La Settimana Santa or Holy Week in Caltanissetta, Sicily
Be transported to Sicily for Easter with an in-depth discussion about how Sicilians celebrate these most holy holidays.
Holy Week in Sicily is epic, and the citizens of Caltanissetta, Sicily are serious about their celebration. Join me, Allison Scola owner/curator of Experience Sicily, for a conversation with local, expert guide Alice Bifarella, during which we learn about the beautiful traditions of La Settimana Santa.
Alice Bifarella, Professional Tour Guide
Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week around the world—that is, the week leading up to arguably the most significant Christian holiday, Easter. For more than 400 years, citizens of Caltanissetta, a city of approximately 63,000 in the middle of Sicily, have practiced various rituals recognizing Holy Week, or La Settimana Santa.
Contemporary traditions include a series of emotional and theatrical events such as a live theater production of the Passion of Christ staged at various sites around town, 16 brotherhoods processing statue scenes (both large and small) of the Stations of the Cross accompanied by marching bands hailing from all over Sicily, and solemnly parading in bare feet “Il Signore della Città,” a sacred wooden statue of the Crucifixion found in a cave by herb collectors centuries ago. With origins reaching back to when Sicily was ruled by Spanish nobility, Holy Week in Caltanissetta is an extraordinary display of ritual pageantry.
Born and raised in the heart of Sicily, Alice Bifarella is a licensed, professional tour guide. Enthusiastic and extremely passionate about her work, Alice leads her guests in what she imagines as her own “wonderland”: Sicilyland! A native of Caltanissetta, Alice received an international education before choosing to return to her roots. She earned a degree in classics from the world-renowned Alma Mater at University of Bologna and a postgraduate master’s degree in art history and archaeology from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. In addition, she studied one year in Seville, Spain and took part to several archaeological digs all around the Mediterranean. From the beginning of her career, Alice has focused on promoting archaeology and art to the general public, working as a museum educator for different institutions. She teaches history and archaeology and has been co-curator of exhibitions as well as authored many publications.
Listen to and Watch Our Conversation About Holy Week in Caltanissetta
Highlights of Holy Week in Caltanissetta
- Palm Sunday – The Procession of Jesus of Nazareth, marking when Jesus entered Jerusalem.
- Monday – Part I of a movable theatrical presentation of The Passion of Christ
- Tuesday – Part II of the movable theatrical presentation of The Passion of Christ
- Wednesday – Afternoon procession of the La Real Maestranza (the Royal Workers, a “local army” recognized by the king as protectors of the city ); Evening procession of “Le Varicedde” (20 miniature statue scenes of the Stations of the Cross)
- Holy Thursday – An evening procession of “Le Vare,” 16 guilds and brotherhoods process life-size statue scenes of the Stations of the Cross through the city until late into the night
- Good Friday – The solemn procession of the sacred statue of “The Lord of the City” or the “Black Christ” through the city streets.
- Holy Saturday – No activities
- Easter Sunday – High Mass, Closing of Holy Week
Further Information and References
Video Presentation of Holy Week in Caltanissetta
La Settimana Santa Caltanissetta Website
(From where the photos used in the broadcast originated.)
Caltanissetta Holy Thursday Footage from 1943-1947 (From YouTube)