Many towns and villages are getting ready for Easter events in Abruzzo, some of which have origins going as far back as the Middle Ages. Even not religious people can appreciate the beauty of these traditional celebrations deeply rooted in the region’s culture. Here is our round-up of some Easter events to include in your festive plans this year.
La Processione di Cristo Morto in Chieti
One of the oldest not only of Abruzzo, but in the whole of Italy, the Good Friday procession in Chieti is certainly the most solemn and spectacular Easter events in the region. While its origins, according to a legend, date back to the 9th century, in its current form the procession exists since the 16th century. Local confraternities dressed in hooded tunics walk through the dark streets of the historic center carrying various stations of the cross symbols accompanied by 150-members strong orchestra and choir, who perform the poignant Miserere, an 18th-century composition by Saverio Selecchy (see the video below).
If you go: The procession begins at 7pm at the San Giusto Cathedral. Free parking will be available at Chieti Tricalle with regular shuttle buses to the town centre.
Holy Wednesday in Gessopalena
The small town of Gessopalena hosts a fascinating theatrical re-enactment of the Passion of Christ every two years. A centuries-long tradition was stopped in the 19th century but came back in 1965 to the delight of the locals. Scenes of the Passion are staged in different locations of the village: on the main square, in the church yard, along old streets, with the most dramatic, the Crucifixion, played at the top of the hill, among the ruins of the old part of the town destroyed in the World War II. Local music and theatre schools participate along with the town’s residents. Keep an eye on the upcoming announcements on the events’ page.
Giovedi Santo in Lanciano
Organised by the local confraternity Morte e Orazione di San Filippo Neri, the procession of Maundy Thursday is solemn and almost hypnotising with its beautiful music written especially for the event in the 19th century. The confraternity members dressed in long black tunics carry flame torches and symbols of the Passion of Christ. The central figure is il Cireneo, who is chosen by the Prior shortly before the ceremony as a reward for his dedication and passion for the brotherhood. Il Cireneo, barefoot, carries the heavy cross in the procession. Watch the beautiful video below to immerse in the atmosphere of the event.
If you go: The procession starts at the Santa Chiara church at 10pm. You can arrive earlier to see the preparations.
The Running Madonna in Sulmona
On Easter Sunday, Sulmona hosts La Madonna Che Scappa in Piazza, the famous revocation of the moment when Mary sees her risen Son. The statue of Madonna is carried by the Confraternity of S. Maria di Loreto’s members along the main street. When they arrive to the central Piazza Garibaldi, at midday, they pull the black mourning cape off the Madonna to release 12 white doves and run towards the statue Christ. The run accompanied by the excited applause of the people in the square, bells ringing and music. For more details see the confraternity’s website or their Facebook page. Read about the event in the April, 2022 issue of ABRUZZISSIMO Magazine (you can purchase it here …).
If you go: The event starts with a mass at 9am. It attracts thousands of people, so arrive early.
Venerdi Santo in Ortona
On Good Friday, early risers can see the processions of the stations of the cross symbols, which starts at 5am at the Chiesa del Purgatorio. In the evening at 8pm, another procession departs from the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie. It is lead by a group of 250 women, all in black. In the past, they were mostly widows, who lost their husbands at sea. See the details of this year’s procession on the organisers’ Facebook page.
Talami Parade in Orsogna
The festive Easter period is finished with the ancient rite of the Talami di Orsogna that take place on Tuesday after Easter. During the procession, with roots in the Middle Ages, locals, mostly school kids, create seven living biblical pictures on portable stages. Six floats are put on tractors and one, like in old days, is carried by local men. Little girls posing as Madonnas are especially endearing!
The English traveller Anne Macdonnell, who saw the event in 1907, described it in her book as follows: “They are rough and, sometimes, grotesque, but full of strength and originality and owe more to traditions and less to the deteriorating taste of bad lithographs than one might imagine.” In the past, it also had a pagan symbolism of a rite for good future harvests. If you go: The celebration starts at 10am with fireworks and continue with the parade and traditional music. For more details see the event’s page.
Sacred Thorn of Vasto According to the tradition, the Sacred Thorn of Vasto (Sacra Spina di Vasto) from the woven crown that was placed on Christ’s head before his crucifixion was donated by the princes D’Avalos to the city’s Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in the 17th century. One week before Good Friday it is carried in procession on the streets of the historic center after the evening Mass (see the video below). The programme is published on the confraternity’s website. There is also a solemn procession on Good Friday in the city in which hundreds of locals participate.
Easter Monday Pasquetta
Easter in Abruzzo means big feasts and picnics. On Easter Monday, many people pack picnic baskets and head for parks and picturesque mountain locations to celebrate Pasquetta. Most restaurants offer a Pasquetta menu. One of the liveliest places for Easter Monday is Ristoro Mucciante in Campo Imperatore, where you can buy meat, sausages and arrosticini to grill outdoors.
By Antonio Bini. Featured image: Madonna Che Scappa in Piazza. Photo by Paolo Di Menna