Over Easter, I was awestruck to experience the beautiful and moving Trapani Misteri procession in Sicily. Here are my favourite pictures I took of the procession, the bands, the spectators – and the other people who made it happen.
I do hope people in Trapani who took part in the procession – as well as my other readers – may enjoy these pictures
- 1. The Procession
- 2. L’Addolorata – (Mary) Our Lady of Sorrow
- 3. The Portatori (Float-Bearers)
- 4. The Figures
- 5. The Crowds in Corso Vittorio Emanuele
- 6. Close Up On The Bands & Singers
- 7. The Children & Young People
- 8. The Spectators
- 9. The Auxiliary Workers
- 10. Taking a Well-Earned Break!
What is the Trapani Misteri Procession?
The 24 hour Christian holy Misteri procession has been held during la Settimana Santa (Holy Week) every year in Trapani, North West Sicily, since the very early 1600s.
In the style of the Catholic Easter processions held in Spanish cities – notably Seville, Zamora and Leòn – 20 floats of dramatically-arranged life-size wooden figures are slowly carried at shoulder-height through Trapani’s streets. The tradition that was started in Spain spread from there to lands that were once, at least in part, dominated by Spain, including Sicily.
In sequence, the groups of figures depict scenes telling the story of the Passion of Christ i.e. the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Most of the groups of figures that are currently used were built in the 17th and 18th centuries, although some more recently have had to undergo significant repair. Some figures are reputed to depict the faces of people who actually lived at the time of their manufacture. Each float on which the figures are staged has flowers, candles and lights around the grouped figures.
Since 1974, the procession has been organised by the Unione Maestranze – the union of the local artisan associations. Each of the 20 groups of figures is associated with one of the traditional Trapani artisan trades. Workers representing these professions – e.g. stonemasoners, metalworkers, sailors and fishermen, etc – carry the floats through the streets, and maintain them throughout the year. These float-bearers are called ‘portatori’ or ‘massari’
The rest of the year the tableaux of figures are kept, and can be viewed by the public, in the baroque Chiesa Delle Anime Sante del Purgatorio (church).
As the groups of figures are carried though the streets, slowly between them also march musical bands and singers playing and singing wonderfully melodramatic and funereal music. The music is strangely uplifting.
Some specific statue groups are accompanied through the streets by other groups of people. For example, a group of women in mourning clothes and carrying candles precedes the final (20th) statue – Our Lady of Sorrow (l’Addolorata) – depicting the distraught Mary, mother of Jesus.
The Trapani Misteri procession lasts approximately 24 hours, starting at 1400 on Good Friday, and continuing through the night until around the same time on Easter Saturday. Whether you’re Catholic, or not religious all, it’s a wonderful time to be in Trapani to witness such a spectacle, steeped in history.
Route of the Procession
The procession has both an outbound and a returning route. They slightly overlap, as the procession both begins and ends at the Chiesa Delle Anime Sante del Purgatorio.
It’s quite easy to pick up a map of the Trapani Misteri procession route in town – from your hotel or in a bar (there doesn’t seem to be one online). But don’t worry if you can’t find one – the Trapani Misteri procession is impossible to miss in the historical old town. Just listen for the noise, and follow the crowds, until you find it!
Pictures from Trapani Misteri Procession 2018
1. The Procession
2. L’Addolorata – (Mary) Our Lady of Sorrow
3. The Portatori (Float-Bearers)
4. The Figures
5. The Crowds in Corso Vittorio Emanuele
6. Close Up On The Bands & Singers
7. Some of The Children & Young People
8. The Spectators
9. The Auxiliary Workers
10. Taking a Well-Earned Break!
Where is Trapani?: Trapani is in the north west of the Italian island of Sicily.
Getting There: Trapani is served by the local international airport Vincenzo Florio Airport Trapani–Birgi. As at April 2018, the airlines Alitalia, Blue Air, Mistral Air, AliBlue Malta and Ryanair serve Trapani Airport (so e.g. it’s possible to fly direct with Ryanair from the UK). But for a bigger range of flight options, the motorway connects Trapani with the airport in Sicily’s capital Palermo (around 1 hours drive), or the airport on Sicily’s east coast in Catania (around 3¼ hours drive).
Visiting during the Trapani Misteri Procession: Trapani is busy during the Misteri and the Easter period. If you wish to have a prime view of the procession, you may wish to book a hotel along its route. Ask to have a room facing the street.
I stayed in the very central Ai Lumi hotel in Trapani’s historical old town in Corso Vittorio Emanuele. They call it a B&B, but with large rooms in an old palace with a courtyard, it wouldn’t be understood as such in the UK. I was on the second floor, and had a wonderful view of the procession from my balcony, from which many of these photos were taken.