Tasso's hometown, for centuries, has been housing old devotional rites. The earliest processions of the Holy Week in Tasso's hometown go back, in fact, to the 14th century.
Among the processions which unwind along the streets of the Sorrento Coast and which can be admired during the Holy Week in Sorrento, the most ancient one is surely the so-called Black procession (from the colour of the clothes worn by the hooded people taking part in it) of Sorrento.
It boasts very old origins and is part of the context of traditions which go back to the 14th century.
Already during the 14th century, in fact, Tasso’ hometown was the setting for devotional processions which, with the passing of time, have achieved the shape handed down to us today.
According to the evidences handed down to us, in fact, already at that time, the supporters of laic confraternities wore, on Holy Thursday, dark clothes and hoods and - lighted only by the glow of lamps and torches – went symbolically to visit the Sepulchres prepared to remind Christ’s Last Supper.
Among these laic organizations, the one dedicated to St. Catello – from which the Black Procession of Sorrento rises – in 1586 asked to be aggregated to the Archconfraternity of Morte ed Orazione which had its seat in the Church of San Marcello in Rome.
On the example of the mother house, therefore, one decided to give life to the procession of Holy Friday, destined to start at the sunset of Holy Friday and to evoke Jesus’ Passion again.
On that occasion - at that time as well as today – the brothers brought in the procession a Cross between a spear (with which Jesus’ chest was run through) and a sponge (which reminded the one offered Jesus to quench His thirst).
To making an atmosphere - already able to give strong emotions- further suggestive, the song of Miserere contributes.
In the course of centuries, the procession has been, little by little, enriched with symbolic values also thanks to the transportation of Dead Christ’s statue and the reproduction of objects which have characterized the last moments of His life.
At the end of the procession, the hooded people returned to their own church and the Prior ordered to extinguish the lights. After intoning the psalm of Miserere, the brothers flagellated their bare breasts with ropes and lashes and the people cried, while invoking the mutual forgiveness for their sins.
This ceremony imitates that of some confraternities, risen in the 13th century, called of Battenti (people beating themselves) or Confratum Fustigantium (as that, today extinct, which had its seat in the Church of St. Antonino).
In a manuscript of 1650 it is said that during all Fridays in Lent a lot of people rushed to the Church of St. Catello to present at the unveiling of the Dead Christ’s simulacrum, while the brothers flagellated themselves in hearing the song of Penitential Psalms.
Afterwards, towards 1700, also the friars of the convent of St. Francesco, who were numerous at that time, began to take part in the procession of Friday evening. Later on, also the Seminary, the Clergy and the Capital of Cathedral added to them. It was during these years that the brothers of the Morte began to bring in the procession also the simulacrum of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Because, as time went on, the procession of Holy Friday had achieved great importance for Sorrento people, when the monks of St. Francesco left, because expelled from the convent by order of the King of Naples, Giuseppe Bonaparte, in 1806, the brothers thought to invite into it also people who were not part of the confraternity: This invitation is still today kept.
Today the procession of Holy Friday starts from the Church of Servi di Maria (in via Sersale) which takes in also the Confraternity of San Catello (deprived of their seat after the demolition of the old church consecrated to the same Saint).
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Firmato - 05/01/2019