in traditions, creating a little world in itself. A devoted island like Sicily is no stranger to sumptuous and heartfelt religious celebrations: the Festival of Saint Agata in Catania is the third most important Christian event in the world, and cities like Siracusa and Trapani attract thousands of visitors every year, one for Saint Lucy’s Day and the other one for the Processione dei Misteri. As far as central Sicily is concerned, celebrations of the Holy Week in the two main cities of the area are famous within the international Christian community for their magnificence and the heartfelt commitment of the whole citizenry.
Both cities are famous for their careful preservation of ancient traditions whose roots are in the Middle Ages: ancient confraternities used to exercise strong power within the cities, and are nowadays in charge of the organization of the celebrations of the Holy Week, of which they are the main protagonists. Members of the confraternities lead the parades, singing hosannas and prayers. Both celebrations start on Palm Sunday; however, if you don’t want to miss the most sensational and impressive events of the Holy Week in both cities, be sure to attend Holy Thursday in Caltanissetta and Good Friday in Enna. The two cities are just a 35 minutes’ drive far from each other; Caltanissetta, closer to the province of Agrigento, overlooks the Valle del Salso and provides a lovely view of the hills surrounding the area. Enna is situated in a historically strategic position in the centre of Sicily and the city that can be seen today, is the result of the medieval development during the Aragonese period.
Sixteen “Vare” or “Misteri”, huge finely-crafted commemorative sculptural groups depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ, are decorated with flowers and candles and carried around the historical centre of Caltanissetta during Holy Thursday: it’s the most enchanting moment of the whole week that has made this celebration famous worldwide. Music bands join the members of the confraternities in the decoration of the Misteri, but cheerful melodies are replaced by grieving funerary marches as soon as the sun sets. Devoted citizens follow the parade together with the music bands and the members of the confraternities; prayers, hosannas and fireworks greet the parade that reaches the Piazza Garibaldi in the early morning.
The longest parade in Sicily takes place in Enna during the night of Good Friday: an intimate, heartfelt and extraordinary event with all the members of the confraternities of the city, about 300 men, wearing white hooded costumes and a torchlight, and carrying on their shoulders the statues of Jesus and the Holy Mary together with a precious silver cross that contains one of the Holy Thorns of the crown of Christ from the Dome to the town cemetery and back, ca 3,7 km. Thousands of visitors reach Enna to see this sensational event, often made even more striking by the fog as well as by the funeral marches and songs in dialect.