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The Languages at Liverpool blog will take a short break over the Easter weekend. Despite reported changes in religious practices across Western Europe, Holy Week and Easter remain a culturally significant time in the Mediterranean, where several colleagues from Modern Languages and Cultures undertake their research.

Catenacciu

The Catenacciu procession in Sartène, Corsica

On Corsica, Good Friday is the focus of Holy Week commemorations, especially in the town of Sartène, southern Corsica, which is where Dr Robert Blackwood spent his year abroad as an undergraduate. Crowds are drawn from across Corsica to Sartène for its famous procession after dusk on Good Friday, U Catenacciu, which means ‘the chained one’. Here, an anonymous ‘penitent’, dressed in a red robe that disguises his face, carries a 37kg oak crucifix through the streets of the town, re-enacting Christ’s journey to his crucifixion.

In Italy there is a rich variety of celebrations and events Holy Week, and as Dr Stefania Tufi, an Italian from Rome, highlights, commemorations in Italy’s capital are marked by the presence of the Pope himself. Rome’s main procession on Good Friday takes place in a setting which dates back to imperial Rome and along an itinerary which starts near the Colosseum and ends at the Temple of Venus, the largest pagan temple in ancient Rome. This tradition was introduced in 1750 in order to remember the early Christians who were martyred in the amphitheatre, but it also reminds us of the numerous intersections between manifestations of current religiosity and pagan rites which are deep-rooted and resurface in the most unexpected forms. One example of this is the traditional Easter breakfast in Rome, which includes boiled eggs, Roman salami, offal, artichokes, hot chocolate, and Easter cake.

A tronos in Málaga's Holy Week procession

A tronos in Málaga’s Holy Week procession

Some of the Mediterranean’s most spectacular Holy Week processions take place in Andalucía. Ms Marina Rabadan, from the Department’s Iberian & Latin American Studies subject area, notes that the semana santa celebrations are deeply rooted in the Spanish Catholic tradition, and date back to the fifteenth century. The processions portray scenes of the Passion of Jesus Christ, and use iconography drawn from Spanish renaissance and baroque art. In Sevilla, cohorts of up to 2800 penitents, wearing their typical conical hats, parade the streets of the city, following the pasos (floats). Each paso weighs between 1500 and 2000kg and they are carried from underneath by 30 to 60 men called costaleros. In Málaga the tronos (thrones) weigh between 2500 and 4000kg and are carried by up to 250 hombres de trono each.

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