This post has been fixed on my calendar since January.
Every three or four months, I sit down and brainstorm ideas about things I could write in my blog. I make a list of many things but only a few of them make it to the actual blog. Some of them become other things, some others just end up in the trash can, some others become blog posts.
When I thought about Easter, I was super excited at the idea of writing about one of the most unique Italian Easter celebrations: the procession that takes place on Good Friday here in Savona. I was excited because it takes place every two years and this was the year when it was supposed to happen, after four long years (the 2018 event was canceled due to bad weather).
I had planned to go there, take some pictures and then describe this incredible event here, on this blog. But then the Coronavirus pandemic happened and the procession was one of the first events to be canceled, back in March. When I heard the news, I thought that maybe I should postpone the post until next year but I really wanted to write about it and I have decided to go on with my plan.
The post is going to be a bit different from what I thought, there won’t be pictures but I am sure the post will be interesting for you because this event is really unique and it deserves to be wider known than it is now – and hopefully this post will inspire you to come and visit my city, who knows?
This event is definitely the oldest and probably the most beautiful in the city – even for a non-religious person like me. The Good Friday Procession in Savona takes place every two years, in even years, since the end of the thirteenth century and it is still followed by a huge crowd because it is more than just a religious event.
The procession starts at 8.30 pm from the city cathedral and unwinds in the old part of the city, ending in the city main square after slowly passing through the center of Savona. The procession is opened by a wooden crucifix carrying all the symbols of the Passion and it is closed by a reliquary with the relics of the Holy Cross.
Between these two elements, there are 15 precious statues – called casse – that belong to the six confraternite (brotherhoods) of the city. Each statue is very heavy – between 500 and 1800 kilos – and requires up to 20 people each to be carried around the city. Some of the statues are really old and the oldest of them dates back to 1623.
Brotherhoods in Savona have a long history. They were part of a series of oratories, established around the city cathedral between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, which were religious centers but also centers for social aggregation. The oratories were destroyed in 1542, shortly after Genoa conquered Savona, and only six of them were gradually rebuilt. They own prestigious works of art and can be visited on the day of the procession, when the statues are on display before being taken outside.
Besides its religious meaning and the works of art that are on display, it is an incredibly spectacular and emotional show. Even if there are always a lot of people attending the event, along the city streets, there is an incredible silence and the only thing you hear is the religious music and the beating of the hammers of each capocassa (the men that guide each statue) that give the time to the camalli, the carriers, who have to carry the immensely huge statues.
The itinerary is only a bit more than a kilometer long but it takes a long time to walk it because, given the huge weight of each statue, carriers need to stop very often and each team must be replaced frequently. As a matter of fact, there is a total of 700 carriers taking turns to carry 15 statues only.
It is very difficult to describe such an event but there is a video on YouTube that shows the solemnity of the celebration. This event is very dear to the Savonese people and people gather in the city way before the beginning of the procession to be able to see it.
As I said, in 2018 the event was postponed due to bad weather – the old statue cannot endure rain – but this happened other times in the past and has always been a sad moment for the city. The reason for postponing is way more serious than just some rain this year, so let’s hope the procession will take place in two years’ time, in a happier and more relaxed setting.
Do you know other meaningful Italian Easter celebrations? I’d love to know!
If you are looking for interesting ways to practice your Italian daily, I’d suggest you check my brand-new program called Giorno dopo giorno, a daily Italian practice.
If you sign up to Giorno dopo giorno, you will receive an email every other day for 365 days. Each email will contain a prompt, a little exercise, something to watch, read, listen or something that will gently force you to practice your Italian every day, making it part of your daily routine.