Easter in Sicily: the most evocative traditions and rites

byVerónica Crocitti
Easter in Sicily

From the Procession of the Mysteries of Trapani to the Barette of Messina: here are the most evocative Easter rites in Sicily.

The Sicilyit is one of those regions of Italy where the Easter period is particularly felt and linked to traditions that combine religiosity, spectacularity and folklore. During Holy Week, the most particular and picturesque Easter rites are staged in the cities and villages of the hinterland. Everything is a continuous succession of ceremonies, processions and liturgies which, every year, attract visitors from all over the world.


Among the main destinations chosen to experience theEaster in Italy, the Trinacria is one of the favorites.

Where to go at Easter in Italy

But which are the places in Sicily where it is possible to experience the most evocative Easter rites and traditions?

The procession of the Mysteries of Trapani

The "Procession of the Mysteries" is a Christian ritual that takes place in the city ofTrapanifor more than 400 years. It is considered the longest religious event in Italy as it begins on the afternoon of Good Friday and lasts until Saturday for 24 hours in line.

Where to go at Easter in Italy

The name derives from the twenty artistic representations of the death and passion of Christ (the Mysteries) which during the procession are supported by the faithful and carried along the streets of the city with a particular undulatory movement called "vintaged” (from “naca” which, in Sicilian, means “cradle”).

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It is a ritual that has Spanish origins and which recalls some typical traditions of Holy Week in Andalusia, such as those of theEaster in Seville.

Prizzi's Dance of the Devils (Palermo)

Among the most evocative Easter rites in Sicily,Prizzi's Dance of the Devils, a small town in the province ofPalermois certainly among the most famous. It is a very particular tradition that begins in the early afternoon of Easter Sunday. The figure of Death, dressed in ayellow overallsand a skull-shaped leather mask, wanders the streets accompanied bydevils, in red overalls and with faces covered by tin masks, singing, dancing, brandishing weapons and disturbing with requests for money and jokes.

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The event reaches its climax in Piazza Barone when, during the encounter between the Risen Christ and the Madonna, a dispute takes place between the devils and the angels who have arrived to appease the harassment and riots. In the end, good triumphs.

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The Byzantine Easter of Piana degli Albanesi (Palermo)

The Easter rites of Piana degli Albanesi, a small mountain town in the province ofPalermo, are very suggestive and strongly linked to the ethnicity of the inhabitants. In these areas of the Sicilian hinterland, the linguistic, cultural and religious typicalities of Albania have been preserved intact for more than 500 years.

Easter in Sicily

The Pashketof Piana degli Albanesi is distinguished by the Greek-Byzantine rite. The liturgical celebrations take place mostly in Greek and great importance is given to the habits and characteristic female costumes. Among the most significant moments of Holy Week stand out theResurrection of Lazarus(on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday), Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday (with the washing of feet), Good Friday (with processions made suggestive by the typical Albanian funeral songs and by the accompaniment with wooden instruments of Byzantine) and on Easter Sunday when a picturesque procession ofwomen dressed in Albanian clothescharacteristic of the 1400s.

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Among the most particular traditions of Piana degli Albanesi there is also that of the red Easter eggs, a symbol of fertility and resurrection.

The hooded procession of Enna

In the city ofEnna, the only province of Sicily not touched by the sea, the traditions of Easter and Holy Week have their roots in the period ofSpanish domination(15th – 17th century) when the Brotherhoods were given the power to organize themselves religiously and promote worship.

Easter in Sicily

The most evocative moment of the Easter celebrations ofEnnait occurs on Good Friday when all the Brotherhoods gather in the Cathedral ready to begin the solemn "Procession of the Hooded". Over 2000 confrati, wearing large tunics and white hoods, precede the vares of the Dead Christ and Our Lady of Sorrows, starting the funeral procession.

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The Barettes of Messina

That of the Barettes ofMessina, a celebration that takes place during the afternoon of Good Friday, is one of the most evocative celebrations of Easter inSicily. It is a liturgical procession that dates back to the times of Spanish domination when it was thought to create a city Via Crucis with an image of Our Lady of Sorrows following a simulacrum depicting the coffin of the Dead Christ. Hence the name "barette".

Easter in Sicily

Over the centuries, the first simulacra were joined by others. Today the procession of the Barette diMessinait consists of 11 vases, kept in the Church of the Oratorio della Pace, which represent the significant moments in the life of Christ, from the Last Supper to his Death.

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Feast of the Jews of San Fratello (Messina)

The Feast of the Jews of San Fratello is a popular religious tradition that dates back to medieval times. The celebrations take place throughout Holy Week and culminate on Wednesday, Thursday and Good Friday, when the inhabitants wear therobes of the Jewand, in jackets and red muslin trousers, they walk through the streets of the village.

Easter in Sicily

It is a very suggestive event whose primary purpose is to remember the figure of the Jew, i.e. the scourger who plunged his spear into Christ's side.

The living paintings of Buseto Palizzolo (Trapani)

Although the origins of the procession of theLiving Paintings of Buseto Palizzoloare not very old, it has managed in a few years to become one of the most suggestive in the province ofTrapani. The name derives from the fact that the carts carried through the narrow streets of the village on Easter Sunday are actually small stages where the inhabitants, motionless, depict the Easter Mysteries: passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

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The procession of the Living Paintings of Buseto Palizzolo usually begins at 5 pm and lasts for about 6 hours, in a time span that also embraces the most picturesque moment of sunset. At the end, you can also decide to participate in aevening tour towards the Saline dello Stagnoneand admire a suggestive part of this city.

The Procession of the Real Maestranza of Caltanissetta

The particular rite ofReal Maestranza of Caltanissettait takes place on the morning of Holy Wednesday and has its roots in 1551, the year in which a city militia was formed to defend against the Turkish invasion. The Real Maestranza, in fact, was made up of craftsmen and led by a captain-at-arms, usually a nobleman.

Easter Sicily

The name of the procession derives from the ancient custom of Holy Wednesday morning when, at the end of the 40 hours in which the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in the Mother Church, the Real Maestranza used to greet the monstrance by firing blanks witharquebuses (ancient firearms).


The current celebration recalls that of the past and revolves around the figure ofCaptainwhich, still today, is chosen annually by a different category of craftsmen and, during Holy Week, enjoys some privileges such as the delivery of the Keys of the city of Caltanissetta, the sword, the tricolor band and the appointment as Knight of the Republic.

The vasa-vasa Madonna of Modica (Ragusa)

In the town ofModica, pearl of the Sicilian Baroque, on Easter Sunday the particular feast of theMadonna Vasa-Vasa, where in Sicilian "vasa" means "kissing". In fact, the highlight of the procession takes place at 12 o'clock, when in front of the Church of Santa Maria di Bethlehem there is the traditional meeting, called the "Midday kiss", between the Madonna and the Risen Christ.

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The Sciaccariata of Ferla (Syracuse)

The list of the most evocative places to experience Easter in Sicily ends with theSciaccariataof Ferla, a village in the province of Syracuse. This event takes place on Holy Saturday when, just before midnight, the Risen Jesus is carried on the shoulder through the streets of the town illuminated by numerous lit torches, called "sciaccarre".

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