There are experiences that you can imagine to see only in movies or in your dreams, but if you come to Sorrento for Easter, you can live them in person.
I’m talking about the Processions of the Holy Week.
These Easter Processions have a long history behind them (more than 700 years) and they mix religion, folklore and local traditions in an oneiric atmosphere that will leave you speechless.
Every time I have been part of the processions, I have felt very captivated.
The main processions in Sorrento are 2: the Procession of Holy Thursday, also named White Procession, and the Procession of Good Friday, or Black Procession.
The White Procession is organized by the Santa Monica Main Confraternity and it is meant to recall the wandering of Our Lady while she was looking for her captured Son.
From 3 am to dawn the members of the Confraternity slowly walk from the Church of the Annunziata through the city. They wear long white robes and white cowls cover their face as a sign of repentance. Street lights are completely turned off, the city is dark and the only light comes from the torches held by some participants, while others carry the statue of Holy Mary and different items related to the passion of Christ, such as a crown of thorns, the holy lance, nails from the Crucifixion and so on. The atmosphere is made more engaging by the moving funeral march of Chopin chanted by a choir of 200 members.
The Black Procession is similar to the White one, apart from the fact that the participants wear black robes and hoods, women can’t perform and it takes place at 8 pm, just after the religious functions.
The Black Procession represents the pain of Holy Mary who has finally found her dead Son on the cross. It is a real funeral procession in which everything evokes grief and sorrow, from the lifelike effigy of Jesus to the choir singing the Miserere of Wagner and the psalm 50 in Gregorian style.
In both the parades the roadsides of Sorrento are crowded by hundreds of people watching these ghostly figures passing by, but everybody is in complete silence, which makes the atmosphere very surreal. It is difficult not to have goosebumps, no matter if you are a religious person or not.
There are two other main Easter Processions: the Red one, organized by the Confraternity of the Trinity, takes place in Piano di Sorrento in the same moment of the White Procession; and the Purple one, by a Confraternity of Vico Equense, in the evening of Good Friday, which is becoming more and more popular.
Most people usually think about Sorrento only as a bright cheerful place, but these Easter Processions give you the chance to explore its darker and mystical side. They happen just once in a year, so don’t miss them!