THE MADONNA WEARS D&G
Easter Week in Sicily
La Settimana Santa (Holy Week) in Sicily is full of religious - and a little pagan folklore - festivals which start on Palm Sunday, the week before Easter, and culminate on Easter Sunday.
If you have never visited at this time of the year, or any time of the year, then now is the best time to come. Spring flowers are at their best with the heady gorse and broom perfuming the waysides. Wild peonies can be seen at high altitude in the mountains along with other orchids native to this area. Sicily has woken up from its short winter and is at its greenest and lushest now.
So travelling inland to visit one of the hinterland towns, to assist in an Easter procession, is Sicily just like you imagine it to be. All the locals are out dressed in their Sunday best and observing the age old traditions of following the saints, Virgin Mary, and Christ deceased through the town to the mother church where mass is held. Every town has a brass band playing solemn music to accompany the processions and you, as a visitor, are given a warm welcome and encouraged to join in the festivities.
This year we decided to visit the town of Aidone, near Piazza Armerina, on Palm Sunday as we had heard there was a particular procession called I Santuna, which translated refers to the large giant-sized figures of the 12 apostles from the Last Supper who parade through town. They are celebrating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and the blessing of the palms. This particular festival goes back to the 1600s and is probably of Spanish origin. The giant figures have paper mâché heads and hands while the rest of the body is made out of a rigid frame into which the santari, boys who volunteer, insert themselves to carry the giants through town. Each saint carries something different in their hands but all are carrying a bunch of spring flowers which denotes the season of abundance.
When the saints reach the mother church the doors are barred which symbolises the refusal to welcome the messiah into Jerusalem. So they try to break the door down by pushing on it. Matthew succeeds in the end but stands back to let the other saints pass through in hierarchical order.
The saints are back out on Easter Sunday but in rather more energetic mode. They actually run through the streets in search of Christ resurrected. If you see the little narrow streets and the size of the saints you will realise that it’s no mean feat!
Another town of the Madonie, Polizzi Generosa, is famous for its Good Friday procession instead.
If the Devil Wears Prada, here the Madonna wears Dolce & Gabbana.
Domenico Dolce of D & G fame, was born in Polizzi Generosa and is still very much attached to his roots visiting the town once a year and donating whenever needs be. Last year he decided to dress the participants of his late father’s confraternity who parade in the Good Friday procession. The men wore black cloaks with the D&G logo and this year the women were also dressed by Domenico in a very Sicilian black lace dress with matching veil, black coat and velvet kitten heels adorned by a solitary gemstone. Very elegant in a sober way but the real star of the show is the Madonna Adolorata.
She also wears black lace embroidered with gold thread and strewn with Swarovski and precious gemstones. The float on which she stands is also covered in Swarovski. Her veil is certainly a masterpiece in needlework but unfortunately can only really be seen on Good Friday although the mayor of the town insists that if you phone before you will be able to see her by appointment. For obvious reasons she is kept under lock and key for most of the year.