Anne's Blog

Assisi Good Friday: Living Ancient Traditions

Date: April 22, 2019 - categories: , , , , , , , - Leave your thoughts

Outside of the French cloistered Franciscan Sisters’ convent, il Monastero di Santa Colette, small groups of grandmothers and grandchildren, parents and children,  waited in anticipation, gaze directed up the street.

A bespectacled nun in beige sweater and black veil waited too, hands folded, just outside the open door of their chapel.

Up the street, the hollow deep boom of a drum broke the silence of Assisi’s Good Friday early morning – and a red awning appeared, a trail of people preceding it.  The Processione del Cristo Morto (“Dead Christ” procession) was winding down towards the convent.

Inside, the Clarisse (Poor Clares, a cloistered order following the rule of St. Clare of Assisi) awaited to receive Christ, chanting and in prayer near wooden plank padded with brown and white cross-stitched pillows where the Cristo Mortowould soon be placed. 

Upon arrival at the convent door, the funeral bier bearing the Cristo Morto was gingerly set down and the Christ carried into the chapel where one by one, the Sisters kissed His feet and reverently placed flowers on the statue.


This was the last stop for this year’s morning Processione del Cristo Morto: as is tradition,  the Christ had been carried from the Cathedral of San Rufino with stops at  three or four cloistered convents for adoration by  the Sisters.  Now il Cristo Morto would be carried to the Basilica di San Francesco.

Giuseppe Marini (once the gym teacher of our children!), in the elegant gray cape of  his confraternita’, tenderly arranged flowers around the Cristo:

The Cristo was then once again hefted onto the shoulders of local men, belonging to various confraternita’….

….and the procession continued, the drum beat setting out the slow rhythm. 

Preceding the Cristo, hooded figures, barefoot, carried wooden crosses:

The procession serpentined through the medieval backstreets, concluding at the Basilica.  The Cristo Morto was gently and reverently placed in front of the altar of the Basilica Inferiore di San Francesco…..

…where visitors visited the Christ all day

On Good Friday night, the statue of the Mater Dolorosa (“Sorrowful Mother”) would be carried from San Rufino to San Francesco in a hauntingly beautiful candlelit procession: the Virgin seeking her Son.  Both images would then be carried back to San Rufino and returned to their niches. To remain until next year.

You may wish to be in Assisi next year during Easter week:  your chance to join “the locals” in bringing to life an ancient tradition.

Note: Here at the Monastero di Santa Coletta, Jewish refugees were hidden in World War II.  Read more on Assisi assistance to Holocaust survivors here.

Read more on the Good Friday morning procession

Click here to read about – and see! – the Good Friday nighttime procession

Click here to read how Assisi’s Good Friday procession is linked to World War II

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