The “Procession of the Risen Christ,” Easter evening

The Good Friday procession followed the Stations of the Cross, visiting the churches and chapels in old, historic Spello, and featured pairs of paintings matching the progress of Christ toward his crucifixion with the numbered Stations. On Easter Sunday, the procession celebrated the Risen Christ, beginning at the Santa Maria Maggiore church.

I encountered the procession coming uphill with a young altar boy carrying the Cross and leading the way, accompanied by Graziella, my neighbor (I was not exactly surprised.) Many of the residents of Spello are related in some way, and I would not be surprised if there were one of her grandsons carrying the cross.

Somehow, I was not surprised to see Graziella leading the procession, or at least "coaching"

Behind the cross came the priests, including the one who celebrates mass at Santa Maria Maggiore, and townspeople were either watching from the sidelines, or following the procession up the hill.

Behind the Cross were the priests, coming to the Oratorio

The next appearance was the Spello band, absent from the Good Friday procession, but enthusiastically playing as they headed uphill toward the Oratorio of San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist). No one looked up from their music as the band went by, made of adults and young adults, and mostly brass instruments.

The Easter procession was a celebration, and included music from Spello's band

The Spello band heads up the hill to the Oratorio

The next appearance was a surprise to me. I’m sure Graziella must have explained to me what was going to be included in the procession, but I must have not understood what she meant. The “larger than life-size” wooden sculpture of Jesus, with his flag indicating that he was the Risen Christ, was being carried on a platform supported by the shoulders of some of the younger men, almost rushing up the hill to the Oratorio.

The sculpture of Christ and its medallion are carried up the hill to the Oratorio

As the group passed carrying the Christ, I could see all of the people helping hold up the weight, and assisting the group with climbing up the hill carrying the weight of the sculpture on their shoulders.

The bearers get a little help up the hill from others behind them

The band stopped to play outside the church, filling the piazza with music.

The band played outside the Oratorio, as the procession followers arrived

As the men carrying Jesus arrived at the door, they had to lower the platform nearly to the ground to get the medallion behind Christ through the door without damage.

The medallion proves to be almost too large for the doorway

A moment later, when the inner doors to the church were reached, the medallion was removed from the mounting on the sculpture, and Jesus was again lowered to pass under the doorway and into the sanctuary.

The medallion must be removed to fit the sculpture inside the inner doors to the Oratorio

Hoisted back up on shoulders, and then carried up the center aisle, the Jesus sculpture was being brought back home to its regular place, and positioned carefully on the pedestal at the side of the church.

Christ returned to the Oratorio, where this sculpture is normally displayed

Carefully moving the sculpture back into place

Successfully placing the sculpture back into place in the chapel

The priest and altar boys were at the altar, prayers were offered for the Risen Christ, and the followers gathered in the church after the procession.

Easter prayers and a short homily were offered up by the priest

From there, the priest left the church and began to lead the followers downhill to the Santa Maria Maggiore church, again, where the procession had begun.

The procession heads downhill, back to Santa Maria Maggiore

Inside the church was a special Easter program, presented by the Medieval Music Department of the University of Florence. To the background of music played on medieval instruments, including lutes, a small flute, and an ancient type of violin, a play depicting the three Marys arriving at the empty tomb of Jesus was acted out for the people in the church. The melodies and harmonies were medieval, and men playing the angels who had met the grieving women at the door of the tomb opened the drapes at the front of the church to reveal that Jesus was not there, in the tomb.

The angels appear, giving notice that Christ had risen

They told the Marys that Jesus had arisen, and the Marys then found the garment of Christ left behind, before he appeared before them, ending the small play.

The Marys hold the raiment of Christ, risen and no longer in the tomb

The church was packed with several hundred people; probably most of them from the processions up and then back down the hill through Spello. The group slowly departed from the church, heading home for the evening, and Easter (“Pasqua”) was over for this year.

I’m delighted to have had the chance to see the Easter processions—both Venerdi Santo (Good Friday) and Pascua (Easter), and I thank Graziella for making sure that I knew about the two processions (I didn’t, before she told me), and I thank Irmy for sending me home to catch the Good Friday procession when I had promised to stay another day with her. I don’t know when I will ever see these two processions again, but Spello certainly supports these events and the faithful turn out in large numbers to participate. Overall, I had a very special experience as an onlooker, and was very pleased to have gotten to watch and listen.

The candles in Santa Maria Maggiore, Easter evening

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