Festa del SS Crocifisso di Aracoeli and the Processione dei Babbaluti
In San Marco D’Alunzio, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy in the province of Messina, the Festa del SS Crocifisso di Aracoeli, opens the Easter rites in Sicily. This rite, which comes from a very old tradition, was instituted in 1612 and has been repeated the same way ever since then: on the last Friday of March (if it coincides with Good Friday, the feast is brought forward to the previous Friday), St. Marco d'Alunzio relives this celebration, the only one of its kind, with profound emotion and religious fervour.
After the eleven o'clock Mass, held in the seventeenth-century church, Chiesa di Maria Santissima dell'Aracoeli, the statue of the SS.Crocifisso (Holy Cross) with the image of the "Vergine dei Sette Dolori" (Virgin of the Seven Sorrows) at his feet, pierced by seven swords, is carried in a procession by the Babbaluti (the faithful, both men and women) who process through the streets of the country with the lamentable invocation: "Lord, have mercy, have mercy".
The 33 Babbaluti, as many years as Christ lived, wear a blue habit with a hood that leaves only the eyes and feet uncovered in heavy handmade wool or cotton socks (piruna). The Babbaluti’s sole job is to carry the bier on their shoulders: therefore, they only appear for the procession. Those who choose to wear the blue habit fulfil a vow, a promise, and, hiding their face, as if wanting to erase their identity for a few hours, to escape pride and exhibitionism, they go unnoticed by the curious looks of the people and the photographers’ lenses, finally gathering in an intimate dialogue with Jesus, to whom they entrust themselves completely.
In the afternoon, the image of Christ is placed in the Sapurcu (the Tomb), a large mausoleum set up with red and yellow cloths, which is illuminated by hundreds of candles, evoking the Judgment Hall of Pilate. The next day, at the end of the Mass dedicated to suffering, the image of Christ, having passed through the people in prayer, with dozens of hands outstretched to touch them, is brought back to His chapel, where He will be laid for the following year.