The beautiful and ancient city of Alghero lies on the west coast of Sardinia, and is home to one of the most fascinating and intense Sardinian traditional parades and feasts. For many centuries now the people of this wonderful and unspoilt place have carried out a week long ritual remembering the Crucifixion, and as such the now famous Holy Week in Alghero is among the most spectacular and involved of the many Sardinian celebrations.
What is particularly interesting is the mix of Italian and Catalan traditions that make up the parade and celebration, as the town of Alghero is unique in Italy in having Catalan as an official language, thanks to the Spanish influence from the past.
Discovering the Traditions of Alghero
The Holy Week celebration begins on the Monday prior to Easter (27 March 2016) with the spectacular ‘Processione dei Misteri’ in which locals and visitors set the scene for the coming week. The ancient and historic town centre is lit at night by red candles which cast an evocative glow over the quaint alleyways that link the ancient streets, and the atmosphere is one of intense dedication and celebration of the Easter week traditions.
The mix of Italian and Catalan devotions and litanies that make up the many aspects of the week’s celebration make this a truly unique experience, and one that allows visitors to get as close as possible to the heart of this fascinating city.
Ancient Rites Continued
For many centuries the Holy Week celebrations have been organised by the Confraternity of the Misericordia, and begin by tradition at the church they inhabit.
For visitors the main event begins on the Thursday when all are invited to join a procession through the city, following a statue of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin or accompanying the majestic Madonna of the Misericordia, which leaves the said church and winds its way to the glorious and quite spectacular Cathedral of Santa Maria, in which a huge crucifix is raised, beginning a celebrated evocation of the Crucifixion.
Climax of the Semana Santa
The Semana Santa – or Holy Week – comes to its deep and committed finale on Good Friday. Visitors and locals alike join a celebration known as the ‘disclavament’ of the Statue of Jesus. In this devoted religious right Christ is symbolically fallen from the cross and begins his journey across Alghero in his coffin.
It is an extremely moving and wonderfully evocative procession, the only sounds being the singing in both Catalan and Sardinian as the procession makes its way back to the Church of the Misericordia, where the celebrations began at the beginning of the week.
Climax of Holy Week
In typical Sardinian style the Holy Week in Alghero is an all-encompassing experience that involves the entire city, and is enjoyed and respected by all who choose to visit this wonderful city at this important and memorable time of the year.
The Semana Santa may not be the liveliest and most celebratory of the feasts, celebrations and parades that this wonderful island hosts, but it remains one of the most important of all and is a lasting reminder of one of the most important events in Christian history.
As a way of understanding the people of Alghero, with their mixed cultural heritage and deep devotion to the rites of their religion, the Holy Week celebrations are unmatched, and it is difficult to find a more impressive and devoted series of parades and rituals evoking the Crucifixion anywhere in the world.
For anyone who wants to experience the real Sardinia, in which ancient traditions still come before modern day ritual, the spectacular events of the Semana Santa make the week before Easter an excellent choice, and one in which the visitor can be as involved as the locals who indulge their passion year after year.