Thursday, 24 April 2014

Crucifixion overload: the power of the image, part 1

Easter in Italy brought me hard up against a lot of crucifixion, as you'd expect. In Buonconvento, near Siena, they do a Good Friday parade - not unique, I'm sure, but a first for me. 

Centurions on horses (one looking very wobbly, and grinning a bit at one point because his mates were gently ribbing him from the crowd) and centurions on foot with spears; scary black-robed and hooded people carrying a big cross; Jesus carrying his cross; children singing; white robed and hooded people; a sculpted jesus on  a bier; a big statue of Mary; women praying (throat miked leader, firm responses); Pilate at the start, of course; townspeople, mostly female; candles; some lovely a cappella singing; and mostly quiet or close to it from the watching crowd. 

All very solemn and despite the wobbly centurion, carefully and seriously done. They stop at places around town, thus creating local stations of the cross to link, symbolically and emotionally, their town and their Passion journey with Jerusalem and the original one. It was impressive and effective.

Behind me some teenagers were giggling and being a bit noisy. I couldn't help but think that if I were an independently-minded Tuscan teenager, what with the uproar over child abuse by the clergy and the attempts to cover it up, I might feel more like sniggering. Some locals, Catholics themselves, apparently don't like it either - they regard it as "witchery," we were told. 

But opposite me in the crowd a woman was weeping, and some people quietly crossing themselves. However one feels or whatever one thinks about the belief bases for Easter, the representation of it was powerful, because of the commitment of those involved. Drama doing its job.

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