Good Friday Procession in Sulmona

Good Friday – The Dead Christ Procession

Processione Cristo Morto

On the day when the christian community shares the pain for the death of the Christ, in Sulmona the Dead Christ Procession takes place.


Good Friday Procession was established in the last decade of the 17th century by Jesuits, at the same time with the construction of St Ignatius church on the 20th September square.

Originally, the procession was managed by the Compagnia dei Nobili, and after the Unification of Italy – by the Confraternity of the Holy Trinity.[1]

The ritual

The Confraternity is situated in the ancient church of the Most Holy Trinity in Corso Ovidio in the rooms of the Most Holy Annunciation church. Brothers of the Confraternity can be distinguished by red robes with a white square element on the chest.

At 8 in the evening, the procession leaves the church and follows the streets of the city in a religious silence.

Scheme of the procession

The procession is organized according to the pre-established scheme, “Brass band, two drum majors, horizontal line of seven lamp carriers, square formed by four lamp carries, three Dignitaries (symbol of the Holy Trinity) carrying a characteristic Cross of the procession in red velvet with ornaments in silver, square formed by four lamp carries, horizontal line of seven lamp carriers, two lines of lamp carries along two sides of the street, choir, officiant parish priest, other two lines of lamp carries along two sides of the street, statue of the Dead Christ carried by four brothers of the Confraternity accompanied by other four for support, horizontal line of four lamp carriers, statue of Our Lady of Dolours carried by four brothers of the Confraternity accompanied by other four for support, all followed by other Dignitaries and brothers of the Confraternity.

The last is the “Head of the Sacristans of Honor”, a true coordinator of the majestic procession on whom the whole manifestation depends. He is helped by the two Heads of the Procession”.[2]

When the procession reaches St Mary della Tomba church, town authorities join in and follow it till the final part near the Most Holy Trinity church.


Good Friday Procession unfolds on the streets of Sulmona, following a precise route: Ercole Ciofano street (East), San Panfilo (North), from where, after passing Garibaldi Square (West), continues into the direction of Porta Napoli (South).

The route, this way, tends to follow an imaginary cross that refers us to symbolic and religious values and attributes.

Once reached the picturesque Garibaldi Square, the procession pauses for a beautiful and nearly theatrical, thanks to the scenery of the aqueduct’s arches, ritual – members of the Confraternity of the Holy Trinity pass to those of the Madonna di Loreto the Cross and the statues of the Dead Christ and Our Lady of Dolours.

After the exchange of relics, the procession moves on to Panfilo Serafini street, and after going around Porta Napoli, turns back to the Most Holy Trinity church along Corso Ovidio. On the high Minzoni Square, an exchange of relics takes place again that come back to the Confraternity of the Holy Trinity.[3]

The procession re-enters the Holy Trinity church at midnight.

Peculiarity of the procession – “shuffle”

By this term a particular gait of the Sulmona choir is usually described that moves along the streets of the town, shuffling.

The movement symbolically refers us to a ponderous gait of those who in old times participated in the procession with chains around their feet, as an act of mortification and atonement.

It should be mentioned, though, that “shuffling” is not an invention of the choir of Sulmona but has very ancient origins and is diffused in the Southern Italy and christian countries of the Mediterranean area.[4]

The choir

The choir is truly the peculiarity of the procession – with its “shuffling gait” it proceeds along the streets, chanting a moving “Miserere” that echoes loudly and heavily.

“Miserere” was written in 1913 by Federico Barcone, a composer born in Sulmona in 1862.

The choir is accompanied by the orchestra, performing a grave funeral march written by Vella – another composer from Sulmona.[5]


Cercone Franco, La Madonna che scappa in piazza a Sulmona, Sulmona, Libreria Editrice Di Cioccio, 1990.

[1] Cercone 1990, p. 61.

[2] Ivi, Pp. 31-32.

[3] Ivi, p. 39.

[4] Ivi, pp. 36-37.

[5] Ivi, 38.


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Good Friday Procession in Sulmona by Antonella Capaldo translated by Yulia Shcherbakova is distributed with the licence Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.
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