Holy Terror: Good Friday in Sorrento,Italy

Anything hooded is usually a fashion item best avoided. When the hood is black and covers the face it is positively sinister looking, particularly when paired with a long black soutain and flaming torch.

Every man in Sorrento must own this get up but it is to be hoped that,young or old,they usually keep their costumes in a cupboard and bring them out only on Good Friday. They are the stuff of night terrors.

A brass band played the Death March, Ave Maria and other related classics as hundreds of the hooded walked through the city’s narrow streets. The men carried lanterns, crosses and giant pallets featuring Christ on a bed of thorns and the BVM surrounded by white roses. It was dark and the watching crowd, a mix of locals and tourists,stood in eerie silence as the parade passed. There was some snapping and clicking but the smart phones were unusually subdued,and all smart mouths were shut.

The Cackler and I stood solemnly until the last lantern swung by and we then adjourned for a mezzo litre of vino rosso hoping to miss the stampede from the town square as the faithful and the foreigners scrambled to get back to their cars. Our bar had seats outside but  the weather here has fallen a little short of balmy. The Cackler’s skinny fingers were soon frozen an white, the colour of bleached bones. We  finished our wine and began to walk home. We caught up with the end of the parade at the cathedral and heard the benediction before the suffering Christ and his mum were hoisted one last time and hurried back into storage until Sunday.

The mood changed. Choir boys from the front of the procession stripped off their medieval masks and played in the cathedral forecourt, their soutains streaming behind them as they shouted and laughed.  Ritual over,  the men of the town uncloaked, revealing top knots, side burns and earrings. Smoke from cigarettes replaced the church smell of chasubles. In Ferrari bomber jackets, dad sweaters and jeans, they were once more everyday, approachable and ordinary.

We pushed through the press and made it back.to our hotel in one piece. I am in bed now,with my clothes in a pile on the floor. They smell of incense.



About Liz Barron

US Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia. Permanent address in Washington DC. Deep roots in Northern Ireland and persistent Belfast accent. Blogger,cook, mother, grandma, Scrabble-player and enthusiastic world traveler.
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