Religion in Poggioreale: Feast of the Holy Sepulcher

The Feast of the Holy Sepulcher, or The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

September 14

 

The Feast of the Holy Sepulcher is known in Italian as il Santa Sepolcro.

As elsewhere, here the Sepulcher arrests the attention of the town’s devoted annually. Its construction is, however, unique; in fact, it is made up of an imitation tapestry spread on the floor of the chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, richly adorned with vases of flowers and splendidly illuminated.

I say “imitation” because it is not a tapestry of precious fabric; rather it is a clever and unique combination of plaster, sulfur, sand and paint, beautifully and ingeniously crafted to form that magnificent trompe I’oeil that makes it appear to be a gracious and multi-colored fabric woven with a design, embroidered in vari-colored silk. The creation of such a lovely expression is owed to the forms, that is to the great designs outlined with the point of a knife.

If the effect is magnificent, the removal of such a lovely work, which occurs by means of a broom, simply leaves a pile of dust!

Unfortunately, this symbolizes that full and happy human life, in less time than is thought, ends in a handful of dust.

The night of Holy Thursday, the church is opened and the Sepulcher is crowded with the devoted; a single, a well-toned, melodious voice sings with melancholy the Parts of the Passion of Jesus. I’ll record here just a few verses:

Penanti ‘n cruci, nudu, sbriugnatu Vitti lu Figghiu so YAddulurata: Figghiu, dicennu, sfortunatu! Oh guarda la to Matri scunsulata. O aliva, o parma, o nugipersu,

O lignuforti pi durari spissu, C’annu misu a Cristit pi traversu, Sbriugnatn di tutti senza cnnimissu. O piccaturi, picchi nun muti versa E ti cunfessi e cumunichi spissu? Natu a stu munnu tu eri persu, Cu’ ti risuscitau fa crucifissu.

 


 

Background on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

(Source: Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In the Encyclopaedia Britannica. At https://www.britannica.com/topic/Exaltation-of-the-Holy-Cross. Accessed on 9 Jun 2019.)

 

Exaltation of the Holy Cross, also called Universal Exaltation of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross or Holy Cross Day, liturgical feast celebrated on September 14 to honour the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. In the Eastern churches the feast dates back to the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the site of Christ’s tomb) in Jerusalem circa 335. It was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in the 7th century and is also observed in various Protestant traditions, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism.

The universal symbol of the Christian faith, the cross represents Christ’s victory over death. The feast celebrates the redemptive transformation of a barbaric instrument of torture into a divine “tree of life” that brings hope to humankind. In some traditions, a cross is oriented to the cardinal directions to represent the universal nature of Christ sacrifice and prayers are said for the salvation of all.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross also commemorates the discovery of the True Cross. Legend holds that the relic was found by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land about 326. The Chapel of St. Helena inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by the Crusaders in her honour, and below it lies the Chapel of the Finding of the True Cross, in which the cross of Christ’s crucifixion was reportedly discovered.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]