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Sulmona: Easter Rapresentation

Easter performances in Sulmona have ancient roots, and it is thought they are Christianity fitted versions of ancien heathen rites performed in early Spring in order to wish good harvests and an enduring freedom.
The processions are organized by two different Confraternities:
The Holy Trinity, which organizes the Procession of the Dead Christ on Good Friday evening, and the Confraternity of the St. Lady of Loreto (or "of the Grave"), ehich is responsible for the "Madonna che Scappa in Piazza" (The Madonna running in the square) on Easter Sunday morning.
Rivalries between the two Confraternities have always been heated so that each one organized its performance within the limits of their parish territory. The current organization provides a kind of sharing between the Confraternities.


(Processione del Venerdì Santo)
Sulmona, 400 mt
The Good Friday Procession
The procession, also known ad the procession of the Dead Christ, sees the participation of hundreds of brethren wearing the traditional red habit, symbol of the charity flame, adorned with a white wimple ( a cloth standing from the neck to the breast) of Spanish origins and with a badge more or less wide according to the importance of the person wearing it.
The procession leaves the Holy Trinity Church at seven o' clock (there is actually a traditional and pleased delay) preceded by a brass band playing famous dead marches. The long line covers the main city roads with a well defined disposition, which sees at the beginning a square of lamps surrounding the "Trunk", a Cross covered with red velvet and silver ornaments. Then a group of paired lamps at the borders of the street, closed by a small group od children with the Passion symbols.
After them there is the choir, composed by 120 choristers divided into tenors, barytones and basses, singing different kinds of Miserere; it's one of the most spectacular parts of the procession and thus the most aimed. Soon after, the Priest precedes the Christ's Coffin, followed by the Statue of the Virgin, dressed in a black cloth which will be left only at the moment of the Sunday "run" in the square. The procession is closed by the gonfalon and the civil, militar and religious authority representations, and by a lot of believers.
Late in the evening the procession comes back to the Holy Trinity Church after a pause on the parvis of the Church of the Grave and the crossing of the very crowded main street.


(Madonna che Scappa in Piazza)
Sulmona, 400 mt
"The Madonna running in Square"
The representation of Sunday Easter takes place at Midday in full of people Piazza Garibaldi. At 11:30 the two statues of St. Peter and St. John the Evangelist enter the Square, the two Apostles who, according to the Gospel, were the firts to became aware of the Resurrection. The Statues move toward St. Philip Church: under the three arches we can see the Statue of the Resurrected Christ, which is set on a red baldachin. All around there are many lamps-bearer of the Confraternity of St. Lady of Loreto, dressed in a white surplice and cordon with a green cape , symbol of hope and of the new season, and wearing the traditional plaque.
Meanwhile, the two Saints knock on the Church main door to announce the Virgin the Resurrection, and She, still dressed in black clothes, comes out incredulous after three announcements. Out of the door She moves toward the place marked by the Apostels who follow Her. Opposite the Fountain, the Madonna sees Christ, She leaves her black clothes, unveiling a shining green dress and a joyful pigeon flying, and runs toward Her Son.
At the end of the run there is a great many crackers let off, the band playing, a burts of applause and the moved embrace of the nrethren to the four runners who are elected from year to year. From the good performance, the right falling of the black cloth and from the pigeon flying, the citizens of Sulmona derive wishes for the new season and the next future of the city. It is the most moving moment of the entire Easter period and the citizens live it between hope and tension. The ceremony ends with the procession, after the confusion following the arrival of the Madonna, coming back to the Church of St. Lady of Loreto, after covering the main street.

English version by Marco Paolini

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