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On Holy Wednesday, the service of the “Tenebrae” (Shadows) was celebrated.           

The priest recited or chants the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah, the verses of the "Benedictus" and the "Miserere Mei Deus". A candelabra, with many brightly burning candles, is placed in the Presbytery, next to the Altar. After each prayer or psalm, the priest would extinguish a candle, and at the end, only one candle was left lit.

Then a priest would give the signal to start playing the “raganella” (the frog), a wooden instrument that made a lot of noise, which was used as an allegory to symbolize the darkness which covered the world after the death of Christ. The children were always ready with their raganelle and they all started to make the noise all together, so that the noise produced was deafening. The “earthquake”, it was called, ended just as the last candle was extinguished and the Church was left in the dark.

The Vesper liturgy of Holy Thursday opened the period which was called Easter Triduum that lasts from Good Friday until Easter Sunday.

The Mass proceeds as usual until the end of the Homily. After the Priest takes off his chasuble and put on an apron, the ceremony of the washing of feet began.

The altars are stripped of decorations and watching this is very moving. All the crosses are removed and all the statues are covered with black or purple fabric. This rite would always give me the feeling of vulnerability. The undressed altar with the lights off and the dark church left me feeling abandoned, as if we were walking alone, without a guide, in danger, in the darkness. Even the bells remain silent in mourning.

During the night of Holy Thursday, we prepare the Holy Sepulcher and the people remain in adoration until late. During the weeks before that, the women had sowed the vetches and had made the plants grow in the dark so that they were not a shiny green as they like those grown in the fields, but were instead completely white. These were used to adorn the Holy Sepulcher.

To call the faithful to the service, they used the “troccola” an instrument made by a small wooden board with a handle that you had to shake so that many pieces of iron, which were attached to it, made a sharp sound.

During Holy Week, after Holy Thursday, Good Friday is one of the most beautiful days for rites and ceremonies and it is an intensive experience.

It was a day of penance and abstinence from food. Many women would only eat bread and drink water for the entire day.

The Church was open early in the morning and I remember that it was always almost in the dark. 

The faithful entered, composed and in silence, praying towards the Holy Sepulcher. Then the priest celebrated a short liturgy. There was no consecration and only the priest would get the Communion with the host that had been consecrated the day before.

The rite of the Via Crucis in Settefrati was performed in the Church of the Madonna delle Grazie. The small church was small, cold and dark. When it was time to start the Via Crucis, l’ Abbate Vitti would look out from the sacristy nest to the Altar to see if there were boys to help him with the service. Since there were no boys, he would call us, the girls in the first row, close to the Altar. With a nod of his head and a movement of his hand he indicated that we should follow him into the sacristy. While the Abbot was getting dressed for the service, we were choosing all the necessities to assist him during the service. We had done it often, so we knew what was needed for the service. I wanted to bring the bucket of Holy Water, but Edda, my cousin who was a little bossy, would take it before I did.

Matilde who was always fighting with a cold that she would catch in October and that lasted until May, did not know what to bring, so I gave her the candle. For sure, I did not want to take it because the wax would have fallen on my hands. The only thing that was left for me was the little book of prayer. The little chair/kneeler was brought by my friend Maria A.

Then there was the big wooden Cross that had to be carried to each of the 14 Stations of the Cross. This was heavy and it had to be carried by a boy who miraculously appeared at the last moment.

When we were all ready and the priest had put on the white dress and the stole on the black soutane, we would come out of the sacristy to start the service. We started to walk to the first of the Stations of the Cross while the organist started to play the organ and sing with a loud voice that was not very melodic or in tune.

First Station: Jesus is sentenced to death, prayer, genuflection, song, as the priest reads by the light of a candle. Matilde, who had a cold, had to hold the candle next to the book, but since she had to wipe her nose very often she moved the candle. The priest would take her wrist and bring the candle back near the book so that he could read. That year, Matilde had a coat that her relatives from America had sent her. It was lime green with two big pockets on the sides.

That color was so vivid that it was visible even in the almost dark church. Once in a while Matilde switched hands and when she did it, the movement blew out the candle and the priest remained in the darkness and the recital was interrupted during the most moving part. The Abbot was irritated and Matilde complained loudly. We tried to cover a little malicious laugh or our guffawing. The soft and reverent rite got lost with our “ahahahahahah”. We continued: Jesus falls the first time, the second time and the third time. The visibly touched people sang and said softly “Jesus Christ forgive my sins”. Eleventh and twelfth stop: Jesus is nailed to the cross, Jesus dies on the cross. These stops were the most moving for the devoted women who wiped their tears and sang Stabat Mater. l’Abbate Vitti ended with a blessing for everybody.

After the rite, we gave everything back to the priest and he put it back in the sacristy for the following week. 

At the end, all the faithful exited the church composed and in silence and started the walk back to their homes.

 Silently, the priest closed the church.









Il Mercoledi Santo si celebrava l'ufficio delle  "Tenebre”,

I sacerdoti recitano o cantano le  “Lamentazioni” del profeta Geremia, i versi del “benedictus” e del “Miserere mei Deus”. Nel Presbiterio di fronte all’altare, vicino all’Altare veniva collocato un candeliere con  molte candele che ardevano. Dopo ogni canto o salmo si spegneva  successivamente una candela lasciando accesa solo una.

Un sacerdote allora azionava la “raganella”, uno strumento di legno che produceva un enorme fracasso, a significare allegoricamente le tenebre che avvolgevano il mondo alla morte del Cristo. I ragazzi erano sempre pronti anche loro con le raganelle e le avviavano tutte insieme da produrre un rumore assordante. Il “terremoto” come era chiamato terminava quando anche l’ultima candela era spenta e la Chiesa rimaneva nel buio.

