Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter in Enna

We parked on the edge of town and admired the incredible view of Mt. Etna from this distance. Enna is a hill top town, or city, I should say. It is the capital of the province of Enna. And its most well-known traditions, inherited from the Spaniards who ruled here in the 16th-18th centuries, revolve around the week of Easter. We were here to experience one of these traditions ourselves, the Good Friday torchlight procession, the longest of its kind in Sicily. 

As we walked on the main street the atmosphere was one of anticipation. Shops were open. Residents and visitors were united as one, perched on ledges, huddled in doorways, mingling in small groups,  waiting together for the parade to begin. The air was cool, downright cold in fact. I thanked my foresight for the winter attire I had brought along, gloves and hats included. 

We got as close to the main cathedral as we could. The sound of somber music drifted in our direction, our queue to be still and join the others lined up on the sidewalk, making way for the oncoming surge of cloaked figures heading straight for us.

The procession was made up of members of the dozens of churches of Enna. Friendly locals standing next to us filled us in on the details. Each church was represented by its own confraternity, identifiable by the colors of their cloaks, the style of hood that completely covered each members head and face, the torches they carried. It would take them several hours to reach their destination, the cemetery, where they would take off their hoods and turn around and retrace their steps back to the cathedral.

A sea of white hoods passed us slowly at first, then more quickly. The atmosphere of anticiatption had subsided and was replaced by a somber silence that was quite impressive given the massive numbers of people gathered in such a small space. Sicily is usually such a noisy place! But nothing loud was happening with this crowd. People purposely talked in hushed whispers. But of course, they were behaving exactly as they should. This was a funeral procession. The hood-covered heads, the flowers, torches and black flags the devotes carried, were all symbols of the sadness and suffering this day was meant to represent.

The initial eeriness of white hooded figures flowing past soon dissipated, making way for my own silent curiosity. It was impossible to not try and look at the hooded figures directly in their eyes, visible through shadowed cut outs. Some were wearing glasses. Some were young. Others were old. All, according to my friendly resident informant, participated in this event with pride and eagerness. They wanted to take part in their city's most sacred of traditions and make the more than 3 kilometer walk to and from the cemetery that night. Even small children! Later I realized that almost all of these procession-ers were male. A handful of young girls did partake in the event, but rather than wear hoods they were dressed as nuns and carried flowers.

We lost count of the confraternities as the procession continued on. And just when I thought my cold toes and fingers could take it no more, we heard music yet again. The procession had stopped. There was a canopy. Important members of the church seemed to be walking under it. I later realized they were waiting for the two statues that were being carried by 40 or so men each to catch up to them before they continued on. They headed towards us finally, sad music playing, silent faces moving past, first bearing the weight of the coffin, then bearing the weight of the grief stricken mother. No grunting with the weight of carrying the carved and decorated wood could be heard. No expression of discomfort. Silent eyes and somber faces captivated all of us as we watched them slowly make their way down the hill.


  1. Lovely to read about your life in Sicily. I do hope we can come and visit soon!! Valerie

    1. Hi Valerie! Thanks so much! We hope you come visit us soon, too. It will be great fun!


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