Anne's Blog

Assisi’s Evocative Medieval Street Theater

Date: April 26, 2014 - categories: , , , - 4 Comments

On every Good Friday, as day gives up to night, evocative medieval street theater unfolds in the winding backstreets. The dull bounding of a drum (the bells ae “tied” from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday) – battistrangole -accompanies the slow pace of the local people and clergy following hooded, barefoot figures, crowned with thorns and bearing heavy primitive wooden crosses. At times, the priests and nuns sing – in Latin – verses of the Stabat Mater – with the people intoning the responding verses in medieval Italian vulgate.


La Processione del Cristo Morto   in Assisi (Thanks to Andrea Angelucci for the photo)

La Processione del Cristo Morto (“Dead Christ Procession”) departs from the Cathedral of San Rufino in upper Assisi and winds its way down to the Basilica di San Francesco through the dark streets of Assisi (no electrical lights allowed anywhere near the processional route).


Haunting scene in Assisi on Good Friday night.jpeg

The 17th century Baroque statute of a blue robed-Madonna with mournful expression and pierced with seven swords – la Madre Dolorosa (“Sorrowful Mother”) – carried on the backs of cloaked men, grimacing but solemnly, closes the solemnity.

Where is she going?
To find her Son. The Cristo Morto lays on the funeral bier, covered with a black nettinga strewn with fresh flowers, in the Lower Basilica di San Francesco, just above the Tomb of San Francesco, patron saint of all of Italy.
He was carried there that morning in another solemn procession.

He awaits the arrival of His Mother – and both will be carried in procession back to the Cathedral of San Rufino.

If you visit Assisi during any other time of year, you’ll find the two statues there.

But not on Good Friday.

Read about – and see – the morning Good Friday procession
Read about another Assisi area Eastertime tradition
Read more on Holy Saturday traditions


  • Stephanie says:

    Very moving piece, Anne. Thank you so much for sharing another beautiful tradition of Assisi. During my last visit I was able to get a much better feel for the town, so while I read your piece I could envision where the procession was going. Your gift of the written word always makes these pieces come alive in my imagination, you are a true artist!

  • Nancy Caporaso says:

    Wonderful writing; really get a feel for the dark spiritual mystery of the tradition. Thanks again, Anne, for sharing “your” Italy

  • Joan Halperin says:

    Anne, It feels very Ku Klux Klanny! What’s up with that?

  • Anne Robichaud says:

    Joan, the KKK might have copied their garb from medieval confraternity cloaks..

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