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 (“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).
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.