Anne's Blog

Umbria Guided Hilltown Tours: Holy Thursday Highlights

Date: May 1, 2022 - categories: , , , , , , , - Leave your thoughts

The best way to recount the joys of touring Umbria for a week with Judy and Grady?  Sharing Judy’s comment:

“What a  wonderful week of touring the Umbrian hill towns with Anne Robichaud!

We visited during Easter as we were interested in the Easter traditions here and she came through with flying colors. The Holy Thursday Scavigliazione (“de-nailing”) in Assisi was unbelievable.

And the Holy Saturday blessings of the cheese breads and the lovely lunch with Giuseppa, are memories we shall treasure forever.

We also toured several hill towns from tiny Collepino to Deruta to Perugia to Gubbio and Orvieto. 

In every town, Anne knew the locals so we visited the finest artisans and ate in the best restaurants everywhere we went.

Her knowledge of the history and the beautiful artwork in every town is unsurpassed and you will be in awe of the treasures you will see with her, and the authentic experiences that you will have.

If you are looking for a tour guide who is fluent in English and Italian, we highly recommend Anne. You won’t be disappointed!”

I’ll write a few “chapters” about our time together, citing highlights.

One of our first tours was on Holy Thursday centered on “upper Assisi,” that is, the area around the 12th-century Cathedral of San Rufino. We wanted to be there in the early evening for the ceremony of the Scavigliazione

We toured the Cathedral and adjacent museum revealing Roman and medieval artistic treasures.  In the winding backstreets of this area,   we explored the area of the Roman amphitheater and Roman circus. Near a Roman mausoleum, we stopped to visit noted Assisi artisan, Rita in her home – built into the ruins of the 1st-century A.D. Roman theater of Assisi:

In the above photo, fiscoli hang on the Roman wall between Rita and Judy. These woven mats of coconut fibre were used in the pressing of olive oil…..

….and were artisanal works as you can see in this photo of the weaving of fiscoli in Latium:

For years,  Rita and her husband ran an olive oil mill (once on the lower level of their home) and this year, Rita created Easter greetings on the wall of her garden using the olive mat fiscoli hugging olive branches:

Inside her home, Rita proudly showed us a section of Roman trabeation which archaeologists date to the 1st-c A.D.

…and in the adjacent room, Signora Rita unfolded her textiles for us, masterpieces of the punto Assisi (Assisi cross-stitch):

Many of her pieces have appeared in exhibits of the punto Assisi  – including in San Francisco, California.

Bright yellow starred in Rita’s centerpiece incorporating a famous Deruta maiolica design, il raffaellesco….

….with an inscription of a verse of San Francesco’s “Canticle of the Creatures” stitched in blue below the design:  “Laudato sie mi signore per sora aqua” (“Praise be the Lord for Sister Water..”).

Rita placed her runner near maiolica objects adorned with the same design – so that Grady and Judy could see the inspiration for her embroidery:

Rita’s textile treasures were many for she has been stitching since she was a young girl.

Our visit with Rita was certainly a Holy Thursday highlight…and was a delightful preface to the evocative ceremony in the nearby Cathedral of San Rufino where we headed next.

As we entered, we stopped at the baptismal font where St. Francis had been baptized in 1181 or 1182 and St. Clare just over a decade later:

Just off to the left of the nave, Judy and Grady stopped at the base of the stairs below a crucifix already set up for the evening Holy Thursday ceremony:  la Scavigliazione, a hauntingly evocative Deposition, accompanied by the singing of medieval lauds.

The 16th-cenntury crucifix is termed a “Deposto” as the Christ could be taken off the Cross – “deposed” –  and carried in processions for popular veneration.

Soon many – of all ages – were gathering near the Crucifix….

….as well as numerous caped confratelli, members of the medieval religious guilds, le confraternita’….

 …for they would be participating in the Good Friday morning procession when Christ would be carried to the Basilica… as well as in the evening procession.  On Good Friday evening, the Madre Dolorosa  (“Sorrowful Mother”) statue would be carried to the Basilica: the suffering Mother in search of her Son.

That statue was in a chapel to the right of the nave, just opposite the Cristo Depots:

In preparation for the Good Friday procession the following morning, the Crucified Christ was lowered from His Cross once His arms and face has been tenderly wiped:

After His arms were liberated from the nails and folded at His side,….

……Christ was gently lifted down:


One of the assisting priests seemed to be gently hugging him:


The bishop awaited to pay homage with other clerics…

The Deposed Christ was then carried reverently…..

… to a funerary bier under an elegant burgundy velvet canopy…

And as the confratelli kept watch, many gathered to pay homage….

Flower buds were brought to Him…..

…and there would be many more as tributes on the morning of Good Friday.

Judy and Grady, what a joy to share in Holy Thursday afternoon and evening  with you in Assisi.

Click here to read about Good Friday morning in Assisi, 2022

Read more about the Scavigliazione.

See the ceremony of la Scavigliazione

Read more about the famed punto Assisi

Click here to read about Good Friday morning

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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)