Easter in Sorrento is celebrated by two processions: the White Procession and Black Procession, both taking their names from the colour of the robes and hoods worn by the participants.
The first procession is the White Procession, organised by the Arch-brotherhood of Santa Monica from the Church of the Annunziata, which takes place in the dead of the night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. According to local rendition, the Virgin Mary seeks Jesus, her lost son, who has been taken prisoner and sentenced to death.
On Good Friday night the Black Procession of the Arch-brotherhood of the Servi di Maria is held, when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows follows the sculpture of the Dead Christ, in representation of the finding of the Son by His Mother.
Both processions are impressive and very moving, especially the White Procession, because it takes place in the darkest hours of the night, although the second one is more solemn.
The processions are accompanied by a bands playing mournful, plaintiff funeral marches, which echo eerily in the narrow passageways crowded with silent onlookers – the music can be heard long before the procession passes by. The symbols of the confraternities are displayed and carried: the pannetto (roll) and the vela (sail), small crosses, carried mainly by children, the mysteries, and symbols of the Passion of Christ ascending to Golgotha.
The hooded processions, each involving more than five hundred people, move at a snail’s pace by the light of flickering lamps and torches, giving the processions an atmosphere of unique mysticism. Especially moving is the sung Miserere, in Gregorian chant, performed by two hundred singers, asking God’s pardon for the sins of humanity. One of the most touching moments is when the statue of the Virgin Mary is carried in procession following Her Son, whose statue is an 18C wood masterpiece.
Legend has it, it was made by an unknown man, condemned to death, who took refuge in the church, and paid his debt to the confraternity by making the sculpture of the Dead Christ. It can be seen in in the Church of the Servants of Mary.
For Sorrentines the procession cortèges are unmissable, representing to them the essential meaning of Easter. It is tradition: the silence of the night at 4 o’clock broken by young children singing as loud as they can the hymn to the Lady of Sorrows, or in silence taking flowers to the statue to Our Lady of Sorrows, as their parents and grandparents did before them.
The photographs shown are a few of the ones I took in 1991, but the processions are timeless.