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Holy week in Umbria
Places of worship
Discovering the villages of Umbria

Holy Week in Umbria

On the occasion of Holy Week, set off on a journey through Umbria to discover the region’s oldest and most fascinating celebrations.

Easter attracts great celebrations characterised by evocative representations throughout Umbria. Experiencing Holy Week in this land of ancient spirituality becomes an opportunity to relive centuries-old traditions rooted in the territory. Follow an itinerary that will take you through authentic ceremonies and events, allowing you to discover the region’s rich cultural and spiritual heritage.

Stage 1
Città di Castello

The itinerary starts in Città di Castello, a town located on the north-western side of the region. Here, on Good Friday, the Procession of the Dead Christ takes place, one of the oldest in the area, with a tradition dating back more than eight hundred years.

The procession, illuminated by torches, is composed of the religious authorities of the town, including members of the Confraternity of Good Counsel or “Compagnia della Buona Morte”, in charge of transporting the corpses in the past. The participants are crossbowmen, magistrates, captain of the people and armigers. Those carrying the deceased wear black robes with long hoods, while the mace bearers carry a skull on a red silk pillow, accompanying the simulacrum of the Dead Christ.

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Stage 2

About 22 km from Città di Castello is Montone , immersed in the hills of the Upper Tiber Valley and deeply connected to the history of the Fortebraccio family. According to tradition, in the ancient village, Easter Monday is celebrated with the Donation of the Holy Thorn, a historical re-enactment sponsored by UNESCO that commemorates the ancient County of Braccio da Montone. This event is an anticipation of what will be the great feast in August, during which the donation of a Thorn from the crown that pierced the head of Jesus, offered to the people of Montone by Braccio Fortebraccio’s son Carlo, is commemorated.

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Stage 3

Travelling slightly northwards for about 18 km, one reaches Pietralunga. In this medieval village on Easter Sunday, walking through its “vigoli” to the main square, you can watch the Tocciata, an exciting contest to the last egg!

The fun challenge involves players standing in a circle, each with a hard-boiled egg in hand, taking turns hitting their opponent’s egg. Whoever manages to remain with the egg intact continues in the competition. According to tradition, the winner goes home with all the eggs won over his or her opponents and shares them with the family during Easter lunch.

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Stage 4

The journey through the region’s Easter traditions continues for 23 km to the ancient city of “ceri”, Gubbio, where on the evening of Good Friday an evocative procession takes place that dates back to the 13th century.

The religious procession departs at dusk from the church of Santa Croce della Foce and is opened by brethren dressed in white sackcloth, who play the “battistrangole” making a clanging sound. Others carry a skull as a symbol of Golgotha, the hill of hangings, and those of the Passion of Christ. The procession continues with the singers of the Miserere, an ancient folk song, which lends the sacred rite a unique mystical atmosphere.

During the procession, large fires light the way at certain points along the route through the main streets of the city, adding a touch of charm to Gubbio’s Easter tradition.

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Stage 5

An unmissable stop on the itinerary is Assisi, the city of Saint Francis, located on the slopes of Mount Subasio about 53 km from Gubbio and 28 km from Perugia. In this fascinating context, during Holy Thursday the Cathedral of San Rufino hosts the intense rite of the Scavigliazione, the deposition of Christ from the cross, a tradition inspired by a 14th-century lauda on the Passion.

On the following evening of Good Friday, the impressive Procession of the Dead Christ takes place, tinging the streets of the city with torchlight. All the confraternities gather in the Cathedral of San Rufino and then accompany the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows to the majestic Basilica of San Francesco, before returning to the Cathedral with the dead Christ.

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Stage 6

Just 12 km from Assisi, the spirituality of Easter merges with art to give life to an extraordinary event in the picturesque town of flowering alleyways, Spello, which during Holy Week is transformed into an evocative open-air art gallery thanks to the Via Crucis D’Autore.

This religious itinerary, which passes through churches and historical sites, includes fourteen stations set up with works of art by national and international artists, all related to the theme of the Passion of Christ.

The route of the Stations of the Cross begins in the church of San Lorenzo and ends in the church of Sant’Andrea, linked by the fourteen stages which, in addition to displaying beautiful paintings, become an opportunity to hear the Gospel message in a space where spirituality, emotion, participation and culture converge to create unforgettable moments.

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Stage 7

A 25-minute drive from Assisi takes you to Bevagna, in the heart of Umbria, to witness a tradition of 14th-century origin that is renewed on Good Friday with the Procession of the Dead Christ. The members of the Confraternity of Mercy, in black tunic and purple cord, parade by torchlight through the streets of the village, in a performance of extraordinary emotional impact.

The protagonists of the procession are the three Crucifiers dressed in red Thieves and the two dressed in black who, together with the three Marys, walk barefoot accompanied by the sound of chains. Worthy of note is the Running of the Risen Christ, held on Easter Sunday, when the wooden statue of Christ is carried running up to the high altar of the Church of St Michael Archangel.

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Stage 8

Even in the charming village of Montefalco, located only 7 km from the previous stage, an evocative performance takes place every year: on the night of Holy Saturday, a rite of popular tradition, the Glory of the Risen Christ, is renewed in the village, symbolically celebrating the joy of “rebirth” and the beginning of a new cycle of life.

This event represents the re-enactment of an ancient religious custom in which the splendid 18th-century wooden statue of the Risen Christ, carried on the shoulder, makes its entrance into the church of St Bartholomew amidst the ringing of bells and the firing of firecrackers.

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Stage 9

Travelling 44 km from Montefalco, heading south-east, you can reach Ferentillo. Surrounded by the green Valnerina valley, this small medieval village offers an egg competition called “Lu Ciuccittu”: between Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, the three Terzieri of Matterella, Sacrato and Borzino compete in three games to win the coveted Golden Egg, while all the eggs used in the games end up in a tasty final truffle omelette.

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Stage 10
Città della Pieve

From the Valnerina, head north-west for about 130 km to witness an exceptional event: the Quadri Viventi (Living Paintings), an almost theatrical representation of the life of Jesus that takes place in Città della Pieve on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

In the basement of the Palazzo Orca, as many as 40 figurants represent the themes of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, inspired by the Italian painting tradition of the 16th and 17th centuries. In each room of the palace, it is possible to relive all the moments of the Passion, in particular those of the Last Supper, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Ecce Homo, the Flagellation, the Pietà and the Resurrection.

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Stage 11

The route ends in the area of Lake Trasimeno, in Panicale, a village perched on a hill with a splendid view of the lake. Here, on Easter Monday, the traditional and entertaining competition of the Ruzzolone takes place, which consists of throwing a large wheel of cheese that is rolled on the ground like a wheel.

To take part in the challenge, one wraps the cheese wheel with a cloth band fitted with a wooden handle. With skill and strength, participants let it swing while holding it firmly with their hand along the side and then throw it with precision along a predetermined path.

The winner is whoever reaches the finish line first with the fewest throws and, of course, with the cheese intact!

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