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Friday, April 6, 2012

EXCERPT from my Italy Journal: Good Friday in Enna 4.14.06

Since today is Good Friday, celebrated by Christians worldwide, I thought I would re-post a story from my Italy Blog of Good Friday when we lived in Sicily and went to a town called Enna, right in the center of the island - on a very high spot with wonderful views all around.

View of Calascibetta from Enna

Little girls in procession dressed as saints/nuns

"Today is actually the 21st of April and I am still trying to get caught up on my writing. I have not yet written about our day in Enna and wanted to tell you about Good Friday. Bob and I decided to go early in the day to this city that is right in the center of Sicily and its highest point, Mt. Etna not withstanding. We have passed by Enna several times on our way to Palermo but it never fit in our plans to stop. We always enjoy the drive through this region because it is absolutely beautiful with farms and cultivated fields with a backdrop of the mountains and terraced hills that occupy this part of Italy. Throughout the winter season it was completely green and the vastness of this place keenly felt. 

There are many tiny towns and villages that cling to hill and mountain top, visible from the heights of Enna, over 3,000 ft., as we climbed to the highest point in this highest place, the Castello di Lombardia, quite an impressive sight built by Frederick II on a previous Arab fortification. It's a fascinating complex and still retains six of the original twenty towers. Not to mention the fantastic views of the surrounding countryside from this lofty place.

Never completely sure what to expect from these events, we wandered around the city, finally finding the information office and picking up some brochures with the program of events for the week's processions. Interestingly, each one seemed to have a slightly different explanation of what would take place, when and where and we felt still a bit confused about where to position ourselves for the best view point. We missed the first procession of the day - our information said it began at noon when really it started earlier and by the time we found the place, it was over! 

We decided to stop for lunch and just happened onto a very nice local restaurant where I enjoyed a delicious risotto with shrimp and Bob, the ravioli with mushrooms. The waiter was very helpful and friendly and the strangest thing was that the music they were playing sounded very much like country western from the states, similar to a CD we have called "Asleep at the Wheel" and we had to ask what it was that they were listening to. Turned out to be a band called "the Notting Hillbillies" which struck us so funny! An odd combination of American music, British city name and town in the center of Sicily on Good Friday! 

The men, as penitit (penitents)
We read that each church in the city has a "confraternity" or club that departs from their particular church, convening in the center, at the Duomo. These people wear different colored robes and white hoods over their heads with just holes cut for their eyes - a bit disconcerting at first because of the resemblance to those of the Ku Klux Klan. There is no connection however, and it was explained to us that they wear these hoods because they are acting as "penititi" - penitents, like so many souls wandering, seeking forgiveness, if I understand this correctly. 

It is described as a very solemn event and the procession takes place very slowly over the course of several hours, the culmination of which is the meeting in the Duomo where the statues carried by the different confraternities come together, with the statue of the Madonna, meeting her crucified Son, and then process through the city with the cemetery as their destination, after which they all return to their own churches once again. 
Even the very little boys are penititi

I must admit that those in the procession do seem very solemn with a surprising number of young boys also taking part. The number of "brothers" is said to be in the thousands. The only female presence, with the exception of the grieving Madonna, are very little girls - 5 or 6 years old, dressed as nuns in white, black or brown habits with rosary beads etc., walking with their hands pressed together in a prayerful pose. They are really adorable to see, even if it seems a bit strange. Some of these tiny kids really know how to look appropriately solemn! 

This photograph was in an exhibit at the Delaware Art Museum
 It's also very dramatic the way the men carry the sepulcher of the dead Christ or the Madonna, swaying from side to side in unison as a band plays somber funereal music, following them around the city. Pippo and Salvatore, Elio's brothers who met us in Enna later in the day, told us that this is a great honor for these men who wait their turns from year to year to carry the Madonna or Jesus on their backs.

I have to say we noticed a genuine absence of solemnity among many of the observers, however, as they jockeyed for the best viewing place, stepped in front of other people to take photos, including walking in front of and around the "brothers," talked loudly among themselves and in general didn't seem to be exactly "saying their penance and standing in spiritual silence" as described in our brochures but perhaps we were just not in the right spot.

We also know why everyone thinks we are German. The city was filled with German tourists and at one point, earlier in the day, German was the dominant language spoken by the crowd around us!

Once the procession passed us by and we met up with Elio's brothers and their wives, Marinella and Rosalba, we visited a few of the churches which were open and were even, due to Rosalba's request of the caretaker, permitted to enter one of the churches that surely would have been closed to us. This was the church of San Salvatore, ancient, lovely with plaster-carved statues of the apostles decorating the interior and an elaborately carved, wooden ceiling. The gentleman who let us in also allowed us in into an inner room to see the ancient crucifix and the vestments in the drawer of an intricately painted cabinet.

After thanking this generous man for his time we stopped and bought some sandwiches and ate them while walking through the medieval streets, lit by torchlight. Since we had arrived before noon that day we had a pretty good parking place close to centro. Unfortunately they had a longer walk in the opposite direction so we said our goodbyes and made our way to our vehicles for the 2 or so hour's drive back to Ragusa. At this hour of the night there was not much traffic. But by the time we got home, we were completely exhausted and decided that Saturday would be a day of rest for us!

Buona giornata,
Rosemary e Bob

Happy Easter to everyone celebrating the holiday.

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