The fascinating procession of hooded figures is an established Sorrento tradition. These liturgical processions during Easter are a demonstration of the genuine religious beliefs of the inhabitants of the region, between Sorrento and neighboring towns, in fact 20 different processions mark the Holy Week celebrations.
Holy Week processions are an event that the people of these towns look forward to with enthusiasm throughout the year. The protagonists of this unusual celebration are the lay confraternities and charity groups of devotees who have been reviving the evangelical message and traditions for centuries. On Holy Thursday and Good Friday - in an atmosphere filled with emotion and mysticism - the men with hooded black, red or white gowns (depending on the tradition of the confraternity), slowly pass by in silence in the streets lit up by torches, carrying statues and symbols of the Passion and death of Christ. It is a disquieting image. The first time I saw the white robes and hoods with holes cut for their eyes exit the Church of the Addolorata and silently walk down the narrow alleys in locked single-step footfall, carrying torches and crucifixes, enveloped in the silence and solmenity of their lugubrious frocks, it all immediately brought to mind disturbing images of crosses burning and strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Needless to say, there is absolutely nothing that links the Sorrento Holy Week processions to the surreal values of white supremacy fanatism. Except for an unsettling visual similarity.
Photo by Luigi Soldatini
On Maundy Thursday we watched the Processione dell'Addolorata, better known as the "white" procession, since the men all wear white robes. It is one involving over 300 people, and it is organized by the Venerabile Arciconfraternita di Santa Monica. It symbolizes Mary wandering the streets of Jerusalem in search of her son, arrested by the Temple guards the night before the crucifixion. The long and silent march exits the church at sunset. The participants wearing the snow white habit - faces concealed by the typical pointed hood - carry torches, crosses and the statue of the Madonna on their shoulders on a raised platform and march it all through town until dawn. The men chosen to carry the statues are envied by their fellow brethren immensely.
Freaky, isn't it?