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Easter, the hymn to life

The Italian saying goes “Christmas with your family, Easter with your friends” thus explaining the way Italians live their traditions: Christmas with your family and Easter even on the go thanks to Spring time. The Christian Easter – also called the Resurrection Easter – the it is celebrated in Italy, is preceded by the Lent that seams to have two different historical origins: according to the Roman rituals that was commonly performed in the Western part of the world, the Lent used to start on the ash Wednesday and finished on the Holy Thursday while according to the Ambrosian ritual that is the official ecclesiastical ritual chosen by the Archdiocese of Milan it used to start from the Sunday that comes after the “fat Tuesday” of the Carnival and finishes on the Easter’s night.

 It is a hymn to life and it has also become a shared moment even through a number of events. Actually in Italy as well as in the other Catholic countries many events on Easter time to commemorate the Passion of Christ are held. A few examples? The Easter procession in Savona – in Liguria -; it takes place along the city’s main streets and it is organized by six confraternities dating back to the XIIIth century A.D. On the beautiful island of Procida – in Campania – Easter is celebrated too and it takes a number of weeks to organize the "Misteri" (Mysteries) that are a number of representations of the life of Jesus. The rituals of the Holy Week feature the religious spirit of Sassari – in Sardinia -, besides the preservation of very old traditions: the confraternities organize the processions that charmingly proceed along the main town’s streets.

In Urbania – in the Marche -, on Easter the traditions, the spirituality, the art and the food are gathered around the traditional procession and you can see the typical living pictures. The Easter Procession of Sora – in Lazio – is well-known because of its touching mood and it is considered one of the best in Italy together with the one from Enna in Sicily that is an attraction for thousands of tourists each year. Around 2.500 hooded friars parade on that occasion. The Italian Christian Easter is a solemn and enchanting celebration to be separated from the Orthodox one that uses the Giulian calendar instead of the Gregorian one. Moreover, every year the Easter date is different. Why? Everything goes back to the decisions made by the Council of Nicea in 325: they decided to set the Easter date on the next Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox – it was March the 21st then that has been used as a reference date since that moment.

 Let’s now go through the Italian works of art that portray Easter characters. There are many of them and some of them were painted by the greatest Italian artists: just consider Leonardo da Vinci who painted the “Last Supper” in the refectory of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie of Milan from 1494 to 1497. Don’t forget Michelangelo Merisi – well-known as “il Caravaggio” – and his «Supper at Emmaus», painted in 1606 and kept in Milan at the Brera Art Gallery, although a painting dating back to 1691 showing the same scene is kept at the National Gallery of London. The “Entry to Jerusalem “ by Giotto in the “Cappella degli Scrovegni” in Padua is unmissable as well as other important paintings portraying the Ester mystery. A few examples? The «Pietà» (dead Christ) by Giovanni Bellini, the «Pietà» by Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto, «The Christ at the column» by Donato Bramante and the «Crucifixion» by Bartolomeo Suardi, called the Bramantino. And after Easter? In Italy the Easter Monday is called the Monday of the Angel or “Pasquetta” – it is the occasion to have a trip to the countryside and breathe the first perfumes of Spring.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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