Celebrations of Easter begin on Holy Thursday with a visit to the Sepulchres where each church sets up its own altar adorned with wheat and flowers. The faithful must visit an odd number of churches.
The procession of Good Friday which takes place every year in Orte is also called the Procession of the Dead Christ, and is one of the oldest in Italy. Its origins date back to 1200 and tradition has been handed down for centuries with a procession in the ancient city illuminated by torches.
Friday is the day of penance which involves a very special procession in which the 7 Confraternities present in the town participate. Each confraternity has its own church of reference while all the symbols and tools of the procession are collected and tdisplayed in the Museum of the Confraternities of Orte which is located in the sacristy of the church of Santa Croce – a pace that in the Middle Ages was a hospital.
The Confraternities are distinguished by the colours of the tunics and hoods and by the crosses and symbols of the element of the Passion they show. They are each called of the Blessed Sacrament, of Santa Croce, of the Misericordia, of the Trinità, of San Pietro, of Santa Maria Le Grazie, of Sant’Antonio Abate, of the Santissimo Rosario and of the Madonna del Santissimo Rifugio dei Peccatori or of the “Stendardino”.
On the Friday before Easter, the Confraternity groups meet in the square of the historic centre to give life to a procession that crosses the whole town.
The seven Confraternities leave from the respective parishes and in the late afternoon they reach the Mother Church of Santa Croce where in the nearby museum there is the coffin and the other symbols of the tradition. Then starts the procession with the coffin of the Dead Christ, supported by 14 men, which is followed by the Carriage of Our Lady of Sorrows, supported by 8 people.
The coffin dates back to 1626 and represents a rare example of Baroque art as well as the pedestal (or procession carriage) adorned by angels supporting the Madonna Addolorata.
The Confraternities parade barefoot, hooded and with chains on their feet, carrying crosses and doing penance gestures while holding wooden crosses and other symbols. Other important figures participating in the procession are the Veronica, the Magdalene that make up the three weeping Marys.
Once in the Piazza della Libertà, the confraternities are arranged around the coffin of Christ forming a heart-shaped figure around the coffin, while the song of the Miserere is sung. The heart is highlighted by the torches of the procession that shine in the night and helps to make the whole show very impressive.
Then, the procession enters the Mother Church, where the Stabat Mater is sung.
At the end, the brothers distribute lots of flowers, which are kept by the faithful. Once the procession ends, a great loaf of bread is broken, which is called the Bread of Solidarity, and which is shared among all the participants.
This is a unique show that every year attracts hundreds of faithful and curious visitors to the centre of Orte.