The Holy Week in Umbria

The Holy Week in Umbria

The Holy Week in Umbria

Throughout Umbria, Easter recalls old celebrations, in particular religious rituals without forgetting more festive traditions.


Easter time is a moment that brings with it a deep spirituality and mysticism, where religious rituals are full of deep meanings which have their roots in a religious faith but also in many old popular celebrations and in the rural culture, which celebrates awakening nature and a new life cycle beginning.

Holy Week celebrations do have a long history in the whole of Umbria, told by its religious rituals and not only, really unique and peculiar which do involve every place, from the small village to the capital city.

In Assisi, Easter is surely a moment of great intensity: Easter Triduum rituals are among the more characteristic of Umbria. On Holy Thursday in the S.Rufino Cathedral takes place the Scavigliazione (the Deposition from the Cross), a tradition that is inspired by a fourteenth-century laud about the Passion called “Scavigliazione Laud”. On Holy Friday morning, the Death Christ is moved to the S.Francesco Basilica with a route that reaches principal convents. At night, with the town illuminated by torches, kicks off the suggestive Brotherhoods Procession, to whom do take part all old Assisi confraternities: from S.Rufino you go to the S.Francesco Basilica and then bring back the Death Christ to the Cathedral. In these two sanctuaries is celebrated the Memorial that ends with the Mass. Easter Sunday starts with the inevitable Umbrian Easter breakfast.

A fourteenth-century tradition takes place on Holy Friday in Bevagna with the Death Christ Procession. The Confraternity of Mercy components, in black tunic and purple cordon, they walk with torches lights along the village streets, in a very emotional representation creating a mystic atmosphere. The main characters of this procession are the three Cross-Bearers (representing Jesus Christ dressed in red and the two Thieves dressed in black), the Virgin and Veronica, the Confraternity of Mercy and the three Mary. The Cross-Bearers wear on their heads a thorny crown and a cord on their neck and they carry out barefoot with a cadenced gait, accompanied by the sound of chains. On Easter Sunday will take place the Run of Risen Christ: the Christ wooden statue is carried on the shoulder by four Confraternity members, from the Seminar Church to San Michele Arcangelo church; when the Gloria is sung this statue is rushed along the central nave of the church up to the high altar. In the afternoon is celebrated the Rinchinata, the reunion between the Christ and the Virgin Mary statues: when they will bow (carriers will bow provoking the contact among the statues), church bells will ring in celebration. nbsp

In Città della Pieve, into the suggestive Palazzo Orca underground, on Easter Sunday and Monday are represented some Living Pictures. Passion, Death and Resurrection Christ topics are represented by about 40 figurants, with some scenes focused on the Last Supper, on the Garden of Gethsemani, on the Ecce Homo, on the Flagellation, on the Mercy of the Death Christ and on the Resurrection. These scenes are inspired by the examples of Italian pictorial tradition, specifically by that one of the seventeenth-century: a tribute to the artistic wealth of the city that gave birth to Perugino and Antonio Circignani also called “il Pomarancio. Scenes are particularly exciting because of its careful reconstruction based on the Holy History. nbsp

The Death Christ Procession of Città di Castello does have an old tradition over eight hundred years. For this event old town lights are turned off; the procession, high heat lit up, is formed by the religious authorities, among which the Buon Consiglio Confraternity members that have a centuries-old connection with dead men and with the Passion of Christ. In the past, indeed, they were in charge of human remains transport, in fact they were called “Company of the Good Death”. The members of Buon Consiglio Confraternity have inherited this accompanying role of the Christ Deposition simulacrum, carrying out the old tradition of the Holy Friday procession.