La Messa Vespertina del Giovedì Santo apriva il periodo detto Triduo Pasquale che dura dal Venerdì Santo al giorno di Pasqua.

La Messa procede regolarmente fino al termine dell’omelia. Dopo che il Sacerdote si è tolto la casula e si è messo un grembiule si svolge il rito della lavanda dei piedi.

Molto commovente e` lo spoglio degli altari. Si tolgono tutti i crocefissi e si coprono tutte  le statue con drappi neri o viola.
 Questo rito a me dava sempre l’impressione  di vulnerabilita`. L’altare spoglio e le luci spente e la chiesa buia dava l’impressione di abbandono come vagare soli, senza guida  nel pericolo, nelle tenebre .

Anche le campane rimangono  silenti in segno di lutto.

Durante la notte del Giovedi Santo si prepara il Santo Sepolcro e il popolo rimane in adorazione fino a tarda ora. Le settimane prima le donne avevano seminato le piante di veccia,  piante di grano fatte crescere al buio cosicché non crescono verdi brillanti come nei campi, ma completamente bianche. Con queste si adornava il Santo Sepolcro. 

 Per richiamare i fedeli alle funzioni veniva  utilizzata la "troccola"uno strumento formato da una tavoletta  di legno con manico che si scuoteva per far battere tanti ferri che vi sono attaccati liberamente che producono un suono secco.

Dopo Giovedi Santo, il Venerdi della Settimana Santa è uno dei giorni più suggestivi per riti e cerimonie ed e` intensamente vissuto

Era una giornata di penitenza e digiuno. Molte donne digiunavano tutto il giorno con pane e acqua.

La chiesa era aperta dal mattino presto e ricordo, sempre semibuia.

I fedeli entravano composti e silenziosi e procedevano pregando verso il Santo Sepolcro. Poi il parroco celebrava una breve liturgia. Non c’era consacrazione e solo il celebrante prendeva la Comunione  con l’Ostia Consacrata il giorno prima


Il rito della Via Crucis a Settefrati si svolgevano alla Chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie. La chiesetta era piccola fredda e oscura. All’ora di inziare la Via Crucis, l’abbate Vitti si affacciava dalla sacrestia adiacente all’Altare , dava uno sguardo intorno in cerca dei maschietti per aiutare nella funzione. Visto che non c’erano si volgeva a noi ragazzine sedute al primo banco piu vicino all’Altare . Con un cenno del capo e con la mano ci indicava di seguirlo nella Sacrestia.  Mentre “glie abbat” si vestiva per ufficiare noi sceglievamo tutto l’occorrente per seguirlo nella cerimonia. Lo avevamo fatto spesso quindi sapevamo cosa necessitava per la funzione. Io volevo portare il secchiello dell’Acqua Santa, ma Edda , mia cugina un po` prepotente lo arraffava prima di me.

Matilde sempre a lottare  col raffreddore che gli cascava addosso da ottobre fino a maggio non sapeva cosa doveva portare, io le consegnavo la candela. Certamente non la volevo portare io perche la cera mi sarebbe colata sulle mani. A me rimaneva il libretto delle preghiere. Il seggino inginocchiatoio lo portava la mia amica Maria A.

Poi c’era la grande Croce di legno da portare per ognuna delle 14 Stazioni. Questa era pesante e toccava sempre a un ragazzo che miracolosamente appariva all’ultimo.

 Quando eravamo tutti pronti e il parroco aveva indossato il camice bianco e la stola sulla sottana nera uscivamo dalla sacrestia per iniziare il rito. Ci avviavamo alla prima Stazione mentre l’organista cominciava a suonare l’organo e cantare con un vocione non del tutto sonoro e nemmeno in tono.

Prima stazione : Gesu` e`condannato a morte, preghiera, genuflessione, canto  mentre il parroco leggeva al lume di candela. Matilde col raffreddore doveva tenere la candela ferma vicino al libretto delle preghiere pero` spesso si doveva asciugare il naso e spostava la candela. Il parroco le afferrava il polso e la riportava vicino dove poteva leggere. Matilde quell’anno avevo un cappotto che le avevano mandato I parenti dall’America. Era di colore verde limone con due tasconi ai fianchi.

Quel colore cosi vivo dava agli occhi anche nella chiesa semibuia. Ogni tanto Matilde cambiava mano . Quando faceva cosi la candela si spegneva e il parroco rimaneva nella oscurità e interrompeva la lettura proprio al momento piu`commovente . “Glie abbat” si adirava e Matilde brontolava ad alta voce. Noi altri cercavamo di soffocare una risatina maliziosa o una sghignazzata. Il sommesso e devoto rito si perdeva con i nostri “heheheee”. Si continuava: Gesu` cade la prima volta…..la seconda volta e la terza. Il popolo cantava commosso e mormoravano “Jese Crist mie perdona i miei peccati”. Stazione undicesima e dodicesima: Gesu` e` inchiodato alla croce, Gesu` muore sulla croce   ……Queste stazioni erano le piu` commoventi per le pie donne si asciugavano le lacrime e cantavano Stabat Mater. L’abate Vitti finiva con dare la benedizione a tutti.

Finito il rito riconsegnavamo tutto al parroco che lui riponeva in sacrestia per la prossima settimana.

Alla fine tutti i fedeli uscivano composti e silenziosi e riprendevano

la via della casa.

Silenziosamente il parroco chiudeva la chiesa.



Delia Socci Skidmore