The Feast of the SS Crocifisso di Aracoeli, held in San Marco D’Alunzio,  one of “the most beautiful villages in Italy”, located in Messina area, opens the rites of Easter in Sicily. This time-honored tradition rite was created in 1612 and since then it occurs every year in the exact same way:  last Friday of March (if it coincides with Good Friday the event is celebrated on the previous Friday) S.Marco d’Alunzio goes through this unique celebration with great emotion and religious fervor.

At the end of the eleven ‘o clock Mass held in the seventeenth-century Church Maria Santissima dell’Aracoeli, the simulacrum of the SS.Crocifisso and the picture of the “Virgin of the Seven Sorrows”, stabbed by seven swords, are carried in procession by the babbaluti (the local faithful, both men and women) which  go along  the town streets while invoking : “Signuri, Misericordia, Pietà” (My Lord, have mercy on me).

The 33 Babbaluti, as many as the years of Christ, wear a blue sackcloth with a hood, revealing their eyes only. Their  feet are covered with heavy woolen or cotton handmade stockings, called piruna (big feet). The only task of the  Babbaluti  is to carry the fercolo (the sedan on which the Crucifix lays) on their shoulders;  therefore, they only appear during the procession. Those who decide to wear the blue sackcloth, fulfill a vow, a promise, and the choice of hiding their faces under the hood, it is like erasing their own identity for a few hours, leaving pride and exhibitionism aside, going unnoticed among the people’s curious looks and the photographers cameras, in order to reach an intimate dialogue with Jesus, on whom they rely entirely.

In the afternoon the statue of Christ is placed in the Sapurcu (the sepulcher), a large mausoleum adorned with red and yellow drapes and lit by hundreds of candles, recalling the Praetorium of Pilate. The following day, passing through crowds of people in prayer, among dozens of hands stretched out to touch him, the Crucifix is carried back to his chapel, where it will lay until the following year.

Ph. Michela Kappa