In Gubbio, the Death Christ Procession is a symbolic representation of the Passion and Death of Christ which involves over the centuries the social and cultural fabric of the Stone City. This procession is opened by brethren clothed in sackcloth who do play the “battistrangole” (instruments that provoke a scrap metal sound), followed by brethren that bring the skull representing the Golgotha and Passion symbols. Then the Death Christ and Our Lady of Sorrow statues, wooden sculptures of local craftsmanship, they walk together. Behind the statues the singers intone the “Miserere”, a popular song passed down through oral tradition. This procession crosses the main streets of the town, starting by nightfall from S.Domenico Church in Giordano Bruno Square, and during its passage some big fires are lit in certain points of the route.

In the old village of Montone are still alive any medieval traditions with the Donation of the Holy Thorn, a historical evocation sponsored by Unesco which does celebrate the old County of Braccio da Montone.
Between the 1470 and the 1477 Carlo Fortebracci for his military virtues inherited from his father, the famous Braccio Fortebraccio, fighting in the service of the Republic of Venice he received a Thorn of Jesus crown, which brought as a gift to Montone; he decreed the celebration on Easter Monday. According to legend this Thorn flourished on Holy Friday emanating a sweet scent: the attraction was so strong to attract thousands of pilgrims. From 1798 the Holy Thorn is guarded by sisters into the S.Agnese Convent and it is shown twice a year: on Easter Monday and on August in occasion of a historical evocation of the Thorn donation, when the three districts will challenge to win the Palio and to elect their own Castellana, who in the history was Margherita Malatesta from Rimini wife of the Earl Carlo, to finish then with the Grand Historical Pageant Gift of the Holy Thorn.

During the Way of the Cross, Spello, indeed, becomes an open-air art gallery: its fourteen stations that celebrate the Passion of Christ become source of inspiration for international and national artists, who realize some paintings to place in the most significant locations of the old town according to catholic iconography that reminds the stages of the Christ sentenced to death towards the Getzemani Mount. In this Auteur Cross of the Way, from S.Andrea Church to S.Lorenzo Church, the fourteen stations do become stops in front of the paintings, in a dimension where spirituality, emotion, participation and culture do create a really unique atmosphere. You can admire these pieces during the whole Holy Week.

Montefalco does have a festive tradition, that one of the Risen Christ Gloria. This is the evocation of an old religious and popular tradition: on the Holy Saturday night, the wonderful eighteenth-century wooden statue of the Risen Christ burst forth into the S.Bartolomeo Church which, as if by magic, is ignited of lights while all the town bells ringing.

There are many traditions connected to those ones most popular which symbolically celebrate the joy of the “rebirth” and the start of a new life cycle. Like that one of Pietralunga, where on Easter Sunday along the square citizens will challenge in an egg contest with the Tocciata: players are placed in the middle of the square with an egg on their hand and alternately they hit that one of the opponent; who remains with the egg intact go ahead in the competition. According to tradition who wins, will bring home the opponent eggs and they are shared with the family during Easter lunch.

Also in Ferentillo the contest with eggs blows is the protagonist of Lu Ciuccittu: the three Matterella Terzieri, Sacrato and Borzino will compete in three games among the Easter Sunday and Easter Monday to win the field golden Egg…while all eggs used during the game do end up in the final classic truffle omelet!

In Panicale indeed, on Easter Monday, will take place the traditional game of the Ruzzolone, which consists in throwing a big piece of cheese making it rolling around on the floor as a wheel. Wraps itself the piece with a canvas bandage equipped with a wooden handle, you let swing the cheese wrapped in the bandage firmly kept with your hand by your side and then you throw it with such force and precision along the set route. The winner is who gets first the goal with the whole cheese and with fewer launches.

Easter time celebrations ended with La Sbeccia which does take place on Holy Tuesday in Spello: it is the celebration of Our Lady most dear to inhabitants of the village. According to historic tradition, the wooden image of the Virgin which is venerated in the S.Lorenzo Church was gifted to Spello citizens from S.Bernardino from Siena in the 1483. It is the custom for Foligno people, during the afternoon of this day, to travel to Spello to celebrate the “Sbeccica”…and to taste the vernaccia, a typical sweet wine of this area.