Good Friday in Italy

Covid-19 has caused us all to shutter ourselves away from the world, away from religious and traditional gatherings. I hope to bring a little glimpse of the beauty of Holy Week to you, my readers, by sharing footage from a past Good Friday in Taormina, Sicily.

Good Friday is the most solemn of days in the Christian calendar. It is when Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and buried in a hasty manner before sunset on the Sabbath, one day after his last Passover Seder supper.

Italians celebrate every holiday, whether religious or secular, with enormous thought and traditions which have lasted many centuries. In the little mountainside town of Taormina in Sicily, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site, exceedingly beautiful in it’s moorish medieval architecture and view of the Mediterranean Sea, they celebrate with an elaborate funeral procession — the kind only the most prominent of all men could ever hope to have — complete with a figure of Christ in a crystal casket.

The first experience of an Italian procession is odd. Why do they take their figures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints out of their churches and parade them around the town? Do the statues need air? Why are the streets so packed? What is the fuss all about?

The truth is, this is one thing in life which must be experienced to be fully understood. There is a rhythm, a beauty, which transcends the ages in these celebrations. For once, there is no pushing or shoving (the Italian normal status when in a line), instead, there is respect and order and a feeling of communal sharing bringing intense spiritual joy. Yes, spiritual joy, even though the grief and the sadness which pervades this Good Friday ritual is so honestly moving it can bring a lump to your throat.

Taormina is full of churches, so in the video you will see several figures of the crucified Christ. We think of funeral marches like those of Mahler — somber and severe. The Taormina band is almost festive in comparison. Figures in mourning-black line the streets and then join the procession. As the mass of mourners follow the casket that winds through steep, cobble-stone streets, day falls into night. Electric lights are extinguished and only the glow of torches light the snaking parade of people.

I hope this video lifts your spirits no matter where in the world you are. We may be closed in this year and forbidden our Holy Week traditions, but 2021 will be a new year and hopefully we will all be out and celebrating once again.

Join me for a look at Easter in Modica, Sicily on Sunday!

God Bless You!

Diana Belchase

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