Holy Week in Castelsardo is one of the most enthralling in Sardinia. The religious ceremonies are characterised by ancient symbolism passed down through the centuries by the Santa Croce Confraternity.
The most moving ritual is that of the Mysteries which, unlike in the rest of Sardinia, takes place onEaster Monday (Lunisanti). Before dawn members of the confraternity meet in the Santa Maria Church. From here a long procession unfolds which lasts the whole day and involves the nearby towns and villages. The most evocative moment is the night-time procession which takes place in torch-light. A human skull is carried on a tray in procession accompanied by the religious chanting of the members of the confraternity.
Lunisanti, at Easter is held in Castelsardo on the night of Holy Monday. It starts at dawn in the beautiful Romanesque church of Santa Maria di Tergu, in the countryside outside Castelsardo. After the mystery plays and mass, a long parade goes to the old town bastion wall, 8 kilometers from the church, and returns to the church where everybody enjoys lunch. In the late afternoon the procession leaves the church again to go back into town where only candles and lamps are lit along the streets, creating a fantastic atmosphere. The brotherhood Confraternita di S. Croce wear long white hooded tunics and sing in two choirs of 24 members each – the Cantori and the Apustuli. They sing the Miserere and other medieval songs. The brothers also carry symbols of the Mystery and of Christ’s death – chalice, chain, pillar, glove, whip, crown, cross, ladder, hammer and tongs, lance, and sponge. Other processions take place on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday.
For Christians, Holy Week in Jerusalem has a special spiritual connection. The Old City, its gates and roads, the Mount of Olives, Via Dolorosa and The Holy Sepulchre Church, where pilgrims from all over the world journey to, are equally important to the Palestinian Christians of Gaza and the West Bank, who want to join their Christian brethren in Jerusalem, for the liturgical events leading to the holiest celebration in Christianity.
On Good Friday, pilgrims will process along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering), which tradition holds is the same path Jesus took as He carried the cross to the site of the crucifixion. The route has been debated by Christians for centuries, but there have been nine stations or stops on the route for about six centuries.
The procession ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where on Saturday, Eastern Orthodox Christians believe a flame appears in the tomb of Jesus and is caught by both a Greek patriarch and an Armenian Orthodox priest.
They share the flame with worshippers who have candles. For those who cannot squeeze into the ancient church, there will be jumbo screens outside for observance of the ceremony which is called the Saturday of Light or Sapt il-Noor. Although Protestant and Catholic Christians do not observe this ritual, Orthodox sects including Greek, Syrian, Armenian, Copts and Russian churches do.
Ethiopian Orthodox worshippers celebrate the Holy Fire ceremony at the Ethiopian section of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher friday in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israel. Hundreds of Orthodox Christians, all from different sects, participated in the ceremony a day preceding Orthodox Easter, and has been celebrated by worshipers for the last 1,200 years.