Last week on Venerdì Santo, or Holy Friday, it is the traditional day for the Processione del Cristo Morto, a mournful procession representing the carrying of Christ after he has been taken down from the cross to his burial. Usually, a statue of Christ’s body laying on a bed is carried followed by a statue of the Virgin Mary dressed in black and weeping for her lost son. The processions take place after dark and often only by torch light, and are some of the most moving religious expressions I have experienced here in Italy. Last year I witnessed Amalfi’s impressive Venerdì Santo procession, but each town on the Amalfi Coast has its own traditions. To see something different this year, we decided to see how Holy Friday was celebrated in the towns of Ravello and Scala, high up in the mountains above Amalfi.
The Duomo of Ravello was striking, lit up against the black night sky. When we arrived the procession had already left the Duomo and was making its way through the stepped walkways of Ravello toward the Church of Santa Chiara near the Villa Cimbrone. We could hear the deep voices of the male choir and the marching band echoing through town. We crossed the Piazza Duomo and headed toward the procession, which we met just as it arrived at the Church of San Francesco in Ravello. Here is a video of the procession as it was leaving the church where you can see the statue of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Listen to the deep male voices in the choir. I’ve never heard anything like it on the Amalfi Coast, and the tour guide said it reminded him of processions he saw when he was working on the island of Sardinia many moons ago.
We followed the procession as it slowly made its way back to the Piazza Duomo, accompanied by a mournful song played by a marching band from the Vallo di Diano down in the Cilento. The procession continued its long path to the other end of Ravello, but for us it was time to hop in the car and cross the Dragone Valley to see what was happening in Scala for Venerdì Santo. The doors to the huge Duomo of San Lorenzo were open and the light flooded out into the dark piazza.
All around on every ledge and windowsill were little red candles – the only lights in the piazza and along the streets of Scala. The photo below is a little out of focus, but it does capture the feel of the red lights against the old stone buildings. Across the valley we could see the lights of Ravello, and the sound of the procession making its way through Ravello echoed all the way from the other side of the valley.
Here is a video of the procession leaving the Duomo of Scala and leading to the Church of Sant’ Alfonso, where it turned around and returned. You can hear the church bell in Scala … it was 9:15 PM if you’re counting!
Here is a video of the procession returning through Scala where you can see the statue of Christ and the Virgin Mary better. The Vernerdì Santo procession in Scala was very simple, but in its simplicity was one of the most beautiful. There was no marching band or crowd of tourists, just the people of Scala carrying on a religious tradition that has been celebrated here for centuries.
I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend! And, if you celebrated in Italy, I’d love to hear about Venerdì Santo and Pasqua traditions in other areas of Italy. Next year I plan on visiting Minori for Venerdì Santo as I’ve been told that they light candles on the sea along the beach. I love discovering these traditions in Italy and seeing how much they vary from one village along the Amalfi Coast to the next!