Easter Holy Week in Leonessa: three days of processions
Holy Week is a special period of worship in Leonessa, one of the most beautiful villages of Lazio lying on a plain at a thousand meters of altitude just below the Terminillo massif.
For three days there are sacred rites, processions and acts of faith with an ancient traditional flavour. There are three processions: on Holy Friday the procession of the Dead Christ takes place, on Saturday is the procession with the statue of the Madonna della Pietà and on Easter Sunday that of the Risen Christ followed by the traditional Easter breakfast.
The nocturnal procession of the Dead Christ is the most heartfelt and spectacular and begins with the sound of the ‘tanavelle’ to recall the faithful to the religious celebration of the Adoration of the Cross.
The ‘tanavelle’ are typical Leonessa musical instruments and were used when bells were tied as a sign of mourning and could not be played. It is a wooden table with a handle and on the table metal objects are tied with a thread. Shaking the table these objects hit the wood and make a sound.
At this point the statue of the Dead Christ, a work of the XVI century of the Umbrian school, is placed in a finely worked wood and gold coffin of late Baroque style and is ready to be carried in procession on shoulders by bearers of the Brotherhood who change along the way.
The procession goes through the streets of Leonessa, lit only by torches, and begins with a large cross carried by the Confraternity of Santa Croce followed by the coffin of the dead Christ and by the Three Marys and Veronica, barefoot, dressed in black and covered with veils. The three Marys are young girls who belong to the Pietà and Grazie brotherhood with headquarters in the Church of St Peter, while Veronica is part of the Confraternity of Santa Croce.
Then the faithful follow and all sing the songs of tradition that tell the pain of the Madonna, such as the Stabat Mater. The procession goes to all the churches of Leonessa in what is considered the “visit to the sepulchres” until it meets the Madonna in the likeness of the Pietà.
The procession of Holy Saturday takes place in the afternoon and is organized by the Confraternity of the Madonna delle Grazie. During the event the wooden statuette of the Pietà, a good copy of the Michelangelo Pietà which is located in Saint Peter’s in Rome, is carried in procession along the streets of the ancient village. The procession is always accompanied by the Three Marys.
The third procession is that of the Risen Christ on Easter Day and takes place early in the morning before the celebration of Holy Mass. The tradition of Leonessa requires this to be followed by a rich Easter breakfast based on omelette, Easter pizza, salami and a blessed hard-boiled egg.