The Holy Procession, the Penitential Representation, the Flagellations are all cerimonies of Good Friday.
In Italian popular culture these cerimonies are collective meditations rites on the mistery of death. The Holy Week has always represented for Agerola's community a moment of strong religious inwardness. People wake, cry, flagellate themselves to remember and honour Jesus Christ's sacrifice. House cleaning in this week are symbolically made to prevent the dirt, associated with evil and to make sure the house is ready for the priest's blessing.
The "Processione dei Battenti" on Good Friday runs across the main roads of the villages and it is followed by lots of people. The various scenes of the Passion of Christ enhance the popular religiousness. They are really suggestive. The movements, the words of the chaints that enliven the manifestation have remained unchanged towards centuries. Just few things have been modified.
The "Battenti" have a history dating back in remote times. Their name is due to the fact that they whipped their back with a thick hempen rope, wearing a white hood to hide their face. Nowadays they parade in a long procession bare-headed, in soldier's uniforms. Their arms can be a cross for some, an helmet, a shield, a gladius or a sharpened spear for others. The pious women, following the ancient tradition, wear their humble dresses. Above all stands the figure of the suffering Christ, proudly embodied by a man of the community.
At 2,30 pm the Brothers of the Confraternity of "Buona Morte" from Bomerano and the Brothers of the Confraternity of "Madonna di Tutti i Santi" leave the church; they wear a white tunic, a hood lined on their shoulder, a crown of thorns on their head. Most of them carry ancient lamps that will light up the parade in the evening.
One of the man carries a cross that has on the "patibolum" a large stripe of white linen: the Holy band; other men carry a paper-pulp statue of the 18th Century representing "Pietà". Our Lady of Sorrows wears a light-blue mantle studded with stars and a red vest with seven swords hammered on her breast and pityfully supports the body of her dead son.
The parade pass along the town, stopping at several churches and the cemetery. It recalls the "Via Crucis" and along the way an ancient chaint, a "diesire" with words of Metastasio, is played by the local musical band, creating an atmosphere of profound melanchony. In the church of "San Pietro Apostolo", in the village of Pianillo, after the procession of Good Friday, at night, the Brothers of the Confraternity of "Madonna del Carmine" gather in the sacristy, wearing long white surplice with red cinctures. They carry torches. It is the beginning of "Cristo Morto" (Dead Christ) procession. A cross with purple and white bandages opens the parade, followed by a stretcher where the body of Christ lies. At the centre of the parade rises the statue of "Madonna Addolorata", wounded with seven swords, who take her son to the sepuchre.
The destination of the parade is the nearby church of "S. Maria la Manna", where the body of Christ is laid and the parade goes back to "S. Pietro Apostolo" church. On Easter's morning the statue of "Cristo Morto" is placed again in the church, to symbolize his resurrection. Many chaints are sung to remember the Virgin Mary's pain.
In the church of "S. Maria delle Grazie", the Brothers of the same Confraternity begin the Procession of the Deposition from the cross of Christ in the nearby church of "S. Michele".
The Passion of Christ
The Easter celebration in Agerola, with the procession of Jesus Christ, is both an expression of popular religiousness and folklore. It consist of seven scenes played in seven different locations. The actors move, like a procession, along the locations, starting from the church of "Santissima Annunziata" which organizes the event. The first and the last scene are played on a platform built up in "Parco della Colonia Montana", nearby the church while the other scenes are played in the villages of Ponte, Bomerano, Pianillo, Santa Maria e Campora.
The actors perform historical figures such as Ponzius Pilate, Herod, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Magdalen, Veronica, two pious women, some elderly Jews, Judas and Apostles, soldiers, knights and heralds among the others. Another main figure of the procession that last more than five hours, is the story-teller who wears a simple suit.
On a small bridge between the villages of Ponte and Bomerano, two procession gather: one comes from San Lazzaro, the other is the procession of "Cristo Morto" from Bomerano. The actors performing Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary meet the statue of "Madonna Addolorata" and "Cristo Morto"; the dramatic meeting symbolizes the forthcoming future of Jesus and Mary.
The performance of the "Passion of Christ" is a tradition that dates back since the beginning of the last century. The costumes weared by the actors are very suggestive. They appropriately evoke the ancient Romans. Soldiers wear helmets, sandals and white tunics. Horses have golden and red bridles. The actors' performance is always very successfull.
First scene: San Lazzaro
The performance begins on a platform at "Colonia Montana". The set is the beautiful landscape of the park itself. A verdant hill with big trees and, among them, the light-blue sky of "Fiordo di Furore" (Furore's fiord), one of the most beautiful places of the Amalfi Coast.a.
Second scene: Ponte
In the square in front of the church is performed the scene in which Barabas, instead of Jesus, is set free. The audience gather around Ponzius Pilate, asking him to release Barabas.
Third scene: Bomerano
In front of the church of "San Matteo Apostolo" is performed the scene of the dialogue between Jesus Christ and Herod and the one of Ponzius Pilate final sentence. The scenes take place on a balcony of an ancient palace overlooking the main square where all the actors stand.
The scenography gives the audience the idea of being back to ancients Romans' times. Ponzius Pilate and Herod wear typical Romans customes in sober style. The soldiers around Jesus, according to the tradition, wear a brown tunic and a helmet.
The six men of the Council wear a white tunic with a coloured turban; the pious women wear pastel colour's dresses. Judas wears as a peasant, with a long mantle and a brown hat, a black beard gives his face a sort of brutishness.
Jesus Christ looks majestic in his white tunic but Herod orders to cover him with a red mantle as a symbol of his madness. Ponzius Pilate and Herod are binding charachters because of the rhetorical meaning of their cues. The six men of the Council talk in a sumptuous tone, often together, to give the idea of power.
The meaning of the actors' performance is to convey to the audience the sense of great suffering Jesus Christ have been through before his death. The Passion is lived in its whole dramatic way. There is a deep silence during the performance, broken off by horses pawing the ground. You can even hear the actors steps. These sounds mix with traditional Agerolan chaints.
Fourth scene: Pianillo
Jesus Christ falls down under the Cross weight. The procession is watched on house balconies and along the village's main road by many people. Fifth scene: Santa Maria
In this scene you hear the voice of the story-teller, talking about Jesus second fall. The audience fill the three areas reserved to the public. Many others people follow the scene from house balconies, in the street and on the stairs of "S. Maria la Manna" church.
Sixth scene: Campora
In the square in front of the church of "Madonna delle Grazie" takes place the scene of the meeting between Veronica and Jesus Christ. The area reserved to the audience is placed in a circle around the actors, creating a very suggesting atmosphere even because the scenography is more formal and austere compared to those of the other villages.
Seventh scene: San Lazzaro
While the story-teller briefly explains to the audience the scenes performed before, three actors behind a curtain mount the crosses: when the curtain is removed Jesus Christ appears crucifixed between the two robbers. The scene takes place after dusk and the hill is weakily lighten up by coloured spotlight and torches placed along the final part of the way. The audience is deeply moved.
Tired and exposed to the wind, Jesus Christ shows all his suffering. The actor that play Jesus' role prepares himself, phisically and spiritually, observing a strict fasting before and during Good Friday.