|Good Friday, Trapani, Sicily|
|One of the statues...very sad scenes.|
I watched, quite transfixed, as the first of the statues emerged from the church porch, inched over to one of the ecclesiastical gents, paused for a blessing, then slowly processed off down a side street. Each statue was not only carried by a large entourage of men, but was also accompanied by its own 40 or 50 piece band, a bevy of strange religious acolytes (children in red Klu Klux Klan hoods, young girls carrying sheathes of roses, little children with golden wings, serious boys with candles on poles), and – importantly – representatives of various town guilds carrying the banners and insignia of their Guild. It is said that the statues were granted in trust, by deeds, by the Brotherhood of St. Michael the Archangel, which instituted the rite in the late 16th century, to the members of the local Guilds in exchange for the promise to carry them during the passion procession every Good Friday. And a promise made is a promise kept, in Sicily.
Most impressive of all were the men carrying the statues. Each wore a suitably solemn expression, most were in suits and ties, or the uniforms of their guilds. There were young men and old men, all with a bowed-down stance and a long 24 hours ahead.
I watched for about an hour and a half, and saw five or six of the statues emerge. For each one, a new group of acolytes assembled, and a new band appeared (where all these people were marshalled remains a wonder). I was thinking that it might be time to move on, that perhaps most of the statues had now emerged, when a conversation in the crowd around me revealed that there are in fact twenty of them. Twenty! By my reckoning, it would take about six hours for them all to emerge and join the procession. I retired for a well-earned gelato.
|'The littlest musician.'|
|A closer inspection...|
There are some wonderful photographs of the Misteri di Trapani on this site.
|Marsala's two statues, on the advertising poster.|
|A sorrowful sight.|
And what Madonna she was! The artist had created an epitome of agony. All along the street, as she was carried past, grown men had tears in their eyes, everyone bent their heads and crossed themselves piously, an old lady watching from her balcony wept openly. I was a little aghast. The Madonna had a silver sword piercing her heart! Made the hairs stand up on the nape of my neck, I must say. Very Sicilian – the agony and hardship of all those centuries of oppression transmogrified into their religious observance.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get any dinner in Marsala that evening. Everyone was so sad and lachrymose. But in the end, Marsala came through, with the fresh fish I by now demanded. Hopefully everyone would cheer up on Easter Sunday.
Here is quite a long clip of the parade in Trapani, very well filmed. Listen to a little to get the flavour of the dirge and the seriousness, and the involvement of the whole community in this centuries-old ritual.